Friday, 4 September 2009

How teachers are unfairly judged.

Welcome to my first posting of the new academic year, and what a start!

Firstly, let me say that I am all for the accountability of teachers and the removal of those who are persistently bad. However, the manner in which teachers' targets are determined, allied to political meddling and a chase for GCSE numbers, is creating significant stresses and huge unfairness.

Basically, most school appear to use a measure from the Fisher Family Trust organisation to provide targets for their GCSE groups. For each child, a residual score is given calculated on the basis of actual result against predictions. In simple terms, if a youngster is predicted a C and achieves a D, the teacher is awarded -1, a score of 0 for a grade C, 1 for a B, 2 for a grade A etc. All scores are then calculated to give a residual result. Should that residual result be negative, the teacher is placed under pressure that is sometimes intolerable, for the most unfair of reasons.

Firstly, because schools should rightly be seen to have high expectations many of them use something called the FFT D indicator, which determines targets based upon the top performing 25% of schools which are deemed to be statistically similar. Likewise, for most schools, the targets are in turn set against pupil performance at the end of key stage 2 (junior school).
This raises 2 particular issues. Firstly, there is ample evidence to suggest that the results at key stage 2 are unreliable. The DCFS was rightly accused of being a significant contributor to previous SATs catastrophes due to political meddling and, with the stakes being so high, there is much empirical evidence that at the very least the KS2 outcomes appear at the expense of a broader education with significant 'test drilling' skewing actual educational achievement.

Therefore, we build castles on sand and set teachers up to fail. This is particularly the case in deprived areas (such as where I teach), as pupils who do not turn up for examinations, or are unprepared, can bring with them residual results of -6. However, there is little sympathy for the teacher with a negative residual, however it arises, as headteachers follow the slavish mantra that it is bad teaching that is to blame, not the children. Equally, it was noteworthy that the negative residuals came in the academic subjects, with BTECs doing particularly well. Funny that?

So what does this mean on the front line? It means that 3 teachers with thus far unblemished records have today been given the option of resigning with a good reference or facing competency proceedings. Welcome to the brave new world of staggering illusion and unfairness.

PS- I trade in no sour grapes here. I was fortunate enough to have a positive residual so I am left alone, at least for a while......

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