Featured Letter: Comparing teachers to physicians is a flawed analogy

03/13/2015 6:00 AM |

To the editor:

In last week’s “The flaws with scores, evaluations” opinion piece, Southold and Greenport Superintendent David Gamberg uses a false analogy (a parody?) to argue against objective measurement. He proposed physicians of all specialties be judged by community weight loss, even though most don’t treat obesity! In reality, physicians with board certification in a specialty must pass lengthy written tests every 10 years for re-certification. Teachers don’t! 

Radio host Gene Klavan created the art of “talking to himself” via tape recordings. Dr. Sy Chology appeared one day with a new cure for anxiety. “I have the patient stand at close attention, and in front of me; I shout, ‘Grow up and behave like an adult,’ then I say, ‘There is nothing to fear but fear itself’ and I finish with, ‘Calm down for God’s sake,’ ” he said. Mr. Klavan asked: “But Dr. Sy, how do you know this method works?” Dr. Sy said: “Simply, patients never ask for help again!”

Psychology informs education. Both deal with emotions and rational thought, education/re-education, and relationships. A better analogy!

A serious practitioner values integrity and wants to improve practice by following-up on those served. How many teachers and administrators ask former students to evaluate their preparation for further study? Why do so many parents pay for tutoring? Why do we observe a significant fraction of college entrants in need of remediation? Why do community colleges report some 25 percent need remediation and of those 90 percent drop out after one year? Why have these students not been properly prepared or advised?

Newsday reported that teacher ratings of “effective” or better can now be achieved despite poor student test scores. The method is “rigged” for them, yet the teachers and administrators complain.

Subjective measures (class observation, interviews, colleague comments, student comments, etc.) are wide open to favoritism, discrimination, political influence, etc. Objective measures (test scores, graduation rates, college performance, trade achievements, etc.) can be inspected, examined and debated. Is all the criticism of teacher evaluation aimed at simply preserving jobs and at diverting our attention from the implementation and the content of the imposed Core Curriculum?

Gunther Geiss, Southold

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