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Posted at 4:37 PM ET, 09/28/2010

About the suicide of an L.A. teacher

By Valerie Strauss

A well-liked fifth-grade teacher at a Los Angeles Elementary School in a tough neighborhood has committed suicide. He did not leave a note. A Los Angeles Times article said that his family reported to a teachers union staff that he had been depressed about his score on a teacher-rating database created by the newspaper.

Let’s be clear: The newspaper’s database and its score are not responsible for the suicide of 39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas.

Suicide is complicated, and the reasons someone decides to take his own life are complex and often unknowable.

Ruelas, whose body was found in a ravine in Angeles National Forest, had the reputation of being a very compassionate teacher. He tried to help the most troubled kids, tutoring them on weekends. He would visit their homes and encourage them to go to college.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, teachers union President A.J. Duffy said the teacher’s family told Duffy’s staff that Ruelas was depressed because the formula used by the newspaper to create its base assessed him as “average” in raising the standardized English test scores of his students and "less effective" regarding math scores. Overall, he was rated slightly "less effective" than his peers.

Many critics of the database argued last month when it was released that it was unfair and judged teachers strictly on student standardized test scores.

To evaluate about 6,000 teachers from third through fifth grade, the newspaper devised its own “value-added” formula to figure out how much a teacher was able to improve the test scores of his/her students. Value-added evaluation systems are all the rage in education today, supported by the Obama administration, even though they ignore the warnings of assessment experts who say that using a test score for a single high-stakes purpose distorts the results.

Teaching is not a science, and there is something about the finest teaching that is essentially unknowable, too, and can’t be put into a little box.

Los Angeles Times executives found themselves in the uncomfortable position of defending their own coverage after the news of the teacher’s death, which was ruled a suicide by the county coroner’s office.

Nancy Sullivan, the Times's vice president of communications, said in a statement that the news organization extends sympathy to Ruelas’s family and that the database was published “because it bears directly on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to judge the data for themselves."

Of course, it is the public’s right to know how well individual teachers perform. But unfortunately, they can’t really know from the the Los Angeles Times database.

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By Valerie Strauss  | September 28, 2010; 4:37 PM ET
Categories:  Teachers  | Tags:  l.a. teacher, la teacher, los angeles teacher, los angeles times, teacher database, teacher evaluation, teacher suicide  
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Comments

Valerie, I usually agree with every one of your columns, but this time I don't. I think it's very likely that the Los Angeles Times series that labeled teachers as "ineffective" or "least effective" could very well have been the contributing cause to this teacher's suicide. I've been expecting a lawsuit and now I think we'll see one.

The Times probably did have the right to publish scores, since they are public information, but to label a teacher as "least effective" on the basis of a test that was not designed to measure teacher effectiveness, to me, was criminal. I still can't believe that this was allowed to happen. Before this suicide, the saddest story was of the retired teacher who had 45 years of service, only to discover she had been "the least effective." This teacher had letters from grateful parents and students, as well as awards, that disagreed with that label. Even if someone is "the least effective," when did we start publishing their names and holding them up to public shame? Unbelievable.

For those who wonder why teachers are so opposed to be evaluated on the basis of a test, let me explain. These tests are geared to grade level. So if a sixth grade teacher has twenty students who can barely speak English, there will be almost no items on the test for those students. Even if the children learn a lot of English during the year, it will not be measured by that test because the test is not designed to measure Enlish acquisition by non-native speakers. So it would look as though the teacher taught nothing. That was probably the case with the retired teacher. She taught English as a second language.

When the Los Angeles Times labeled all those teachers as "ineffective" based on tests that are neither valid nor reliable, I knew that they had made a horrible mistake. I cancelled my subscription and so did many others. This newspaper will pay big for that serious lapse of judgment.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 28, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, I doubt the LA Times will pay for this. They aren't going to lose a lawsuit, since it was public information. As for pissed off subscribers, there are a lot more people who love to see teachers torn down then people who will support teachers.

However, everything Linda said is true, their methodology was pathetic. Buried in their FAQs was the caveat that even the biggest supporters of "value-added" don't think it should be used as the sole measure of teacher value, but then they did just that.

I don't know Mr. Ruelas, but I would suggest that maybe a teacher who tutored on weekends, that tried to reach troubled kids without support, and did home visits (which can be very dangerous) deserves better then to be slandered by a bunch of "journalists" who had nothing better to do then advance an anti-teacher agenda that their paper wanted them to push.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | September 28, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I do understand that publishing the test scores was "public information" but how could labeling a teacher "least effective" be allowed when the experts agreed that the tests could not be used for that purpose? Also, in California (as in most places) the legal evaluator of a teacher is the school administrator, not the journalist. So I'm hoping that a skilful lawyer can make a case.

Many good teachers were hurt by the Times series. There needs to be restitution.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 28, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

"...the database was published “because it bears directly on the performance of public employees who provide an important service, and in the belief that parents and the public have a right to judge the data for themselves."

-------------------------------------

Then shouldn't the public be entitled to view job performance evaluations of all public employees who provide an important service?

Posted by: mingkeeper | September 28, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, one doesn't have to be 100% responsible to be responsible. Based on the little you and I know, the LA Times efforts played a role.

How much and for what penalty, if any at all is a different question. To deny this makes me wonder what's driving you and it's scary. It really is. Your trustworthiness in commenting has been reduced.

Posted by: OrangeMath | September 28, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say it, but I was waiting for this to happen. As a DCPS teacher I can tell you we are stressed to the max. Every day something else is piled on top of us and we are basically told, "Raise test scores or else!" The system has given us so much to do, so many balls to juggle with little time for actual teaching and learning that it's a recipe for failure.

There is an ordinate amount of stress among DCPS teachers and all public school teachers right now. We are being judged by scores which are well beyond our control--even the experts have said so.

Sad to say, but I suspect this will only be the first of several. When you tell someone they are "least effective" or "ineffective"--especially teachers who take what we do very seriously and personally--it's a major psychological blow and it will inevitably push some people over the edge as they think they are a total failure at something they love and believe is more like a vocation and not a job.

The amount of stress, the constant anxiety, the pressure to perform and culture of fear and intimidation in DCPS makes for a very toxic and unhealthy environment in which to work.

How many will needlessly take their lives before we listen to the experts and find a more effective and equitable way of evaluating teachers?

Posted by: UrbanDweller | September 28, 2010 7:25 PM | Report abuse

The Charleston SC Post & Courier put the same kind of information in the paper on Sunday. How irresponsible.

Teachers are not machines, we're not computers. You don't teach with your emotions removed from your job. I'm good at what I do but if my school district and everyone else keeps telling me how awful teachers are, it wears at you. I won't lie and say I haven't thought about doing what this guy did. I'm tired. Nothing I do seems to satisfy. I'm not a machine and teaching is all I ever wanted to do. Take it away and I'm nobody. Am I going to commit suicide? No because my children would be traumatized forever. Bill Gates and all those other "experts" on education need to stop and realize the effect that they are having on the very people they expect to educate the children. There isn't an inexhaustible supply of good teachers standing in the wings waiting to take over.

Posted by: rukiddingme57 | September 28, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Valerie,

I do believe the Los Angeles Times may have contributed to the death of the teacher. I can't be sure of course, because the teacher didn't leave a suicide note.

But I respect your opinion because I know you are truthful and honest.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 28, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I say that the executives of the LA Times and the three reporters who attacked teachers, should all become inner city teachers.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 28, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, I just read that the teacher "Rigoberto Ruelas, worked in South LA for the past 14 years, with a perfect attendance record, his family said he had been upset and depressed since the LA Times listed him as being ineffective." I guess you would simply call him a workaholic who couldn't keep up any longer. So the public rating had nothing, nada, zero to due with his death?

Could you tell me how the stock market will do next week? You seem to know what's not known pretty well.

Posted by: OrangeMath | September 28, 2010 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Let’s be clear: The newspaper’s database and its score are not responsible for the suicide of 39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas.
..........................
Let us remember that the Secretary of Education want this type of information released to parents.

"Education secretary Arne Duncan will call on districts across the nation to make information on teachers public."

Would any American want a major newspaper in the United States to publish their name on a list as inadequate?

The test scores and teachers names may have been public knowledge but this released information did not indicate anything specific public data about the teachers in regard to effectiveness.

The newspaper created on their own a model to evaluate the teachers based upon the public data and then published their evaluations and not evaluations that were in the public domain.

"The Times hired Richard Buddin, a senior economist and education researcher at Rand Corp., to conduct a "value-added" analysis of the data."

I hope that there are lawsuits galore.

It is not difficult to claim damages based upon the public damaging of an individual's reputation and their losses in their ability to gain employment.

Even when the names of murderers when published in newspapers are published with the word alleged.

It appears that besides releasing public information with the name of teachers there probably also was the release of the names of students. Would any parent want the name of their child appearing in a major newspaper as a failing student?

We have really reached absurdity in regard to public education.

Teachers are being treated shabbily with a major newspaper publicly humiliating them. Meanwhile teachers are blamed for all the problems in public education by the President and this is the reasoning of his policy of making teachers accountable. If teachers would do their job supposedly every child would learn.

At the same time as the President and his policies makes teaching in public schools totally undesirable as a career, Americans are told that the nation needs more qualified teachers in the public schools.

The reality is that the policies and actions of this President only discourage any American from pursuing a career in public education.

I think it about time for every public education teacher in the United States to urge Democrats to select a new Democratic candidate for the election of President in the 2012.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Let’s be clear: The newspaper’s database and its score are not responsible for the suicide of 39-year-old Rigoberto Ruelas.
_______________________
When I first read this statement, Valerie, my first thought was that you were being tongue-in-cheek. After reading the rest of the article and the comments, I am thinking you either felt you had to write that or were told to by the corporate owners of the Post due to liability worries ......

The whole story of the L.A. Times shaming teachers by putting them in the modern equivalent of the village stocks is sickening and also frightening.

This country is losing its heart by vilifying the very people - teachers - who often have the most heart to give - to students.

Whoops, gotta figure out how to measure those hearts........

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | September 28, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Of course the people who work at the LA Times are not responsible for the murder of our brother teacher Rigoberto Ruelas. But the newspaper's corporate master Sam Zell could justifiably be indicted for the crime.

It's one of those painful ironies the journalist and other print newspaper workers and teachers and other public school workers will either overcome and defeat the same enemy or both be destroyed by it.

In the case of DC that would be Kaplan and Dell and Gates who will destroy the Washington Post and the DCPS unless we can unite, journalists and teachers, to defeat them. In the case of LA that would be Broad and Zell and Gates (that scourge is everywhere) who will destroy the LA Times and the LAUPSD unless...

Posted by: natturner | September 28, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

After reading the rest of the article and the comments, I am thinking you either felt you had to write that or were told to by the corporate owners of the Post due to liability worries.
Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large
.................
You are probably right about law suits.

The Chinese are now getting heat about their police publicly humiliating prostitutes while the Secretary of Education feels it is fine to publicly humiliate individual public school teachers.

I hope that public school teachers finally react to the attack that they are the blame for everything and that is acceptable to publicly humiliated them.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Linda...you are right. Aren't some things a "personnel matter" and should be confidential? I get the reason why the LA Times published these results, but it was not necessary to slam specific individuals. I don't read that paper anymore, and now I must agree with you that it won't get my attention again. Yes, suicide is a personal thing, but I am sure that this so-called "public information" didn't need to be.
RIP Mr. Ruelas

Posted by: kodonivan | September 28, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Many districts across the country now include anti-bullying lessons in the curriculum.

It's ironic that teachers are subjected to such extreme bullying by education administration.

Posted by: aed3 | September 28, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Another thought--schools are sometimes held accountable when students commit suicide after being victimized by cyber-bullying.

How about newspaper-bullying?

Posted by: aed3 | September 28, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

LA Times: Guilty as an accessory!

Where are ethics? Where is social responsibility? Bogus news, this teacher value-added dung, unworthy to bring forth to the public, and furthermore, misrepresented as real news. No, it wasn't the public's right to know about teachers in this manner, especially since the school disctrict used an unreliable evaluation instrument in order to crucify the careers and lives of teachers. There are proper and humane ways of dealing with assessments of teachers. No stucture for teacher support and growth? Bully teachers with raw fear of wrath and vengeance of administration and public humilation via an unscrupulous newsrag? Who are these people, this pathetic lot. The LA Times/newsrag enabled the school district to unleash its venom to the trusting masses in order to propel its wretched agenda.

LA Times and the school district are guilty! Most hideous!

Posted by: shadwell1 | September 28, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

especially since the school disctrict used an unreliable evaluation instrument in order to crucify the careers and lives of teachers.
Posted by: shadwell1
...............
I think that many people are missing that the data of test scores was public knowledge but that the evaluation of that data was totally done by the L.A. Times and not the school system. It was the L.A. Times who did the evaluations.

"The Times hired Richard Buddin, a senior economist and education researcher at Rand Corp., to conduct a "value-added" analysis of the data."

Posted by: bsallamack | September 28, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,

Okay. Thanks for the clarification.

Posted by: shadwell1 | September 28, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Valerie, you are usually spot-on with your comments, but sadly, not this time. You have no idea the stress under which we teachers are laboring from test-score results. Is it truly possible that there are no good teachers left in America, or is it more likely that society has changed so much that we are no longer teaching students with intrinsic motivation? Let me be clear -- I am considered an effective teacher, but I do not want it published in the newspaper. There is too fine a line between what is considered effective and ineffective, and that line is crossed constantly by teachers of all ilk due to changing student populations. I am disappointed in you for not thinking more substantively on this issue, Valerie.

Posted by: duffmama | September 28, 2010 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I usually agree with you, Valerie, but this time I think you are wrong. These "evaluations" we have to go through are ridiculous. They do not reflect the complexity of what we do nor address what is needed in schools. But here we are focusing on the teacher as the sole reason a student does well. Keep focusing on that. I am sure we will see our educational quality rise. Or maybe good teachers will get fed up and become tutors and reformers, such as Rhee and Kopp, will have to find another horse to beat and blame.

This poor man was assessed poorly on what basis? He worked hard according to all accounts, helping the toughest cases. But you see in today's corporate driven school world that counts for zero on your evaluation. Purely non-value added.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | September 28, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

aed3 is correct: teachers are being bullied. I suppose this should have been obvious to me but I didn't really realize it until tonight while watching Larry King. He had that sickening Dr. Steve Perry on the show who makes Michelle Rhee look charming. Perry just oozes with contempt for teachers and actually bragged about firing teachers after the students at his school complained about them.

I realize how fortunate I was to spend almost my entire career during a time when teachers were much appreciated. Still, I got a taste of the current disrespect during my last year when I spent over $300 to take my first-graders to a Christmas performance at the nearby Performing Arts Center. The day before the concert I was showing the children a video of the Nutcracker Ballet so they'd be familiar with the music when an administrator entered my room and told me I wasn't teaching to the standards!!!! (Actually I WAS teaching to the arts standards in my state, but of course she meant I wasn't teaching to the test.) I'm ashamed to say, even under the cover of anonymity, what I did to that person, but let's just say I had the last word. Still, teachers are basically very kind individuals who don't like to work in that kind of environment.

I feel certain that all this bullying is a sad result of the recession. Another group being targeted are the immigrants. As soon as better times are back again, the teachers at Dr. Perry's school will leave and places like DC will be begging for teachers, any teachers, once again.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 29, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

The LAT claim that they are providing a valuable service is ridiculous. Many of our parents don't know or care about the database. They speak little English and few have working computers. Teachers are known for their understanding and passion as Mr. Ruelas was known for his. No, I don't think the LAT caused his suicide but its callous actions undoubtedly made a bad situation worse.

Posted by: vprecht | September 29, 2010 12:14 AM | Report abuse

As a concerned teacher, I feel it is completely inappropriate to judge teachers solely on standardized test results. There are many factors involved in educating a child (socio-economic status, family support, student motivation, etc...). Mr. Ruelas taught at a school where students are typically English learners from low socio-economic families. Despite the challenge, many dedicated teachers like Ruelas choose to work in these schools because they have a heart for the community. Because the students at these schools have so much working against them, the teachers there typically have lower test scores than their colleagues at more affluent schools. I know this from firsthand experience. Four years ago, I chose to leave the #1 school in our district and move with my principal to a low-performing school. Despite my best efforts, my scores dropped from 100% of my students scoring proficient or advanced (at my previous school) to 75% (at my current school). Did I change my teaching methods, expectations, or curriculum? No! In fact, I worked even harder. Should I be openly criticized or reprimanded? No! l I should be praised for my willingness to bring a high-level of education to at-risk students. Shame on the LA Times for unfairly judging teachers. Journalists should visit classrooms to witness the ambitious efforts of teachers, instead of criticizing them publicly. Here's an idea: let's start rating journalists on their ability to report objectively and intellectually. In other words: don't "report" on issues you have not properly researched. Your bias is so obvious.

Posted by: concernedteacher2 | September 29, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I think the newspaper could have caused it. The guy was clearly a dedicated teacher. I just don't think people get how dedicated teachers are. Possible he was depressed and suicidal previous to the article, but since you don't say that, I have to assume otherwise.

This good teacher is gone. How many others in that district are demoralized?

Since teachers are no longer considered worthy of common courtesy, how about the kids? What kind of school district do you have when the entire teaching staff is demoralized and under attack?

I think the only fair restitution would be for those journalists to work in a city school for three years and then rank themselves. Also, write an honest, investigative report on how hard teachers work.

Again I ask, what about this even remotely approaches being an "educational reform"?

God Bless you, Mr. Ruelas. Your students are sure going to miss you, but you have changed many lives. It will never be in the paper, because you served the poor and they have no power in this world. But you sure were effective with your weekend tutoring and all the extras that we know you poured into those kids. Too bad you took a bunch of no-nothing teacher haters with an agenda seriously.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

OOps! "know-nothing" is what I meant

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

I strongly disagree with your opinions in this article. The article in the LA Times was inhumane. I would feel so stressed and humiliated as a person and teacher if this were to happen to me.

For example, this has been one of my toughest years to date. Last year, I took maternity leave to have a baby. I saw a severe drop in my test scores due to missing out on part of the year. I have felt tremendous guilt over leaving my students, but it is my GOD given right to be a mother, too.

Based on my last year's test scores, I would be labeled an "ineffective" teacher even though the year before, my scores were good. I have suffered extreme stress, even some depression, and guilt for having to choose between my career and my family, which shouldn't happen.

To give you insight into some challenges we teachers of America face. I have a class of 26 and over half of them don't speak English as a first language. My students come from all over Asia, the Pacific, and Micronesia, each speaking a different language. It is very common to receive a student from the Marshall Islands, Philippines, or Chuuk who have never been in school ever! As they enter my room in the 5th grade, I find myself teaching them how to hold a pencil, write their names, and learn their ABC's. I have grades k-6 in one class! Some of my students don't even know what an elephant is. Of course, these students will not pass a 5th grade test, but of course, they WILL MAKE GAINS! I take joy in helping these students discover the world. I remind myself daily of the small miracles that happen in my room. The tests don't show those huge gains my students make. I refuse to be labeled as "Ineffective" when I know in my heart, I put my ALL INTO MY STUDENTS.

My heart goes out to this teacher and his family. I pray that America's teachers keep on going and don't give up.

Posted by: rrmonsta | September 29, 2010 3:08 AM | Report abuse

Test scores in this country have been elevated to the role of cannon. Everyone talks about "Achievement"--achievement as measured by WHAT? By those standardized TEST SCORES?? (There is so much wrong with that, but it is really another issue.)

Last year my daughter took Earth Science. The class did absolutely nothing but worksheets, worksheets that paraded as "labs" and practice tests. Everyday the students in the class asked if they could go outside (It was EARTH SCIENCE after all...Shouldn't they be ocassionally touching the actual EARTH??), and everyday the teacher told them to stop bugging her about it--they didn't "have time."

My daughter, who USED TO BE my science kid, did *very* well on the Earth Science Regents' Exam (a NY state mandated end-of-year standardized test). She now HATES science, and has actively decided to FORGET anything she might have "learned" in that class. BUT she did GREAT on the exam. So, does that make the teacher an EFFECTIVE TEACHER???

Who gave the LA Times the job of determining what constitutes EFFECTIVE??? If I were on that list, I would be looking into the possibility of getting a class-action suit together to sue them for SLANDER.

(p.s. I think Valerie was attempting to stay within the bounds that the LA Times did not bother with by not pretending she is a legal expert.)

Posted by: MathEdReseacher | September 29, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

MathEdReseacher: Great, cogent comment.

I only wish Mr. Ruelas had been able to step back and understand that the LA Times article was a farce and not worht the paper it was printed on. "Publ;ic service" indeed. Perhaps the Times and the reporters will do the citizens another public service and go out of business.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 29, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Today the Los Angeles Times had an advertisement for its front page so you know they must be in desperate financial straits. I hope so, but I also hope they have enough insurance to pay off the family of Mr. Ruelas, may he rest in peace.

Rukiddingme57: No job is worth your health. Here are some ideas for getting out of your present high-stress situation:

Ask to be transferred to kindergarten or first-grade where there is usually no formal testing;

Retrain for a job that is plentiful, such as speech pathologist (You can usually get placed as an intern as soon as you start the program);

Ask for a transfer to a school with an excellent principal or high-performing children;

If possible, transfer to a completely different district, preferably in the affluent suburbs;

Consider private school teaching;

Consider community college teaching;

Consider another career;

If none of the above is possible, work with your union representative and health care professional to find out how to alleviate some workplace pressure. Remember that creating a hostile work environment is against the law, so you might want to contact state or federal authorities to find out what you can do. Fighting the situation not only helps you, but helps others. Good luck!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 29, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

These comments are utterly ridiculous. The LA Times is in no way responsible for this death.

We have an educational system that is utterly failing and teachers unions that oppose any and all efforts to introduce accountability into one of the few profession in the world, despite it's critical importance, that has absolutely none. Of course the database told us something about the effectiveness of teachers. Get it through your heads, it actually matters how well you do your jobs, we want to know which of you are good at it, and we want those who aren't to be dismissed.

Is it stressful? Probably. But no more so than for the rest of the working world. Get over it or get a new job.

Posted by: bgarst | September 29, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

If anyone needs to be graded its the incompetent LAUSD Administrators like Guadalupe Paramo, which UTLA did nothing about. When Paramo left Belvedere there were 24 unfilled position being taught by substitute teachers and we ended up with 21 unfilled at GHS. She had also dismantled our functioning student discipline policy i.e., allowed a student to stay, never even disciplined, after he stole a teachers car twice. Arrived late almost every day, only did one week of AM supervision in three years, falsified attendance rates...cumulatively (allegedly) leading to another student burning down the historic Garfield Auditorium (over $30 million in damages). The District then promoted her.

The is the same Distinct that protects both male and female administrator pedophiles. See Micheal Bujko You Tube and Perdaily.com

Posted by: smartheadx | September 29, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

bgarst
You seem to feel that this "ineffective" rating was the correct one. I don't think so because the article states that the teacher even gave up his weekends to help the students.
I also don't understand why you are bringing up a union here. Do you mean to say that the teacher was ineffective in your opinion because he belonged to a teacher's union?
I thought it was based on test scores. I am assuming that this teacher had students who were non-English speakers and that his students test scores weren't high, as mine wouldn't be if I took a test in another language that I really didn't know.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 29, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

bgarst,

Become a teacher in an inner city school. After you have done that for a full year, then I will listen to you.

But until that happens, I won't be listening to you.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 29, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

bgarst,

It's common for spanish speaking kids not to be fluent enough in English for the standardized tests they are given. So even though are learning it doesn't show up on standardized tests.

The victim's students were probably learning a lot. It be that they weren't that fluent in English and scored less. So the LA Time then judged the victim as being a less effective teacher when in truth he was probably a more effective teacher. This may have increased his depression and put him over the line for suicide.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 29, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully, the victim's family can sue the LA Times.

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 29, 2010 8:25 PM | Report abuse

R,I.P Rigoberto. I wish this had not happened to you. My heart goes out ... I wish you had found another way out of the pain.

I was heartened to see Linda's comment at the very top, as I so agree with it. I also believe the LATimes is responsible. I think it is a shared responsibility, along with Obama and his numerous bipartisan contributors to his neoliberal education policies, with its attendant teacher witch hunts and anti-union propaganda.

I was enraged and moved to tears when I saw what the LAT had done to 6000 live teachers, with their bogus ratings. (Now 5999.) That was about 3 weeks ago, when I returned from my vacation, where I happily take a hiatus from such odious things, preferring pelicans and sea oats to what people do to harm other people, ie, human affairs. When I returned, I resumed real world reading, so much for the good life!

I spent a lot of time at the LA Times for a few days back then, reading their other ed coverage (where I found out Arne Duncan thought it was a good thing to publish these ratings, should be done to all teachers!).

But I spent most of the time reading TEACHERS' RESPONSES. I read about 28 pages over several days, about 6 letters to a page, from the 6,000 humans targeted... and still, with some time and much inclination - I could not cover but a fraction. I imagine many others didnt see them at all. Sadly, I couldnt bear witness to every teacher's one-shot opportunity to "defend" themselves, so graciously offered by this (loathesome) paper.

How many spirits have this mindless reform army killed?

BASTA!

What I found, from my reading, was that even most of those who had been deemed "more effective" or "most effective" by the LAT fraudulent measuring stick (some of the teachers hadnt even taught the things they were measured on!) objected to the ratings and the publishing.

I also found the PARENTS RESPONSE section, and was happy to see that the majority of parents who responded were not joining the witch hunt. Instead, they criticized the paper and supported the teachers.

I want to add that I also saw, upon my last reading, that the UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) had hung tough against the reform bulldozer. Their refusal to cave to RttT evaluation demands was supposedly, in part, what made CA lose RttT, 2nd round. (California's other big unions also resisted)

Good on them. May UTLA stay tough, despite all the pressure on them, not the least of which is Randi Weingarten, buzzing in to shepherd them toward capitulation to RttT, as she is doing everywhere these days.

I cant help but feel that the LATimes people behind this ratings piece, like others from the media who seem to be lusting for war on teachers/unions, who are good soldiers in this admin's "good fight", may have gotten an extra kick out of "doing a public service for LA" by punishing these "spoiler" teachers who didnt let CA win RttT.

But folks in the know know, with RttT, to lose you win!

In solidarity!

Posted by: NYCee | September 29, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

R,I.P Rigoberto. I wish this had not happened to you. My heart goes out ... I wish you had found another way out of the pain.

I was heartened to see Linda's comment at the very top, as I so agree with it. I also believe the LATimes is responsible. I think it is a shared responsibility, along with Obama and his numerous bipartisan contributors to his neoliberal education policies, with its attendant teacher witch hunts and anti-union propaganda.

I was enraged and moved to tears when I saw what the LAT had done to 6000 live teachers, with their bogus ratings. (Now 5999.) That was about 3 weeks ago, when I returned from my vacation, where I happily take a hiatus from such odious things, preferring pelicans and sea oats to what people do to harm other people, ie, human affairs. When I returned, I resumed real world reading, so much for the good life!

I spent a lot of time at the LA Times for a few days back then, reading their other ed coverage (where I found out Arne Duncan thought it was a good thing to publish these ratings, should be done to all teachers!).

But I spent most of the time reading TEACHERS' RESPONSES. I read about 28 pages over several days, about 6 letters to a page, from the 6,000 humans targeted... and still, with some time and much inclination - I could not cover but a fraction. I imagine many others didnt see them at all. Sadly, I couldnt bear witness to every teacher's one-shot opportunity to "defend" themselves, so graciously offered by this (loathesome) paper.

How many spirits have this mindless reform army killed?

BASTA!

What I found, from my reading, was that even most of those who had been deemed "more effective" or "most effective" by the LAT fraudulent measuring stick (some of the teachers hadnt even taught the things they were measured on!) objected to the ratings and the publishing.

I also found the PARENTS RESPONSE section, and was happy to see that the majority of parents who responded were not joining the witch hunt. Instead, they criticized the paper and supported the teachers.

I want to add that I also saw, upon my last reading, that the UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) had hung tough against the reform bulldozer. Their refusal to cave to RttT evaluation demands was supposedly, in part, what made CA lose RttT, 2nd round. (California's other big unions also resisted)

Good on them. May UTLA stay tough, despite all the pressure on them, not the least of which is Randi Weingarten, buzzing in to shepherd them toward capitulation to RttT, as she is doing everywhere these days.

I cant help but feel that the LATimes people behind this ratings piece, like others from the media who seem to be lusting for war on teachers/unions, who are good soldiers in this admin's "good fight", may have gotten an extra kick out of "doing a public service for LA" by punishing these "spoiler" teachers who didnt let CA win RttT.

But folks in the know know, with RttT, to lose is to win!

In solidarity!

Posted by: NYCee | September 29, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

That should be: "How many spirits has this mindless reform army killed?"

Ive redone it not just for the grammar (hard to edit in small boxes, when typing...) but for the message.

Teachers' spirits. The spirit needed to teach, to teach well.

It is very VERY important to realize that teachers have spirits and those spirits should be nurtured and protected, not trampled on. It is NOT easy - teachers have to make thousands of little but often important decisons on the fly, every day. They have administrative and bureaucratic pressures.

Teachers are, in some part, artists, more than "experts" - (which some think they will find waves of, who can also TEACH, if they just dangle more merit pay.) Teachers, to be good, have to practice that art, despite all the distractions and pressures.

You deprive teachers of the ability to practice their art, in a supportive environment, you callously SHAME them, in the public square, as the LA Times did, and you will not only NOT get more excellent teachers, you will lose more of the ones you have.

I direct this at Obama, as he is the captain of this ship (of fools). And it is his Ed Sec, Duncan, who publicly endorsed such public shaming, as done by the LAT.


Posted by: NYCee | September 29, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I am RIgoberto's sister-in-law. We are saddened by his death and are still in quite shock. I thank all the teachers that support us. Rigo was a person full of life and always smiling. He NEVER showed any signs of depression until the article of the LA Times Labeled him as a bad teacher. If he did have other issues in his life, he certainly never told us anything. He dedicated his every breath to being a teacher for 14 years (not to mention the other 5 as an aide). Being labeled as a less effective teacher in front of his family, peers, and students was very humiliating for him and he couldn't handle it. He was the first of 10 siblings and the first in his family to graduate from college. We all looked up to him and still do.

Posted by: jose123 | October 4, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

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