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The value of good teachers

Mollie Finch Belt | 12/16/2013, 8:09 a.m. | Updated on 12/16/2013, 11:18 a.m.
Teaching is probably one of the most important professions because it directly contributes to an educated society. For generations, it ...
Mollie Finch Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

Teaching is probably one of the most important professions because it directly contributes to an educated society. For generations, it has been the cornerstone in forming the minds of our youth into the next generation of leaders. Unfortunately, teaching is not a career young people say they want to pursue today because of the low pay and status of teachers in our society.

The proposed teacher evaluation system Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles will present for approval increases the salaries of teachers based on their effectiveness [see article in The Dallas Examiner, 11/28/13 issue]. The evaluation system is based on the Measures of Effective Teaching project.

The MET project, a three-year study designed to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching, demonstrated that it is possible to identify great teaching by combining three types of measures: classroom observations, student surveys and student achievement gains. According to the study the findings will be useful to school districts working to implement new development and evaluation systems for teachers. Such systems should not only identify great teaching, but also provide the feedback teachers need to improve their practice and serve as the basis for more targeted professional development.

We are losing effective teachers to private schools due to the teaching environment and low salaries. If approved, this new evaluation system will increase salaries of effective teachers and eventually create a more professional teaching environment.

My mother, Mildred Newton Finch, was a professional teacher. She taught math at Tuskegee Institute prior to moving to Dallas. When she moved to Dallas she had to take education courses to get certified to work for the Dallas Independent School District because her college work was in pure math and science and she had not taken any other education courses.

She taught math at James Madison High and influenced many lives. Her former students are still telling me about the influence she had on their lives. Recently, one of her former students told me that my mother beckoned for him to come to her desk after class. With compassion she told him, “You are slow, but you will be all right.” She worked with him until he understood math and he is proud of what he has accomplished today. He said she sincerely cared for the students and could say anything to them because they knew she loved them and cared about them.

She believed that every student could learn math. She always said students do what is expected of them. She had high expectations of her students and they didn’t let her down.

My mother left Dallas lSD to accept a position teaching mathematics at the newly opened El Centro Community College where she worked until her untimely death. A Learning Center at El Centro is currently named Mildred Newton Finch in her honor because she conceived of the laboratory to help math students.

She left Dallas ISD because she was assigned more duties in the counselors’ office at Madison High School thus decreasing the time she spent in the classsrom teaching. She loved teaching and was an effective teacher. I saw her work nightly grading student papers and taking time to write on the student’s paper the correct way to work the problem when they made mistakes. She did not like administrative duties and this pushed her to look for another teaching position.

There are many dedicated and effective teachers today. Many become discouraged because of the work environment, the pay and the lack of recognition for what they do.

The new proposed evaluation system that evaluates on the effectiveness of teachers and allows for effective teachers to be better compensated, may be the beginning of a new era in which Dallas ISD can offer a better education, producing better college-ready students.

Be part of the conversation, send your letters to mbelt@dallasexaminer.com.