Mouthy Kids Like Jeff Bliss Might Be the Best Measure of Teachers We Have

Categories: Schutze

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OK, I'll bite. Now that my two favorite psycho-moral philosophers have offered their opinions of the long-haired viral Duncanville kid who told off his teacher, I guess I will, too. I can't stay out of a debate where the word "cockeyed" has come into play. I can't tell you why. It's probably deeply Freudian. I just hate that word.

See also: Watch a Duncanville Teen Deliver a Blistering Classroom Sermon on Lazy Teachers

In a column at the end of last week, Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow came out against the kid who told off his teacher. Blow told readers: "One of the things that seem most cockeyed is that school officials quickly cleared [Jeff] Bliss of any wrongdoing -- and even praised him for raising important issues."

The day before Blow called the school cockeyed, Dallas Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson said of the kid who told off his teacher, "He owes everyone involved an apology."

So that's it. Blow uses cockeyed. Robberson is giving the spurs to his hobby horse again. I gotta saddle up.

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It so happens that during the pendency of this great American news story -- THIS JUST IN: TEXAS KID TELLS OFF TEACHER -- I have been working on a piece about school reform. In fact, pretty much on the day when the earth-shattering event occurred, I happened to be looking at some fascinating research published in September by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a report called, "Asking Students About Teaching." It's part of a body of research looking for ways to measure whether a teacher is good at teaching or maybe not so good.

Turns out you can use a number of measures. How did the teacher's kids do on standardized tests? How is the teacher rated by classroom observers? And, yes, what do the teachers' kids say about the teacher if you ask?

Oh, wait. Forgot. What is a good teacher? Is it a teacher whose kids perform well later on statewide tests based on mastery of a core curriculum? Or is it a teacher whose kids do well on broader national tests like the SAT or ACT that measure general cultural awareness and critical thinking skills?

Oh, wait again. Why is this all based on the teacher? What if the teacher gets a classroom full of kids who are general all-around hell-to-pay or at least hell-to-teach? Why put this all on the teacher?

So, given all the interest nationally in school reform, entities like the Gates Foundation have been hiring social scientists to look at these questions in rigorous scientific ways that won't get torn to shreds when they read their research papers at the next social science convention. And there are ways to do it, mainly depending on the word -- "randomize." If you want to be scientific, you gotta randomize. By the way, a bunch of this research took place here in Dallas, because, I don't know, maybe we're random.

They took care of the what-about-the-damn-kids question by randomizing the assignment of students to teachers. That way, the principal can't load up a teacher up with all hard-heads. Then they measured the kids before and after a year with each given teacher.

Some of the results were pretty predictable. If you want to predict which teacher will do the best job of preparing kids for state tests, look at prior test scores on state tests for kids who had that teacher. The teachers whose kids consistently do well on state tests are probably your best teach-to-the-test teachers.

But if you want to know whose kids will do best on SATs and ACTs, it turns out two quite different factors will predict. One is classroom observation, done the right way. The trick there is getting more than one observer and not depending solely on observations by the principal, who has management/personnel agendas interfering with objectivity.

But the other big predictor of higher level learning for students of any given teacher is student surveys. Ask the kids. May I say, encourage the kids to mouth off to you.

In student surveys used in the Gates report, kids were asked if their teacher taught them stuff in ways they could get. They were asked if the teacher went back and explained stuff they didn't get.

One yes-no question was, "I like the way we learn in this class." Another was, "Our teacher wants us to share our thoughts."

It seems to me two very interesting things are happening here. One is getting the kids to sort of rat out the teacher, like asking your own kid, "Does the babysitter spend a lot of time on the phone? What kind of stuff does she watch on TV?"

The other even further rejects the idea that kids should shut up, sit at their desks and do what the authority figure tells them to do. Implicit in the survey itself is the idea that a kid has a natural desire to be taught and knows deep down whether the teacher is meeting that desire.

Asking the kids if their teacher is any good really turns all the ancient spare-the-rod prescriptions on their heads. No matter how messed up a kid may be by what happened at home that morning before he showed up for school, there dwells deep down in that kid's soul a yearning to understand. If you give that kid a chance to speak up, he or she will tell you whether the teacher is making it happen.

This isn't a story about how it should be. It's a story about the science and how it is. Another Gates study looks at various ways of measuring teacher effectiveness and asks which single metric is best at what they call reliability. That is, which measurement is the best one over time at predicting how well a given teacher's students will fare on all tests, state and national.

It's Jeff Bliss, man. Student surveys. Don't just let the student mouth off about the teacher. Invite them to mouth off. Help them mouth off. If you want to know which teachers you can count on to show the best results, sit those kids down and get them to spill their guts.

Back on cockeyed. Why my phobia? I think it's because that word shows up most often in the expression, "Call me a cockeyed optimist." For whatever reason -- I really do not know -- I don't want to call anyone a cockeyed optimist, ever. But I would like to look at the facts again.

Were Blow and Robberson wrong to take the kid to task for the way he did it? Nah, not entirely. I admit. You do need a modicum of decorum, or nobody learns anything. But the even more important lesson here is that listening to the Jeff Blisses of the world is the best single way there is to find out what's working. I don't think you can have learning without decorum, but I know you can have decorum without learning. Learning is what counts.

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107 comments
bushwhackerbabe
bushwhackerbabe

All I can think of when somebody says let students evaluate teachers is all the lame-brains in high school who thought everything about school was stupid (except the terrific weed networks) and whose main work was getting others to do theirs. Fortunately, Dallas offers great opportunities in real estate. Really? And why don't we let teenagers decide if their parents are doing a great job. Bet we know which cool parents would win that contest. And, by the way, since Gates will make a killing when all education is online, might not his foundation be slightly biased?

BarackObama
BarackObama

Yo ya’ teaches uh chillen ta read, an' he or her will be able ta pass uh literacy tess.

ac_hand9
ac_hand9

I'm an Ed major with two years left.

May I never invoke my paycheck in front of my students, because that's not the draw of the job.

I work incredibly hard right now....I could be working just as hard with a higher-paying career waiting for me at the end.

It should never be about the money.   That's not why one chooses to teach.

I'm glad Jeff Bliss spoke up.

Jennie Harding
Jennie Harding

I graduated high school when I was 16. I know quite well how the school system works. I won't engage further into a "debate" with someone who uses the term "Johnny Retard" and thinks that the rant video was set up before class. Talk about a moron.

Steve Handy
Steve Handy

Well Micah, that would be because it's a lot easier for people to argue around an issue than it is to argue for or against it. What this video should have done was draw attention to the fact that public education is failing. Instead it's drawn attention to this particular kid and stagnated. A student speaking his mind about an apathetic teacher? Wait...he has long hair! That's much more important, let's all harp on that!

Micah Montgomery
Micah Montgomery

Even if it was setup how does it make it any different? What he said is pretty much hitting the nail on the head. If all the teachers who told me I should just give up, not to waste my time with college, could see me now. lol

Steve Handy
Steve Handy

Nice, right out of the gate with some personal attacks and unfounded assumptions. The mark of an enlightened debater. I'm not going to even engage someone who instantly resorts to such tactics; its a waste of time. I would expect more from a libertarian...

Dave Beavers
Dave Beavers

This kid set this up with a partner to shoot the whole thing well before they got to class. Don't be so gullible as to think otherwise. Schools suck NOT because of the teachers, but because of the curriculum forced on them by the state of Texas and the DoE. Also, "no child left behind" translates into teachers having to spend ALL of their time trying to make little Johnny Retard understand what is being taught (when he never will), and the teaching of the kids that can understand gets undermined, so yes, they get bored. I find it amazing that so many people don't understand what goes on in our own educational system. Then again, maybe I do understand, because most people are so blatantly uninformed about a great many things.

Dave Beavers
Dave Beavers

You are a moron, just like this kid is. I'll bet you didn't finish high school either. This kid probably won't, and will end up being yet another in a long procession of societal liabilities.

Steve Handy
Steve Handy

Yeah, because having long hair automatically renders your opinion invalid. You do realize that only one of the columbine shooters had long hair right Whitney? What I find most interesting about this whole situation is the petty focus of the masses. I have heard more critiques of this kids hair than I have about anything he's actually said. It's absurd. You don't have to agree with his sentiments about his teacher (see my post from above concerning naivety) but your argument against what he's saying being based on his hair is asinine. No wonder our schools are so shitty; superficial interests seems to trump content just about every time. It doesn't matter what someone says or does, or how much you should agree with it (or don't know enough about the situation to form an opinion in the first place), the solution seems to be to revert to the superficial. "I can't relate, so therefore ________ is wrong and a loser". That type of "thinking" is exactly what our schools are producing now, and apparently have been for some time now....

AmbelleinaWarwillow
AmbelleinaWarwillow

In college, we do surveys of instruction after the course is over. Completely anonymous, takes 10 minutes and required for every single course. It is our way to notifying the school if the professor is worth her/his paycheck and if we are learning something worthwhile. Why can they not institute this in high school? I did very well throughout my entire DISD education, but I still remember the teachers who let us know they didn't care about us and only showed up for the paycheck. The true is, a LOT of teachers just hand out packets and yell SHUT UP instead of actually teaching. If we had a way of enabling students to voice their true opinions on teachers/courses without the fear of repercussion or being singled out, students wouldn't have to resort to this.

Whitney Threadgill Mahan
Whitney Threadgill Mahan

Individual teachers should totally be tried in the media by Columbine look-alike dropouts. Sign me up!

Steve Handy
Steve Handy

Uh Dave, it doesn't sound like you've followed much of this story. Dude's an 18 year old sophmore. Yeah, he dropped out, but he returned. How many drop outs go back? Obviously the problem is that the teacher isn't teaching, hence his rant, so what teacher is it that you are referring to that is offering this education? He also didn't film himself, so how was he seeking 15 minutes of fame? I can understand how some people don't agree with his ranting, but those of you who don't understand the validity of the point he's trying to make are completely naive. Texas schools suck, and they get worse every year. This teaching to the test bullshit isn't educating anyone. Teacher is a very loose term these days. Babysitter is much more apt, and much like this teacher stated, they're there for the paycheck.

Jennie Harding
Jennie Harding

I love how people want to dismiss him because he's a dropout. He may have dropped out due to sheer boredom. I know I couldn't stand school and a fat load of my teachers sucked. Texas public schools suck. I don't care how many times he dropped out. Why? Because he went back. Clearly he wants an education and engaging teachers. How dare he challenge authority by demaning a decent learning environment. LMAO at boot licking subjugates!

Danny Neff
Danny Neff

Why put him on the news like he is some kind of hero? All it is doing is showing younger kids that they do not have to respect their teachers.

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

Id like to see this kids grades, parents and other accomplishments! There are valid complaints but this aint the way to do it! Complain to someone who can do something about it if you are going to mouth off - not in a way that makes you part of the problem! He isnt a hero, it didnt solve anything and even a good teacher doesnt want anything to do with him. Take a look at the school in question - the parental involvement (I bet minimal), school awards or standout programs (also limited) and then the school district. Is it like Dallas where you cant get rid of problem long term educators because of John Wiley Price whining - where the buildings are so old - even a multi-billion$ bond program has no effect or is this just a bad class with rotten teachers and students? Yep - we're asking the questions but for all the wrong reasons!

Jimmy Waddell
Jimmy Waddell

He is still blaming everyone but himself as to why he is a loser.

Dave Beavers
Dave Beavers

This kid is a two-time dropout, and 19 year old freshman. That should tell you something. First, he needs to stop running his mouth so much. Second, get an education from the very teachers who want to teach you. You can lead a kid to knowledge, but you can't make him think. Lastly, this little jerk got what he wanted...his 15 minutes of fame.

YouTalkinToMe
YouTalkinToMe

What would you be saying if he spoke to a police officer like that? Someone in the military? All you Jeff Bliss cheerleaders need to go smoke another bowl. 

ManinDallas
ManinDallas

He did a great job. I'm glad this issue is getting the attention it's getting. Now everyone should watch John Stossel's special "Stupid in America: How we cheat our kids"

bmarvel
bmarvel

decorum?

That sound I heard this morning that I mistook for for the rattling of dry leaves -- that was your arteries hardening, wasn't it?

Mary Medrick
Mary Medrick

Decorum? The kid didn't curse. Classroom observation should be frequent and should always make note if the teacher is sitting on her ass during class.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

someone get this kid a haircut and an attitude adjustment, respect your elders.....oh wait he is an adult, 18.  Nevermind he can do as he pleases  

WhatEvs
WhatEvs

@ac_hand9 Quit bitchin about making $45-52k a year to start a career.

Nooneatall
Nooneatall

@lzippitydoo If working through proper channels produced change history would not be filled with people who were placed in a position where they had to revolt against a system that was being forced up on them to their ill rather than their benefit. What you are actually saying is that he should just shut up so that your life can be more comfortable.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@lzippitydoo Zip --He's sure got everyone talking about the problem. I don't recall anybody else lodging any complaints through the proper channels that produced anything like this effect.

(Well,there was that kid in Arlington who turned in scribbled note that said, in effect, that this test is a waste of time. But he got labeled a bad ass and ended up in hot water.) 

i imagine the kid is pretty bright -- his complaint,remember, is that he's not being taught enough, not being engaged, which, before the testing mania set in, was the principal purpose of a school. His own mother is a teacher, so I'm guessing he has some grasp of what teaching is and should be.

But since you assert that "this ain't the way to do it," could you kindly explain how a kid in a classroom, captive of a really boring teacher, should "do it" in such a way as bring about a real change? 


 

bmarvel
bmarvel

@YouTalkinToMe By all means, Talkin', turn teachers into cops -- we're already proposing they be armed in the classroom -- and turn cops into military figures.That's what will make this nation great and put an end to students who demand that teachers -- imagine! -- teach.

Nooneatall
Nooneatall

Why, so that you can implant his hair?

ManinDallas
ManinDallas

@ScottsMerkin Attitude adjustment? I thought he did great with handling his feelings. I went through the public school system in Dallas and verbally expressed my views dozens of times on the lack of care from teachers. He had a legitimate gripe, and he handled it well. Try to give someone a fair shake before jumping to judgements next time.

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ScottsMerkin Why are these things always about hair? When elders disapproved of rock 'n roll, it was all about hair. Then came the civil rights and desegregation and war protestors -- hair.

Can somebody -- seriousy -- explain this?

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

This may bring about change but it was made about the kid and not the process! If his mom is a teacher - she would have had him out of this environment long ago! You actually see what happens when a DISD new Superintendent comes in, trys to take names and get rid of the marginal educators - and gets a backlash from people in their own back yard next to horrid schools!

bmarvel
bmarvel

@manpanties i've been to countries where the line separating cops and the military is indistinguishable. Believe me, you wouldn't like it there.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@bmarvel@ScottsMerkin

How about this ...

" She asks me why, I'm just a hairy guy.
I'm hairy noon and night, hair that's a fright.
I'm hairy high and low, don't ask me why, don't know.
It's not for lack of bread, like the Greatful Dead.
Darlin'

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair.
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.
Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there, momma, ev'rywhere, daddy, daddy.

hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Hair, hair, hair.Flow it, show it,long as God can grow it, my hair.

Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees,give a home to the fleas in my hair.
A home for fleas (yeah) a hive for bees (yeah),
a nest for birds, there ain't no words for the beauty, the splendor, the wonder of my:

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it,long as God can grow it, my hair"

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel I wish I could, but I cant!  It was just the easiest thing to pick on I guess.  I had crazy hair in high school, not long like that but just crazy highlighted colored hair.  Us soccer players were all weird about our hair

bmarvel
bmarvel

@lzippitydoo "Doesnt every kid with long hair complain?"

Uh, no. But I have noticed a connection between adults who complain about kids with long hair and pettyfogging authority zealots who want those fingernails scrubbed, those shoes polished, and that smile wiped off your face, Mister!  

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

The connection is change in the school systems - whether it be in Dallas or Duncanville. His viral rant is about him and his behavior in the classroom - with his complaint secondary. Doesnt every kid with long hair complain? Right!

bmarvel
bmarvel

@lzippitydoo  

Zip -- How can you assert this was more about the kid?" Do you have some special information not available to the rest of us? Or do you, like so many others here, just assume that because he's a kid and he's got long hair, it must be about him because no kid in his right mind would complain because  a class is boring and a teacher can't -- or won't -- teach?

 By the way, the "new Superintendent" you mention is superintendent of the Dallas ISD. This incident happened in Duncanville. What's the connection?


russell.allison1
russell.allison1

@marye214 @ScottsMerkin @bmarvel I think I have it...a solution:  Lets have 2 different schools-one for the kids that MUST attend and one for those that CHOOSE to attend.  Next, we'll take the unmotivated instructors and put them in the room full of students that attend by choice and the really sharp, motivated, life altering instructors we'll stick with the other group.  What would happen?

marye214
marye214

@ScottsMerkin @bmarvel Apparently he was a dropout, but came back. For that, I commend him. If he wants to be there for an education, he's there for the right reason.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel I guess its not his fault that he is 18 and a Sopohmore in HS right.  Its DNA, or that damned Sexual Anarchy thing

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ScottsMerkin Since you're now okay with his hair, let's discuss his attitude. What your you suggest he adjust?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@bmarvel Nah I dont really condemn his his hair, I was being facetious more than anything.  Give me 10 more years before I turn into that guy

bmarvel
bmarvel

@ScottsMerkin Might it suggest, Scott, that you've somehow become one of he very people who once condemned your hair?

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