Opinion no image

Published on October 19th, 2010 | by Staff 12-13


Teachers should be judged by their merits and not just by their scores

Through my many years in high school I have had a wide variety teachers – some good, some bad, some inspiring and some dull. But does a word like “good” or “bad” truly and wholly encompass a teacher?

Although students attach these shallow labels to teachers without a second thought, giving an accurate assessment of a teacher is a nearly impossible task. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times staff attempted this when they compiled ratings of nearly 6,000 Los Angeles elementary school teachers and 470 elementary schools.

A fifth-grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School, Rigoberto Ruelas Jr., reportedly upset over an unfavorable rating published by the Times, committed suicide at the end of last month.

Ruelas, 39, jumped off a bridge in Big Tujunga Canyon in late September; his body was found in a ravine about 100 feet below, according to a coroner’s spokesman.

Ruelas was given a less-than-average score, a score based only on his students’ progress on the California Standards Tests for English and math.

Despite the low score, Ruelas was considered by all who knew him to be far better than just average.

“He went above and beyond teaching these kids,” an unidentified man at the school told KCAL9.

United Teachers of Los Angeles UTLApresident A.J. Duffy called the publication of the list of teacher ratings “despicable.”

“UTLA is appalled at the L.A. Times,” Duffy told KCAL. “We predicted there would be problems. This teacher was a great teacher by all accounts — loved by students, parents, and respected by his colleagues.”

District Superintendent Ramon Cortines called Ruelas “a passionate and caring teacher who put his students first. He made a difference in the lives of so many in his classroom by staying after the bell rang to tutor students. He encouraged his students to do better and aim higher, that they too could go to college. In addition, during his 14 years of teaching, Mr. Ruelas had nearly perfect attendance. We need more teachers like him.”

But suicide is not a decision based off of just one event.  Ruelas most likely had some sort of long standing mental condition, but the ratings were the tipping point for him. Because of his suicide, the world has been forced to reevaluate how we rate teachers.

I do not suggest that we halt ratings altogether. They are crucial to understanding the problems in our educational system, and only through that understanding are schools and teachers able to improve and grow.  Furthermore, parents and students should have access to these scores and ratings. Teachers shape students in many ways so it is both the students’ and the parents’ right to be able to see these ratings to know exactly whom they are dealing with.

But when rating teachers we must take into account many factors: their helpfulness, clarity, inspiration levels and, of course, their student’s scores. Although scores are not an accurate representation of a teacher’s abilities alone, they are vital to rating any teacher. However, you can’t describe what happens in a classroom with just test scores. A whole teacher doesn’t boil down to just these three words: less than average.

Rebecca Asoulin
Staff Writer


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