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Opinion: Statistics and liars

Barth Keck
Barth Keck

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School. Email Barth here

California’s teacher tenure laws were invalidated recently by Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu because the “statutes made it so onerous to fire bad teachers that they all but guaranteed needy kids would be stuck in classrooms with incompetent instructors.”

We’ve all heard “bad teacher” stories before. Critics often use the “bad teacher” scenario as Exhibit 1 in the Case Against Public Schools. Unfortunately, this focus on “bad teachers” and the tenure laws that supposedly prevent their dismissal have become a smokescreen for an even bigger problem: the blind worship of educational statistics.

Treu, for example, reinforced his decision by quoting the expert-witness account of Arizona State University professor David Berliner who testified that “1 to 3 percent of California teachers are grossly ineffective. Given that the evidence showed roughly 275,000 active teachers in the state, the extrapolated number of grossly ineffective teachers ranges from 2,750 to 8,250.”

Sounds horrific. It also sounds imprecise. What’s the source of these statistics?

See the complete story at CT News Junkie.

Comments

2 responses to “Opinion: Statistics and liars”

  1. John Hamlin

    The California tenure case isn’t an attack on teachers — it’s an attack on tenure, rules that make it impossible to fire bad teachers, the sanctity of seniority over performance, and the adherence to LIFO, all of which are a recipe for mediocrity because together they mean that performance doesn’t matter. So in attacking statistics and claiming the case is based on lies, this teacher comes down on the side of continuing to make certain performance doesn’t matter. I think the public has seen the poor results that approach achieves and is ready to abandon the strict counterproductive rules forced on us by the teachers unions. And a judge has sensible recognized and ruled that those rules cheat our children and violate the state constitution. Amen!

  2. Bill

    Everyone must be accountable. Accountability makes us a better society with better end results. Anyone who argues otherwise is benefiting from the lack of accountability.

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