October 2, 2010

A dedicated teacher gets a "less effective" rating... and kills himself.

The LA Times reports:
[Rigoberto Ruelas] tutored his students after class, visited their homes and met their families, steered them away from gangs and toward college. He arrived early for work every morning at Miramonte Elementary, and had near perfect attendance for 14 years, right up until last week, when he disappeared.

Ruelas' body was discovered on Sunday in a ravine beneath a Big Tujunga Canyon bridge. He left no note, but the Los Angeles County coroner has ruled his death a suicide. Family members have said he had been upset over his score in a teacher-rating database our newspaper created and posted online, which ranked him slightly below average.
If most teachers are excellent, it's not bad to be below average, but it will feel terrible nonetheless. That's the trouble with grading on a curve. Your performance is judged relative to others.

ADDED: Of course, if everyone's pretty bad, you can get a false idea of how good you are when there is grading on a curve. I've been grading law school exams on a curve — it's required — for a quarter century, and I know it is much easier to make relative judgments.

77 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Was this a students rate the professor type web site? Those often punish any professor who has talked back to the young rebel freeloaders. The guardian type personalities are serious about what they do and only want a smidgen of recognition for it. Today that can also be stolen like everything else is stolen since the thieves now run the asylum. That is again why it is crucial to let a Palin type leader clean out the nest of sophisticated thieves running the system at the top.

MayBee said...

The union is also blaming the ranking for the suicide.

There seems to be a trend toward blaming outside forces for the very individual decision to commit suicide. It almost justifies the suicide.
I'm uncomfortable with that.

aronamos said...

Where's the howling now demanding someone must pay for the "hate" actions that drove this man to off himself? Maybe some more comments wishing prison-rapes for the LATimes staffers who so humiliated this man that he had no choice but to shuffle off his mortal coil?

Suicide is the ultimate expression of failure, be it a dedicated but mediocre teacher, a chef who can't handle pressure or a teenager with sexual identity issues. No one is holding that pistol to your head, handing you the pills or pushing you off a bridge but yourself.

Moose said...

So I guess this won't be taken up by the "It Gets Better" people, will it?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

That's the trouble with grading on a curve. Your performance is judged relative to others.

That is the reality of life. You are always graded on a curve and judged relative to others.

You are right. If the others you are being judged against are basically substandard, you can be fooled into thinking you are something special. It is the big fish in the little pond syndrome.

It is too bad that this man decided to take his own life instead of getting some help or counseling.

I'm with MayBee. Blaming the newspaper or someone else for a suicide's decision is not right. There were undoubtedly many more factors that contributed to his decision.

edutcher said...

This is how the Lefties kill standards. The girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock being stigmatized or a suicide because of a bad performance rating and suddenly there should be no standards because someone is hurt.
(Witness the union's reaction)

Hopefully, the LAT's methods were valid because it may have been the only way to rate teachers in what apparently is a heavily unionized district. Simply because the guy tried hard doesn't mean he was good at it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Dumbplumber just said regardin the suicide: "Your level of disappointment is of your own making."

Obama says: Buck up.

Trooper York said...

This is another example of why teachers should be replaced by robots.

Hagar said...

I do not see how teachers can be evaluated by any sort of a system, which is also why I am against merit pay for teachers. It just looks to me to be another weapon for the principals - and higher up administrators - to keep teachers in line on a personal basis.

The two best teachers I have had were SOB's and hopelessly un-PC by today's standards. But they taught.

Good teaching is like pornography in that you can recognize it when you see it though it cannot be defined.

I suspect that we could best improve the standards of teaching in our public schools by shutting down the departments of education at the universities for a generation or so, and perhaps send the professors out into the countryside for some re-education picking chile or whatever!

traditionalguy said...

IMO Suicide is a self murder. It never happens to a person with a normal free mind. It does happen to persons with minds in a bondage to the power of ridicule, rejection, discouragement and despair. The minds trapped in that bondage can be set free by a hope for acceptance, love, favor and a better future. There is an effective message of hope available. Ask a Catholic Priest or an evangelical Christian. The world is collapsing in Banks, Social Security, currency values, and Job markets. Don't refuse hope where it is avaiable.

Jana said...

It is absolute BS that you can't evaluate a teacher's performance.

sollipsist said...

The problem may not be the curve, but the use of arbitrary criteria to gauge 'effectiveness'. We've known for decades that the typical method of grading students actually hampers real learning; it rewards dutiful mediocrity but fails miserably for both the very brightest and most struggling students.

This trend continues into the workplace arena, where one is judged by arbitrary and impersonal criteria (numerical, if possible, just to make things as 'objective' as possible). From getting a job to keeping a job to advancing in a career, this sort of evaluation is actually prized above personal, subjective appraisal -- if for no other reason than most superiors and third-parties typically have very little real understanding of or exposure to a person's actual day-to-day responsibilities and challenges.

You can't really expect a newspaper to know how every single teacher operates, or what real successes and failures they have had with their students. You might hope for such knowledge from the school administration, but it's usually lacking there as well...and such knowledge doesn't often translate to a standardized performance report anyway. In fact, such information is generally considered to be inappropriate or at least inconsequential.

Because tax revenue goes to education, and because children are a favorite subject (target?) of political campaigns (and somewhat less often, actual policy), everybody tends to get in on the criticism of teachers' pay and performance.

There are bad teachers. A lot of them. There are far more mediocre teachers, who effectively crank out mediocre students to become mediocre workers and consumers. These are the ones that are most consistently rewarded by our efficient, practical, and ultimately dehumanizing and demoralizing system.

Meanwhile, good and very good teachers suffer greatly in trying to achieve real results in a system that constantly restricts and judges them, often in a very public forum. The surprising thing is that we don't hear about more suicides like this one.

reader_iam said...

These graphs show a teacher's "value-added" rating based on his or her students' progress on the California Standards Tests in math and English. The Times’ analysis used all valid student scores available for this teacher from the 2002-03 through 2008-09 academic years. The value-added scores reflect a teacher's effectiveness at raising standardized test scores and, as such, capture only one aspect of a teacher's work. [Emphasis added]

Source

reader_iam said...

Headed out the door to a soccer game, so I don't have time to post links, but you all are smart people: Try doing a bit of research about the problem with VAM (value-added measures) in terms of evaluating teachers, particularly in a vacuum.

Hagar said...

For a look at how things actually work, you may also read Richard Feynmann's chapters on his experiences as a member of the State of California textbook selection committee in "Surely you are joking, Mr. Feynmann!"

Fred4Pres said...

Some people are too associated with their jobs. It becomes their identity. The rating could have been flawed, heck it probably was flawed, but to this guy it devestated his world.

Suicide is not the answer. This is very sad. I am sorry for his family's loss.

Fred4Pres said...

If I got a bad rating unfairly I would be upset. People rating people are human too and human too and do mistakes. I doubt I would kill myself. But maybe he was having a bad day due to other things. Or maybe he was not as good a teacher as he thought he was. With 1 in 10 Americans suffering from depression, it happens.

That does not mean teachers can't be rated. The best way to do that is locally. Which is part of the reason why I wish we did away with public schools and had all public education on vouchers, with minimum education standards.

Suicide is still bad. It is not the answer.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

LA Times: "He tutored his students after class, visited their homes ... "

I'm sorry ... but I'm confused. What part of "dedication" has a teacher visiting his students at their homes? Were these boy students, or girl students he was visiting at their homes for after class tutoring?

Forgive me, but this seems highly suspect and unprofessional. And as I recall from reading the many, many, many hundreds and hundreds of stories about National Education Association union members raping our children ... many did so at their homes in after-school "tutoring" sessions.

I'm not suggesting that this union member raped his students, but I think it is worth mentioning that he belonged to a union that has many rapists among it and many of those rapists visited their victims at their homes - where they then committed their rapes.

Just because someone is a teacher does not - ipso facto - mean that they are noble or good. Many of these union thugs want to be be around the kiddies because that's where the money is.

There is absolutely no evidence that this teacher was noble or good. In fact, the evidence so far released is that this teacher was below average and was unprofessionally visiting students at their homes.

It is certainly a teachable moment. I say we should all reflect for a moment - again - on how many NEA union thugs are caught each year raping our children.

Knowledge is power:

http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=39783

virgil xenophon said...

In TOTAL agreement with Hagar and Sollipsist, here. As the child of a college professor and a second-grade school-teacher who grew up on a state college campus in Illinois in the 5Os and attended the Univ. Lab School 1-8, and who holds 3 degrees myself plus was/am trained as a pilot by the USAF plus have coached extensively at the college and armed services level, in 3 sports, I think I know a little bit about what constitutes good instruction and all that it entails.

"bj" over at Apt 11D makes the salient point concerning this subj. that in terms of performance evals " they try to to do the job on the cheap to come up with quick & dirty ways of evaluating performance. They do this because evaluating performance for real is time-consuming and expensive."

She goes on:

"Teachers unions have advocated for one set of cheap and dirty methods....(seniority, educational degrees, tenure) EdReformers are now advocating for alternate set of equally cheap & dirty methods."

Further:

"I haven't seen anyone advocating for real solutions: for example I might be willing to advocate for classroom observation by knowledgeable individuals, over multiple periods of time,one who has understanding of the students in that class. That'd be expensive though, and I don't know if it would be cost effective."

Taken as a whole, I think the critiques of the three mentioned above point to the fact that better time and money should be spent on developing better teachers in the first place. But the sociocultural changes in American society vitiate against that. Today Education majors at American universities overwhelmingly fall in the lowest quintile of those taking the SATs.

William said...

The man was not a dedicated teacher. He killed himself and left that pulse of emptiness in the lives of his young charges......There were undoubtedly more reasons than a "less effective" rating that brought him to that ending, but the act was self indulgent, grandiose, and wrong. Committing suicide is one of those things that should rank very high in the list of things you don't do in the presence of children.

AllenS said...

My neighbor up the road committed suicide about 2 weeks ago. She was 35 years old with a 15 month old child. She had postpartum depression. She left a note that she had started a month before. She showed no signs of anything being wrong. She had her hair done a week before.

Michael Haz said...

He killed himself? Why not put that energy and determination into fixing a broken system instead?

Or changing his employment to a non-union private or parochial school?

Sorry, suicide wasn't the right choice.

Heckuva lesson for his students: If life gives you a hard knock, don't fight back, just kill yourself.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Heckuva lesson for his students: If life gives you a hard knock, don't fight back, just kill yourself."

Would you feel the same way if next week we learn he was diddling some fifth graders during after school tutoring at their homes?

Or would his suicide at that point be OK with you?

Class factotum said...

She had her hair done a week before

That's because you can't trust the mortician to make you look good.

AllenS said...

She shot herself in the head. Right outside the house.

Revenant said...

"He loved his job" and "he was bad at his job" are not contradictory statements.

Revenant said...

they try to to do the job on the cheap to come up with quick & dirty ways of evaluating performance. They do this because evaluating performance for real is time-consuming and expensive.

Using "time-consuming and expensive" methods to evaluate teacher performance is a waste of money. The school system doesn't exist for the benefit of teachers, or at least it shouldn't. It isn't worth spending a huge amount of money for the sake of the handful of teachers who truly are good at their jobs but who, for whatever reason, are less-able than their peers to improve student test scores.

The Drill SGT said...

traditionalguy said...
Was this a students rate the professor type web site?


as I understand what they did, the LAT used standard test scores of students, district wide over multiple years and measured the incremental impact of teachers on the aggregate set of students they touched.

With a large number of students, teachers and multiple years of data, it had a much better chance of being a reliable measure of effectiveness than any 1 sample.

Hagar said...

So, how would Bill Ayers rate Miss Dove?

How would Miss Dove rate Bill Ayers?

jr565 said...

Can we sue whoever rated this teacher as less effective as a teacher for a hate crime? Because this teacher DID kill himself and he does have a hispanic sounding name (therefore a protected minority).

Kev said...

Try doing a bit of research about the problem with VAM (value-added measures) in terms of evaluating teachers, particularly in a vacuum.

I think reader_iam nails this one here; it's certainly possible to evaluate teachers, but doing so by only using standardized test scores is a mistake.

And New Ham, I understand your concerns, but please chill a bit; not every teacher who meets with kids outside of school is a potential pedophile. Perhaps he was doing home tutoring because 1) the kids families are poor and couldn't get rides to somewhere else; 2) the school wasn't open on weekends, and 3) elementary school kids, as a rule, don't drive. (And I can't imagine your reaction if he had the students over to his house instead!)

murgatroyd666 said...

I have several friends who are former public school teachers. Two of them independently commented (and the others agreed) that anyone who is still a teacher after three years either is astonishingly dedicated or is such a poor performer that he or she would be fired for incompetence in any other profession. ("Either saints or deadwood," in the words of one friend.)

From a different L.A. Times story:

Teachers union President A.J. Duffy said his staff was told by Ruelas' family that the teacher was depressed about his score on a teacher-rating database posted by The Times on its website. The newspaper analyzed seven years of student test scores in English and math to determine how much students' performance improved under about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers. Based on The Times' findings, Ruelas was rated "average" in his ability to raise students' English scores and "less effective" in his ability to raise math scores. Overall, he was rated slightly "less effective" than his peers.

And then there's this:

Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said Wednesday that Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. had received the highest ranking possible in his last evaluation in July.

Ruelas' colleagues told union representatives that the 39-year-old felt despondent and pressured over the Los Angeles Times' ranking of him as a "less effective" teacher.

The Times analyzed seven years of test score data and ranked 6,000 elementary teachers on their ability raise scores. The newspaper published the results in August.

Deasy said the Times' analysis was too narrow to measure overall teacher effectiveness.


One big problem with grading teachers on a curve is that their performance depends on the performance of the students -- and public schools can't choose only the best students and turn away the rest. The article mentions gangs; another problem in California's hispanic neighborhoods is kids who are"bilingually illiterate" and have lousy reading skills in both English and Spanish. It seems plausible to me that Mr. Ruelas taught classes full of poor learners, and he probably had more than his fair share of thugs, screwups, and airheads who did their best to keep the other kids from learning.

Remember: The scores of the kids in his classes do not reflect the performance of the same kids over seven years, they're the scores of seven successive years of really crappy students. Why the effin' hell should the scores improve? What sort of effin' moron at the Times would think those scores were meaningful in terms of evaluating teacher "effectiveness"?

murgatroyd666 said...

I have several friends who are former public school teachers. Two of them independently commented (and the others agreed) that anyone who is still a teacher after three years either is astonishingly dedicated or is such a poor performer that he or she would be fired for incompetence in any other profession. ("Either saints or deadwood," in the words of one friend.)

From a different L.A. Times story:

Teachers union President A.J. Duffy said his staff was told by Ruelas' family that the teacher was depressed about his score on a teacher-rating database posted by The Times on its website. The newspaper analyzed seven years of student test scores in English and math to determine how much students' performance improved under about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers. Based on The Times' findings, Ruelas was rated "average" in his ability to raise students' English scores and "less effective" in his ability to raise math scores. Overall, he was rated slightly "less effective" than his peers.

And then there's this:

Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said Wednesday that Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. had received the highest ranking possible in his last evaluation in July.

Ruelas' colleagues told union representatives that the 39-year-old felt despondent and pressured over the Los Angeles Times' ranking of him as a "less effective" teacher.

The Times analyzed seven years of test score data and ranked 6,000 elementary teachers on their ability raise scores. The newspaper published the results in August.

Deasy said the Times' analysis was too narrow to measure overall teacher effectiveness.


One big problem with grading teachers on a curve is that their performance depends on the performance of the students -- and public schools can't choose only the best students and turn away the rest. The article mentions gangs; another problem in California's hispanic neighborhoods is kids who are"bilingually illiterate" and have lousy reading skills in both English and Spanish. It seems plausible to me that Mr. Ruelas taught classes full of poor learners, and he probably had more than his fair share of thugs, screwups, and airheads who did their best to keep the other kids from learning.

Remember: The scores of the kids in his classes do not reflect the performance of the same kids over seven years, they're the scores of seven successive years of really crappy students. Why the effin' hell should the scores improve? What sort of effin' moron at the Times would think those scores were meaningful in terms of evaluating teacher "effectiveness"?

murgatroyd666 said...

I have several friends who are former public school teachers. Two of them independently commented (and the others agreed) that anyone who is still a teacher after three years either is astonishingly dedicated or is such a poor performer that he or she would be fired for incompetence in any other profession. ("Either saints or deadwood," in the words of one friend.)

From a different L.A. Times story:

The newspaper analyzed seven years of student test scores in English and math to determine how much students' performance improved under about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers. Based on The Times' findings, Ruelas was rated "average" in his ability to raise students' English scores and "less effective" in his ability to raise math scores. Overall, he was rated slightly "less effective" than his peers.

And then there's this:

Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said Wednesday that Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. had received the highest ranking possible in his last evaluation in July. [...]

Deasy said the Times' analysis was too narrow to measure overall teacher effectiveness.


One big problem with grading teachers on a curve is that their performance depends on the performance of the students -- and public schools can't choose only the best students and turn away the rest. The article mentions gangs; another problem in California's hispanic neighborhoods is kids who are "bilingually illiterate" and have lousy reading skills in both English and Spanish. It seems plausible to me that Mr. Ruelas taught classes full of poor learners, and he probably had more than his fair share of thugs, screwups, and airheads who did their best to keep the other kids from learning.

Remember: The scores of the kids in his classes do not reflect the performance of the same kids over seven years, they're the scores of seven successive years of really crappy students. Why the effin' hell should the scores improve? What sort of effin' moron at the Times would think those scores were meaningful in terms of evaluating teacher "effectiveness"?

murgatroyd666 said...

I have several friends who are former public school teachers. Two of them independently commented (and the others agreed) that anyone who is still a teacher after three years either is astonishingly dedicated or is such a poor performer that he or she would be fired for incompetence in any other profession. ("Either saints or deadwood," in the words of one friend.)

From a different L.A. Times story:

The newspaper analyzed seven years of student test scores in English and math to determine how much students' performance improved under about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers. Based on The Times' findings, Ruelas was rated "average" in his ability to raise students' English scores and "less effective" in his ability to raise math scores. Overall, he was rated slightly "less effective" than his peers.

And then there's this:

Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said Wednesday that Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. had received the highest ranking possible in his last evaluation in July. [...]

Deasy said the Times' analysis was too narrow to measure overall teacher effectiveness.


One big problem with grading teachers on a curve is that their results depend on the performance of the students -- Ruelas didn't have the cream of the crop. The article mentions gangs; another problem in California's hispanic neighborhoods is kids who are "bilingually illiterate," with lousy reading skills in both English and Spanish. It seems plausible to me that Mr. Ruelas taught classes full of poor learners, and he probably had more than his fair share of thugs, screwups, and airheads who did their best to keep the other kids from learning.

Remember: The scores of the kids in his classes do not reflect the performance of the same kids over seven years, they're the scores of seven successive years of really crappy students. Why the effin' hell should the scores improve? What sort of effin' moron at the Times would think those scores were meaningful in terms of evaluating teacher "effectiveness"?

Class factotum said...

She shot herself in the head.

OK, then, getting the hair done was a waste of money.

murgatroyd666 said...

I have several friends who are former public school teachers. Two of them independently commented (and the others agreed) that anyone who is still a teacher after three years either is astonishingly dedicated or is such a poor performer that he or she would be fired for incompetence in any other profession. ("Either saints or deadwood," in the words of one friend.)

From the L.A. Times:

The newspaper analyzed seven years of student test scores in English and math to determine how much students' performance improved under about 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers. Based on The Times' findings, Ruelas was rated "average" in his ability to raise students' English scores and "less effective" in his ability to raise math scores. Overall, he was rated slightly "less effective" than his peers.

And then there's this:

Deputy Superintendent John Deasy said Wednesday that Rigoberto Ruelas Jr. had received the highest ranking possible in his last evaluation in July. [...]

Deasy said the Times' analysis was too narrow to measure overall teacher effectiveness.


One big problem with grading teachers on a curve is that their results depend on the performance of the students -- Ruelas didn't have the cream of the crop. The article mentions gangs; another problem in California's hispanic neighborhoods is kids who are "bilingually illiterate," with lousy reading skills in both English and Spanish. It seems plausible to me that Mr. Ruelas taught classes full of poor learners, and he probably had more than his fair share of thugs, screwups, and airheads who did their best to keep the other kids from learning.

Remember: The scores of the kids in his classes do not reflect the performance of the same kids over seven years, they're the scores of seven successive years of really crappy students, one after another.

Why the effin' hell should the scores improve? What sort of idiot at the Times would think those scores were meaningful in terms of evaluating teacher "effectiveness"?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I've been avoiding this thread. I feel bad about Ruelas's suicide, but the Times articles perform a rare service, rare for the Times. The demands on a teacher's time required by a PC liberal California education establishment are terrible.

murgatroyd666 said...

GAH!

Please delete the excess verbiage ...

Sorry about the multiple posts -- the system claimed that I had a "URI too large" error and said it rejected the comment, so I repeatedly attempted to fix it.

I should know better than to trust those fascists at Google ...

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"The school system doesn't exist for the benefit of teachers ..."

That's right.

It exists for the benefit of the administrators and school board members.

And don't you fucking forget that.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"... and he does have a Hispanic sounding name (therefore a protected minority)."

Rich Sanchez would beg to differ with you sweetheart.

There is only one protected group, according to CNN anchors who give radio interviews about this controversial topic:

Media-Controlling Jews.

(And since they fired him for saying so, maybe he has a point.)

paul a'barge said...

If he cared this much about doing a fair job in his career he should have put the attention into the quality of his work.

I smell a rat. Meaning, I don't think his crappy job performance and his suicide were cause and effect.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Grading the teachers needs to left up to the principal, with the understanding that there are some principals that will abuse that authority, but most won't. Just like most other systems. (Business, the military, sports.) Test scores should be a consideration, but not the only one.

The Drill SGT said...

murgatroyd666 said...
GAH!

Please delete the excess verbiage ...


There is a delete button on each of your posts

jimbino said...

So true.

I taught electronics technology at a trade school. Having earlier worked in the industry, I was able to place all my graduate students in good jobs at TI, Motorola, etc.

But then I was fired for competing with the "placement office" of the trade school, which of course, was much less successful than I was at placing my students.

They, of course, had to justify the student loans by citing the effectiveness of their "job placement office."

The solution, of course, is to get the Feds totally out of education and let those of us experts place the students privately.

jr565 said...

Sorry about the multiple posts -- the system claimed that I had a "URI too large" error and said it rejected the comment, so I repeatedly attempted to fix it.
//


I've gotten that plenty of times. I hit back to go back one page then hit refresh. The comment is usually there. It usually happens with longish posts but which aren't too long to not be posted. Some blogger type glitch.

murgatroyd666 said...

> Please delete the excess verbiage ...

There is a delete button on each of your posts


I'm posting via LiveJournal/OpenID, not a Google account. If there's a delete button, I sure don't see it. Am I missing something?

ndspinelli said...

Teacher's unions are under justifiable seige. Expect more of this horseshit.


Having investigated my share of suicides, they are seldom related to one issue. Suicide is tragic[Hitler being an obvious exception]. My prayers go out to this person's family.

murgatroyd666 said...

If he cared this much about doing a fair job in his career he should have put the attention into the quality of his work.

I smell a rat. Meaning, I don't think his crappy job performance and his suicide were cause and effect.


I don't usually defend members of the nomenklatura, but in this case it looks to me like the L.A. Times screwed the pooch. The Times is not noted for its impeccable accuracy and integrity; see Patterico for any number of examples: http://patterico.com/category/dog-trainer/.

If in fact he was a dedicated teacher, and as effective a teacher as anyone could be given the raw material he had to work with, then the "below average" rating must have been like a kick in the teeth to him.

If his name had been erroneously added to a sex-offender registry published by the Times, and he had killed himself because he was being scorned and shunned, would you still be criticizing him?

Teaching for more than a decade in a "minority community" filled with gangs, illiterates, and slackers is not an easy job, and it will wear anyone down. Have any of you ever been to South Gate?

Baron Zemo said...

"Having investigated my share of suicides, they are seldom related to one issue. Suicide is tragic[Hitler being an obvious exception"

My dear fellow. You could not be more wrong.

Cedarford is still broken up about it.

rhhardin said...

Teachers are such fragile souls.

Everybody else gets rated and struggles through.

Actually the union doesn't want ratings because it will threaten the seniority system that locks up the LA school system in dysfunction.

The teacher in question wasn't even rated that badly, merely slightly below average.

rhhardin said...

The rating system takes into account the quality of the students.

It associates teachers with improvement or decline in test results, not with absolute numbers.

Mark V Wilson said...

I simply don't believe the story accurately identifies why this man killed himself.

AST said...

That'll show 'em!

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"I simply don't believe the story accurately identifies why this man killed himself."

That's because it's not meant to.

What this story is trying to do is to leave in the minds of its readers the supposition that simply measuring the ability of a teacher to do a good job causes people to die.

We can't hold teachers to any standards - because to do so will cause them to hurt themselves (or others).

I still want to know what this guy was doing visiting fifth-grade students - at their homes - for after-school "tutoring" sessions (as also reported by the LA Times).

murgatroyd666 said...

I still want to know what this guy was doing visiting fifth-grade students - at their homes - for after-school "tutoring" sessions (as also reported by the LA Times).

Dammit Ham, maybe you are a moby after all, because you're sure being stupid. Can you freakin' read?

[Rigoberto Ruelas] tutored his students after class, visited their homes and met their families, steered them away from gangs and toward college.

See that? Where does it say he tutored them at their homes?

He (1) tutored his students after class and separately (2) visited their homes to meet their families.

(And I'll bet he visited their homes to talk with the families because in South Gate the parents of failing students aren't particularly noted for being PTA members.)

Visit South Gate for a few days, and then give us your opinions on coddled teachers, OK?

murgatroyd666 said...

The rating system takes into account the quality of the students.

Does it? Or does it ignore that factor completely? How do you know?

It associates teachers with improvement or decline in test results, not with absolute numbers.

Yeah ... So? My point is that -- according to the actual words printed in the L.A. Times article -- he was judged mediocre because the scores of his students didn't improve over seven years. But how could that measure his abilities? He didn't have a single class of the same students for seven years, he had sequential classes of new students, probably for one year each.

Anyone who's worked in a large organization knows how to game the system when it comes to getting good performance scores onstandardized tests. It looks to me like Ruelas was so foolish that he didn't try to game the system to get a higher score (for example, by working with classes of progressively smarter kids over the years). Heck, it said he deliberately sought out kids who needed help. What a fool!

murgatroyd666 said...

Look, I agree that the only person responsible for Ruelas' suicide is himself, and that the union is cynically tryng to blame his death on whoever would look the best for them, politically.

But the reason I'm ranting here is that some of you are awfully quick to condemn a man you don't know on the flimiest of evidence:

"There is absolutely no evidence that this teacher was noble or good."

"Would you feel the same way if next week we learn he was diddling some fifth graders during after school tutoring at their homes?"

"If he cared this much about doing a fair job in his career he should have put the attention into the quality of his work.

I smell a rat. Meaning, I don't think his crappy job performance and his suicide were cause and effect."

"The man was not a dedicated teacher. He killed himself and left that pulse of emptiness in the lives of his young charges."

Jesus H. Christ!

Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

I'm a teacher in CA, but I don't work for LAUSD. That said, the Value-Added measure the Times used are not an accurate way to evaluate a teacher's performance. There are a jillion articles out there explaining that. The LA Times was irresponsible journalism. Teachers are stressed out of our minds with all the teacher-bashing going on in our country today. Here you have an international newspaper publishing a dubious employee rating with a teachers' name attached. How would any person in their right mind feel if they got a bad employee evaluation, deserved or not, and it was published in a national newspaper ONLINE, for the whole world to look up before you even had a chance to correct your supposed shortcomings. For many dedicated teachers, teaching is their life. It's not just a job evaluation, it's a life evaluation.

For the earlier poster that says VAM's account for the quality of student: no, they do not. Students who have issues, whether they be learning disabilities, violent homes, or poverty-related health problems tend to fall farther and farther behind as students get older and the work gets harder. And the test for the end of 4th grade might be harder than the one for the end of 5th grade. It's simply not an accurate baseline, because tests from year to year don't test the same things.

Sites such as RateMyTeacher are easier to take, because people are going to take the words of students with a grain of salt. The Times? Some people are still gullible enough to trust newspapers.

I'd never be suicidal, but I have to say I get it. The whole idea of value-added measures is so inaccurate and unfair that I'm thinking of leaving my profession. I really don't need to risk public vilification. And I'm a damned good teacher, if I say so myself.

rhhardin said...

the Value-Added measure the Times used are not an accurate way to evaluate a teacher's performance.

Do it over a number of years, and you notice the bad teachers. Their classes fall compared to other teachers'. The more years, the more sensitive the ratings. You only need a certain sensitivity, though, to notice the stinkers.

The union does not want bad teachers noticed. Somebody might want to get rid of them.

The union wants more money to solve dysfunction instead.

The fix for the LA schools is outlawing public employee unions, which operate with politicians yet avoid RICO laws somehow.

Revenant said...

Here's how life works in just about every job out there:

You have tasks you're supposed to accomplish -- goals you're supposed to meet. If you keep failing to accomplish those tasks, and keep failing to reach those goals, eventually you get shitcanned. Is it always your fault? No, it isn't. Life is not always fair.

This whole "you can't hold teachers accountable for students failing to learn" schtick is bullshit. We can, and we should. Why should "teacher" be the one job that can fail to do the ONE thing it is being paid for without any repercussions?

Whiskey Jim said...

I submit that grading on a curve is a good example of why competition gets an undeserved bad name.

Marrying the idea with letter grades is a total bastardization of the healthy concepts of competition and transforms it into a farce.

We know what excellence or mastery of the material looks like. That is the measurement. If no one or everyone in a class prove mastery, so be it.

Competition is first and foremost self-actualization; the healthy sweet spot between ego and empathy, or self-advancement and cooperation.

Ultimately there is no comparative in mastery. There is only the beauty of it.

Whiskey Jim said...

IMO Suicide is a self murder. It never happens to a person with a normal free mind. It does happen to persons with minds in a bondage to the power of ridicule, rejection, discouragement and despair.

Imagine you considered yourself a wonderful father, caring husband, and were told for years you were a star performer at work.

Then one month your wife runs away and you are laid off.

Most rational and intelligent people who consider their lives with a sense of accomplishment would very seriously turn their thoughts inward to fundamentally question the idea of who they really were in life.

Some people don't like what they see, or do not wish to start over. Especially if they were proud of their previous work.

People commit suicide for many reasons. I have a great deal of empathy for the man in the story. So much so, that I am not sure the two events are connected.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"How would any person in their right mind feel if they got a bad employee evaluation, deserved or not, and it was published in a national newspaper ONLINE, for the whole world to look up before you even had a chance to correct your supposed shortcomings."

If you don't like being a member of the government, then please resign your government position.

You work for us - got it?

Get used to it. We are your employer and we demand that you do your job correctly or we will fire you and publicly humiliate you because that's what a citizenry does when its government fails it.

It's about goddamned time you overpaid, over-pensioned hacks started to feel the heat of your employer looking over your shoulder at what you're doing to our children.

Roger Sweeny said...

There is no perfect way to rate teachers, partly because we can't agree on what a good teacher is supposed to accomplish.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to decide who gets the job and who keeps the job. That means we need some sort of rating system--which is bound to be imperfect.

We presently have a rating system, which not only determines who gets a job but how much a teacher gets paid.

Getting the job requires an ed degree, a decent resume, and an interview or two with school officials.

Keeping the job requires being a acceptable colleague for three years and being successfully "observed" several times by school personnel.

Getting raises requires seniority and taking more education courses.

Any other system of rating teachers should be judged against what we already have, not some castle-in-the-sky standard of perfection

Roger Sweeny said...

murgatroy66,

You seem to be arguing, "Of course, he was an ineffective teacher. No one could be an effective teacher under those circumstances."

That is a very different argument from saying we can't know who is effective and who isn't.

And it brings up an empirical question, "were there teachers in similar circumstances who got better results from similar students?"

Mick said...

Althouse has graded on a curve for a quarter century? That's why so many lawyers don't know anything about the Constitution. Many can only think in relativist terms (which is the disease of the Left). Constitutional and Moral relativism is a malignant disease.
God forbid that you ruin your students' self esteem by giving them an absolute grade. What does the answer to a legal question have to do with what your classmates think it is. If they all get it wrong, then the one who was "least wrong" gets an "A"?

MarkW said...

It is entirely possible to be dedicated and hard-working but not be above average in effectiveness. Certainly that's true of athletes and musicians, but I'm sure we've all known incredibly diligent students who, nevertheless, couldn't make the grades.

So why might that not be the case with teachers? My son had a math teacher who was incredibly dedicated (spent every lunch hour and hour after school tutoring students), but in my judgment, she was a bad teacher (at least for many of her students), because she a complex, rigid system for turning and getting credit for work--kids who were good at algebra but bad at detailed rule-following and paper handling (e.g. a large fraction of middle-school students--boys especially) were sunk.

Mick said...

MarkW said,

"My son had a math teacher who was incredibly dedicated (spent every lunch hour and hour after school tutoring students), but in my judgment, she was a bad teacher (at least for many of her students), because she a complex, rigid system for turning and getting credit for work--kids who were good at algebra but bad at detailed rule-following and paper handling (e.g. a large fraction of middle-school students--boys especially) were sunk."


What nonsense. Results equal expectations. They weren't good at rule following? That's the idiot parents' fault not the teacher.

traditionalguy said...

Whiskey Jim...I have known men whose parents and siblings died, and their wife left them for another man, and their profession/job was ended by fascist take overs in the world system....all within a year 's time. They became paralyzed by thoughts of self doubt... how they could survive in life when they seemed to themselves to be too foolish to make any good decisions. But time passing and the love from good people in the church group rebuilt their confidence. The necessary period of mourning seemed to do its work when friends cared about them. They learned that they still had tremendous value in the eyes of God and the eyes of God's covenant people. After a while they believed that too. Ergo: no suicide.

Roger Sweeny said...

Mick,

The idea behind law school grading on the curve is that 1) as Ann says, "it is much easier to make relative judgments."

2) A significant number of the students will try to be at or near the top and will work hard and study hard. Thus, any student who wants to be kind of near the top (but is perfectly happy not to be that close to the top) has to work pretty hard, too. Nobody can just goof off because everyone is afraid of losing out to the people who work harder than them. Even if you'd be satisfied to be just above the bottom 10%, you know you have to do some work.

Every student might like to do no work at all. But grading on a curve means that any student who outperforms another gets a higher grade. For most law students, that's an incentive.

avalonsensei said...

It seems a lot of folks have an opinion about the death of Rigoberto Ruelas. His colleagues created a Facebook memorial page where former students have commented. His death is a loss for the entire community, and at the very least shows we need to bring back sanity and respect to the issue of education reform.

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=112093192185545&ref=ts

Belkys said...

well it is an epidemic trend http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7308823/Teacher-killed-herself-after-ex-boyfriend-posted-naked-photos-on-Facebook.html

Kirby Olson said...

I don't see how suicide is going to make him a better teacher.

Freeman Hunt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Largo said...

Jimbino,

That is the saddest tale I heard in a long time. Sad in the sense of this world being in a sad state of affairs.

Great anectdote though.