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Technology and Evaluation Redux

January 30, 2012

This CNN article posted on Naked Capitalism indicates that students who multi-task using technology have difficulty relating to classmates… and I can see technophobic teachers seizing on this kind of finding as evidence that using technology is counterproductive. From my perspective, this is further evidence of the need to change the current format of schooling. There is no explicit instruction in schooling on how to get along with each other, how to engage in dialogue, how to interact effectively in a group setting. Why? Because we are so focussed on determining how well each individual is performing in isolation… Indeed, when students DO interact with each other to help solve a problem it is called “cheating”.

ASCD’s blog featured a link to this update on School of One, whose founders have learned that HOW teachers interact with students is as crucial a variable as how teachers use technology. I love the url’s main descriptor: “mind shift”… that’s what’s needed to get technology used effectively in schools.

Three LA teachers wrote an op-ed article for the LA Times advocating an overhaul to the evaluation system in place. I completely agree with the five elements they want to serve as the basis for evaluation: reliable data (more than three years’ worth from a test specifically designed for the purpose of evaluation); student progress (as opposed to absolute scores); student accountability (the students need to have a stake in whatever assessment is used to gauge teacher performance); support in the form of appropriate staff development; and confidentiality (as opposed to the reprehensible publishing of scores done by the LATimes this past year. This part of the article was particularly on point:

An evaluation system for L.A. Unified must take advantage of all that has been learned; it should use multiple measures, including classroom observations by competent, trained administrators; classroom visits by content-area experts; carefully designed student input; and test data.

These are perfectly reasonable… but probably will be rejected because they cost too much (too many administrators will be needed) and take too long to put in place (developing the tests, field-testing them, and getting three years of data will take longer than any politician’s election cycle).

Meanwhile, many principals across the country are on record opposing the new teacher evaluation plans being implemented in response to Race to the Top. The plans are described as “untested” and “burdensome” and result in “20 times more work” than the existing formats… but they DO hold the teachers accountable: at least the 21% of the teachers who can be measured using standardized achievement tests!

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