Bad marks for teacher eval­u­a­tion

The Covington News - - Opinion - Dick Yar­brough Colum­nist Reach Dick Yar­brough at yarb2400@bell­south. net or P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, GA 31139.

Oh great. Now, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is get­ting in­volved in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion in Ge­or­gia.

That’s all we need: The deft touch of an in­ept fed­eral govern­ment.

Out­go­ing Gov. Ge­orge E. Per­due (please tell me he has left the build­ing) agreed to par­tic­i­pate in the $400 mil­lion Obama Race to the Top pro­gram. Our new gover­nor, Nathan Deal, has in­her­ited the thing and turned it over to Erin Hames, his deputy chief of staff.

The pro­gram will in­clude a teacher eval­u­a­tion sys­tem. For sub­jects where stu­dents take stan­dard­ized tests, half of a teacher’s per­for­mance will be based on the test scores.

Fair enough. I was as­sessed my en­tire cor­po­rate ca­reer and judged on the qual­ity of my man­age­ment. How­ever, if em­ploy­ees didn’t show up for work or were ha­bit­u­ally late or re­fused to do what I asked them to, I could get rid of them.

Try that in the class­room.

Said Ms. Hames, “We strongly be­lieve that the most im­por­tant thing in a stu­dent’s ed­u­ca­tion is the qual­ity of the teacher in the class­room. The heart

“Is there any way we can eval­u­ate so­ci­ety while we are eval­u­at­ing teach­ers?”

of ed­u­ca­tion im­prove­ment in Ge­or­gia has to be fo­cused on the class­room and class­room teach­ers.”

Maybe Ms. Hames can tell me what hap­pens if a child trans­fers to a school in the 32nd week of a 36-week school year and didn’t learn squat at his or her old school and flunks. Is the teacher at the new school go­ing to be held ac­count­able for the re­sults?

What about a stu­dent who just had a mis­car­riage and is at school only be­cause a judge or­dered her to be there? Or, the child who slept in an aban­doned car be­cause he was too em­bar­rassed to tell any­one he couldn’t live at home any­more? Or the kid who was given a “so­cial pro­mo­tion” even though he didn’t de­serve it?

Could Ms. Hames or any mem­ber of our es­teemed Gen­eral Assem­bly mo­ti­vate these chil­dren to learn with­out los­ing pre­cious time try­ing to teach the other stu­dents in class? Tell me how class­room qual­ity will be mea­sured when teach­ers can’t get par­ents to re­turn their tele­phone calls or show up for sched­uled con­fer­ences be­cause they “for­got”? How, Ms. Hames, do we han­dle these pid- dling de­tails?

Is there any way we can eval­u­ate so­ci­ety while we are eval­u­at­ing teach­ers?

One of the finest ad­vo­cates for pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion was John L. Clen­denin, re­tired CEO of the now-no-more Bell­South Cor­po­ra­tion, who es­tab­lished a foun­da­tion de­voted to the sub­ject. Clen­denin rec­og­nized that pub­lic schools are a mi­cro­cosm of so­ci­ety. Poverty, ap­a­thy, drugs, abuse and hunger don’t linger out­side the door. They come into the class­room with the stu­dent. As Mr. Clen­denin used to say, “You can’t teach ge­om­e­try to a hun­gry child”

Call me cyn­i­cal, but I doubt Barack Obama, Ge­orge E. Per­due, Nathan Deal, Erin Hames or mem­bers of the es­teemed Ge­or­gia Leg­is­la­ture have taken that into con­sid­er­a­tion.

House Ma­jor­ity Whip Ed Lind­sey ( R-Ful­ton County) took a trip to Colorado re­cently with Rep. Alisha Thomas Mor­gan (D-Cobb County) to ex­am­ine a newly passed bill there on teacher eval­u­a­tions. No word on whether they first sur­veyed any class­room teach­ers around the state and got their in­put.

I’m not sure Lind­sey and Mor­gan are two of the higher and bet­ter sources on the sub­ject of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Lind­sey is a lawyer in At­lanta who, af­ter he an­nounced the ne­ces­sity for teacher fur­loughs in the last ses­sion, was seen later that week in the lo­cal news­pa­per sip­ping wine in his tuxedo at a party in tony Buck­head in one of the clas­sic cases of “Let ’em eat cake.”

Mor­gan? Her claim to fame is re­fus­ing to leave the well of the House af­ter her al­lot­ted time ran out dur­ing a de­bate on the Voter ID bill, and her de­ci­sion to in­stead be­gin sing­ing, “Ain’t No­body Gonna Turn Me Around.”

Who bet­ter to eval­u­ate the ef­fec­tive­ness of pub­lic school teach­ers than a silk stock­ing lawyer and a leg­is­la­tor who sings when she can’t make her point oth­er­wise?

Teach­ers, you are fac­ing an ed­u­ca­tion bu­reau­cracy with more lay­ers than a Vi­dalia onion, more sec­ond-guessers than a los­ing foot­ball coach and more shal­low think­ing than a party at the Play­boy Man­sion.

In spite of all of this, you change young lives for the bet­ter. That is more than I can say for your crit­ics. Hang in there.

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