"Please exclude the poor and minority students from my classroom data, and I can assure you that I am a highly effective teacher -- but then I would not have a job," wrote Octavio Licon Gonzalez, who landed in the bottom tier, among "least effective" instructors.
There were medical problems and maternity leaves, and blame heaped on team-teaching, scripted reading programs, split-grade classes, long-term subs, incompetent principals and unsupportive homes.
"If you're going to list the names of teachers as 'least effective' then let's do the same for parents," wrote Mario Loeza, a "most effective" fourth-grade instructor. "9 out of 10 times, if you show me a student who's failing, I can show you a parent that doesn't follow through."
I don't have children in L.A. Unified anymore. Still, I checked the scores at my neighborhood campus and was relieved to find no ratings for the teachers who, 20 years ago, helped launch my first-born toward Stanford:
Mrs. Bucka, the kindergarten teacher who taught me as much as she taught my daughter; Mrs. Green, whose sensitive attention to a shy first-grader gave my child the confidence to push past problems; and Mrs. Anthony, whose "Concerns and Appreciations"
sessions helped calibrate my daughter's moral compass.
How do you measure stuff like that on tests of skills in English or math? That's what troubles teachers, and why so many pointed with such pride to what statisticians might consider insignificant factors. Even an "average" teacher knows those things matter.
"The real truth is that I get evaluated by more than 30 people every day," wrote fourth-grade teacher Ashley Collett Tanger. "I get evaluated on whether or not I listen to them when they tell me things that they have never told anyone else ... when I have to break up a fight or mend a friendship ... when I stay after school to help kids with homework whose parents can't or worse won't.
"And I sure hope in my students' eyes that I pass as being something more than 'average.' "
We know that test scores are an incomplete way of measuring teachers. But good feelings and happy students aren't enough either. Regardless of race, class or family status, children can and do excel with teachers who inspire and challenge them.
I'm sorry if teachers feel The Times set out to embarrass them. We don't hate teachers; we do value children.
A poor score may humiliate a teacher now, but the alternative -- quiet mediocrity, played out in private -- shortchanges students who can't afford silence.