May 18

Teacher Motivation

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Some Rights Reserved

One of my blog posts sparked a comment where the question of teacher motivation came up. Specifically if tying standardized test scores to teacher evaluation can be motivating to teachers. What follows is the comment along with the questions and my response:

“Good luck with your efforts. Truly shameful that you’re not getting enough support up there in Washington. I’ve been teaching English in Taiwan for the last two years, and I’m coming back after this school year to teach in the USA somewhere. I’m not looking forward to all the bull$#!+ politics. It’s tempting to stay right where I’m at.

Anyway, I had a question. I suppose the argument for using test scores to evaluate teachers is 1)This might MOTIVATE teachers to teach in more effective ways that they haven’t tried before and 2) This way we can say that “good teachers” are getting the recognition they deserve, and “bad teachers” are getting the consequences they deserve. Regardless of whether this works or not, I’m just curious, do you feel that there is a motivation problem among teachers? Do decision makers need to spend more time thinking about how to motivate teachers?”

My response:
Thanks, I’m hoping these walkouts bear fruit because all the letter writing, visiting the capitol, and talking with and inviting legislators into our classrooms hasn’t yielded the results we’re after. Of course, those who are listening, reading, and visiting our classrooms are NOT the ones we need to convince! Ain’t that always the case. It does seem tempting to stay away from the US!

Now, to answer your question, I do feel there is a motivation problem among teachers but a huge part of the motivation problem stems from over testing our students and tying those test scores to our evaluations. If I worked at a school where that had been the case I might be burned out by now. I cannot see any way to be motivated to teach effectively or innovatively if I’m trying to get my students to pass a standardized test no matter how good the test is. Teaching to a test results in narrow teaching and, as we’ve seen in the news, frustrates some teachers and schools to cheat! So much research out there shows us that using carrots and sticks is very ineffective to motivate people and horribly wrong to get creativity or innovation!

Decision makers DO need to spend more time thinking about motivating teachers and we, THE TEACHERS, have the answer. 1. Pay us well enough that security and feeding our families is not an issue (that includes health care). 2. Provide systems to help the needs of children that teachers cannot provide, such as mental health, so that discipline can be handled well within the school. 3. Provide the funds needed to adequately educate children so that we can bridge the gaps between the haves and the have-nots. 4. Get rid of the whole accountability thing (see how Finland doesn’t even have a word for that) and use professional learning communities, team-teaching, and other cooperative methods of teacher support to train teachers to do their job and to try innovative ways of reaching all of their students. Stop calling it evaluation: http://www.educatoral.com/word…. The evaluation system we have here in WA State is pretty good because it’s a growth model. The ONLY reason Dept of Ed has a problem with our system is because we give teachers the choice whether or not test scores should factor into their evaluation. They don’t want to let the professionals who are actually working with students have choice in how they are evaluated. Test scores must be tied to our evaluation or they will withdraw their NCLB waiver. That is so damn stupid. See, that’s what crushes motivation.

Those are the ones that come to my mind right now. I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of. What do you think?

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