Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Teacher Baseball Cards

Having a kid and being awake at 3am really gives you time to think. Last night, as I listened to the sweet whining from the next room, my mind wandered to the issue of schools and the never ending search for the panacea to our "failing" school system. (Sidenote: I think I am in the minority in that I don't actually think our schools are failing, but that's a topic for another post). Anyway, I listen to a lot of sports radio on the way home from work mixed in with my daily dose of NPR, so likely my mind was conflating the two. In any case, I had an epiphany. One issue that comes up again and again in the struggle to improve our schools, is teacher performance. How do you measure something like teacher performance? Is it based on standardized tests (then we complain teachers teach to the test); is it based on grades (well, teachers can just inflate their grades); is it based on graduation rates - the issues go on. But what if we and a system where we take all that information and churn out the equivalent of a teacher baseball card. But instead of BA and ERA and OBP you include the measurements I've already described, plus others. Taking it to the evaluation stage, like baseball these days, lets apply a little advanced metrics in our analysis. Maybe the teacher doesn't have a high batting average (their kids don't perform particularly well on standardized tests), but their on-base percentage is amazing (the number of their kids attending college or some type of post-secondary school is phenomenal). For one example, what do you do about parent involvement? I'd set up a statistical measurement based on number of hours a parent spends helping their child with homework. This way, if the amount of time a parent spends with their child on homework is low, this will be taken into account when assessing a teacher's performance.

This baseball card will help administrators assess their own teachers, parents can see all the factors that go in to teaching and which areas need work (including their own participation), and the card can go with a teacher if they decide to leave a school and other schools can more easily assess the quality of the teacher.

The overall point of the card is to bring together as much of the data as possible, including data that is not yet calculated (see parental involvement) and maintain a fairer assessment of the teacher's ability as a teacher. Of course there are always intangibles, and like any good baseball executive sometimes stats aren't enough. But I think this would benefit everyone involved. And besides, there could be an entirely commercial element to this. Think of packs of teacher trading cards sitting in bright shiny foil wrappers at the checkout counter in the grocery store or Wal-Mart. My guess is they would go like hot cakes.


James R said...

Perhaps the greatest stat (the OPS in education) would be AI (ironically not artificial intelligence, but Annual Improvement) It's the difference between what each student knew at the end of the previous year and what they know at the end of the current year. This could be easily compiled with standard tests, but I wouldn't mind seeing other methods to determine this. (I hope Katy is reading.) Actually, the term VA or Value Added was once mentioned in the NYT. It should be compiled for each kid the teacher teaches and averaged.

Other stats:
Amount taught - some teaches teach almost twice as much as others
ROI - a stat that compiles the most meaningful stats and compares it to salary
Product Reliability - how the student performs as a human being and citizen during the year
Happiness Quotient - how much the student wants to learn

Currently the big push is for effective teacher evaluations, but that, I think, is expensive, and we don't have the personnel to do it. Can't technology and statistics fix just about anything?

Big Myk said...

The problem is no stat can predict how well a teacher will deliver in the clutch, or whether she can advance her students when they are in scoring position.

Another posible stat on the card -- and this one negative -- how many times they were caught stealing.

Katie said...

I know I'm a bit late on this but I thought I could definitely weigh in. First I just want to give my bias of being a little dataed-out.... Data is the buzz word of education. It's how we are identifying people that should be fired, students that should not go to the next grade, and schools that should be closed. Ted, I like your idea of baseball cards. I think that would be a great way to hold teachers accountable. I include my data and test scores on my resume it would be nice if we had data to represent other measures. You could also include whole school statistics on the cards. As Jim started to point out, there are so many ways to attempt to quantify a teachers performance. The one I would add would be their role in the academic community; relationship with fellow teachers and contribution to the overall school environment.

I'm a little confused by Myk's comments, every time I'm in front of the classroom I feel as if it is a clutch situation and public education in general is in a high pressure situation. I'm not exactly what you consider scoring position... maybe coming from a good home with well educated parents, how good are you at getting them to college?

And I'm guessing the stealing is referring to the state wide drop in scores after putting more checks in place for PSSAs this year and seeing a significant drop in test scores... thats as much an issue with administration as teachers...

Big Myk said...

Katie, I'm sorry that you spent even the time it took for you to become confused reading my comments. I was just trying to make as much mileage as I could with the teaching-as-baseball metaphor in a desperate attempt to land a few laughs. As Spock said to Checkov after Checkov explained that he "was making a little joke, sir": "Very little, Ensign.

The times caught stealing is a reference to my own school district where employee theft is fairly serious problem. Sometimes a banana is just a banana.