Archives for category: Massachusetts

Carol Burris, principal of south side High School in Rockville Center, New York, writes here about the multiple flaws of test-based teacher evaluations.

At an Ed Trust celebration, Duncan told the crowd, “But we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We can’t let the utopian become the enemy of the excellent. And we can’t let rhetorical purity become the enemy of rigorous practice.” I do not have any idea what the third admonishment means, but I doubt Arne needs to fear that his rhetoric is pure.

So it came as no surprise that when he spoke of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation plan, Mr. Duncan praised the state for “not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good”. The teachers of Tennessee, however, are not seeing the new system as “the good”—they are, for the second time, suing the state because the system is, in their eyes, arbitrary and flawed. And it is.

When it comes to the new teacher evaluation systems, it is not a dispute between perfect and good. We are now forbidding the good to be the enemy of the lousy. The use of students’ scores is becoming more and more indefensible. In New York State, teachers despise APPR, and it is equally unpopular among principals who, for the most part, see it as a headache that does nothing to improve teacher performance. Teacher and principal scores, by district, were supposed to be released in the winter. It is the end of July and they have not appeared. That is not a surprise. If they were released, it would be an embarrassment, especially for districts that actually tried to engage in the Las Vegas pursuit of predicting student growth from pre-tests to post-tests. The New York State Education Department is stalling, and Governor Cuomo is letting it happen.

There was one state, Massachusetts, that created a plan that was more sensible than most. It did not use numbers, but rather was rubric based. It was phased in over time and applied to everyone, including central administrators. But now that the time has come to phase in the test scores, the trouble begins.

In his July 17 memo to Superintendents and Charter School leaders, Commissioner Mitchell Chester states he is pleased that the Bay State has not chosen “an algorithmic approach,” only to later explain in detail the algorithm by which teachers should be evaluated by test scores. To go further down the path of the lousy, he explains how the state will generate growth scores from PARCC exams for participating schools, and then attempt to show “growth” from the prior year student MCAS scores. Please say it isn’t so. That is not a growth measure. That is comparing students with similar scores on one test with each other the following year on an entirely different test. New York did the same thing last year. Can you do it? Of course you can—there is very little that you cannot do with numbers. It is easy to create a formula that is intimidating enough that eyes will glaze over. But that does not make it valid, reliable, fair or useful. It will be one more silly system that will result in a lawsuit, no doubt.

Chiefs for Change, including State Superintendents Huffman and Skandera, took the NEA and AFT to task for having the guts to back away from the test-based teacher evaluation systems they once supported. They accused them of ‘evading accountability’ like horse thieves running from the posse. They wanted union leaders to sit compliantly with hands folded, in the face of mounting evidence that the test-score evaluation systems are not working. These Chiefs for ‘change at any cost’, do not understand. True accountability means having the courage to speak the truth when facts come to light, even when it contradicts what you once supported. To keep one’s mouth shut as the lousy marches forward is wrong.

As we all know, the State Senate in Massachusetts voted against lifting the cap on charter schools. This was a shocker.

Here is the inside story, told by Edushyster.

You won’t see this anywhere else.

In a surprise move, the Massachusetts State Senate voted 26-13 not to increase the number of charter schools in the state. A similar bill cleared the House by a vote of 114-35 in May. “The Senate proceeded in a separate 9-30 vote to also defeat the underlying bill that had cleared the House.”

The Senate President, Therese Murray said: “In some ways, the vote could be looked at as a reflection of the changing makeup of the Senate that has seen an influx of more liberal members in recent years. Murray said she was surprised by the final tally, and noted that “progressives” voted against the bills.”

“Unions, meanwhile, cheered the bill’s defeat. “We congratulate the Senate for taking a stand for public schools and for public school students, many of whom live in poverty and who need all the resources they can get. The vote against raising the cap keeps resources in our locally controlled public schools where they are most needed,” said Tom Gosnell, president of American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts.

“Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker issued a statement suggesting the Senate “bowed to political pressure and handed urban families stuck in struggling schools a massive defeat by shutting down access to high performing schools.”

Defend a brave teacher! Defend students! Sign the petition to reinstate Gus Morales!

Gus Morales was elected head of his school union in Holyoke, Massachusetts, as an outspoken opponent of high-stakes testing and privatization. Children’s test scores were posted in a data wall. Morales objected.

Only weeks after his election, he was fired.

“As I started speaking out, I was targeted with negative observations. One can infer that the negative observation was meant to quiet me. As long as I kept my mouth shut, everything was good, and then when I started speaking about what was happening to my students, I was let go,” says Morales, one of only a handful of Puerto Rican teachers in a school district that is nearly 80 percent Hispanic.

“Morales’ anti-privatization platform also called for a revitalization of the teachers’ union. “In the past, the union had defended its teachers, but it did so in a way that was not out in public. I want to be a teacher advocate where I attend school committees and speak on behalf of teachers,” he says….”

“A key factor in Morales’ decision to run was the massive expansion of high-stakes testing in the classroom. “My kids spend between 25 and 28 days per year just doing tests. The administration is obsessed with increasing reading and math scores, so their answer to that is to increase instruction time in those areas,” he argues.

“As a result, he says, local students are losing valuable learning opportunities in non-tested areas. “The effect is that kids in the suburbs where test scores are higher are getting a well-rounded education, and kids in Holyoke are not,” he says.”

Barbara Madeloni, the new president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association promised to fight for Morales.

Please support Gus Morales by signing this MoveOn petition.

EduShyster interviews Barbara Madeloni, the recently elected president of the 110,000 member Massachusetts Teachers Association, and she warns that we either fight for public education or we will lose it.

A former high school teacher, Madeloni was teaching teachers at the University of Massachusetts-Amerst, and she and her students refused to participate in edTPA. As she puts it, “The students with whom I was working didn’t want to submit videos of themselves teaching to Pearson. They didn’t want their work as student teachers to be reduced to a number on a rubric by people who didn’t know them, and 67 of 68 students ultimately refused to send their work.” Madeloni told the story to Michael Winerip of the New York Times; ten days after his story appeared, she was fired. (Winerip, a superb education writer, was later reassigned to cover “Boomers,” and the Times eliminated its weekly education column. Winerip rattled cages every Monday.)

Edushyster asks Madeloni what we can do to fight back against the reformers attacking teachers and public education.

Madeloni responds:

“I think fighting is winning. In a union where members are truly engaged and active, we’re talking to one another about what’s happening, informing each other and making decisions about how we can fight back. The degree to which we’ve been told that our members are unwilling to be active is astonishing to me. If you alienate the membership by continually telling them that things are bad but they could be worse, so we’re going to get behind the bad thing, of course people aren’t going to be active. If we say to members—*We can be powerful. We can use our power. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to be hard. But history shows that we can do this,*—the reaction is completely different because you’re talking about things that really matter to them. And by the way, our members understand that the attacks on them and on public education are coming from both political parties.”

There’s lots more to enjoy. This is a scintillating interview. Keep your eye on Barbara Madeloni. Just think: Massachusetts is the most successful state in the nation by conventional measures like test scores, but even there, teachers, their unions, and public schools are under attack by the usual crowd.

From: Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts:

Update: Senators to Vote Tomorrow on Charter Cap Bill!

We’ve learned that House Bill 4108, which would, among other things, lift the cap on charter schools in so-called “underperforming districts” is scheduled to come up at a caucus of Democratic senators Thursday (that’s tomorrow) at noon.

Votes can still change after that, but if you have an opinion on this and you haven’t talked to your senator yet, today would be an excellent day to call. Talking with an aide is fine too.

CPS’s June 2013 report, “Twenty Years After Education Reform: Choosing a Path Forward To Equity and Excellence For All,” includes a full chapter devoted to the facts on charter schools in Massachusetts. Click here to download the full report. (See Chapter 4 for information on charter schools.) Click here to download the executive summary.

The report found that Commonwealth charter schools have not contributed to equity of educational quality and resources:

Charter schools enroll a much smaller percentage of English language learners and students with significant disabilities than their sending districts.

A widely quoted study that favors charter schools shows higher scores only for specific grades (middle school) and student subgroups, but not for elementary or high schools, ELLs, or charter students in their first year.

Though a goal of the charter school movement was to spark innovation, urban charters have gravitated toward a “no excuses” approach, which means long hours in school, precise rules for behavior, and severe discipline for breaking even minor rules, such as wearing the wrong color socks.

Many urban charter schools report very high out-of-school suspension rates and continue to show much higher attrition rates than their district school neighbors.

While some charter high schools with a large percentage of low-income students score high on MCAS, these schools rank much lower on the SATs.

What’s more, research indicates many students from high-scoring charter schools do not fare well in college.
The average Massachusetts charter school loses one-third to one-half of its teaching staff each year, compared to the state average, which ranges from 13 to 22 percent.

Note: Proponents of lifting the cap on charters argue that charters don’t have greater attrition than district schools, but the data shows otherwise. Click here for a compilation of the data comparing Boston charter schools attrition rates with that of district schools.

Best regards,
Lisa Guisbond
Executive Director
Citizens for Public Schools
617-730-5445
lisa.guisbond@gmail.com

Citizens for Public Schools, Inc. | 18 Tremont St., Suite 320 | Boston | MA | 02108

Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, spoke recently to Citizens for Public Schools in Massachusetts.

His topic: what can Massachusetts learn from “Finnish Lessons”?

It is worth watching. Pasi is always a wonderful speaker, and he is a leader in the international fight to resist test-mania and privatization and to protect education and children.

Two sixth-grade classes in Ipswich, Massachusetts, lost a week of instruction while taking field tests, and they want to be paid for their time.

“But for now the test is still in its trial period and Laroche’s 37 students are among the 81,000 that spent two 75-minute periods in March and two 90-minute periods this past week completing the test.

“This time would have otherwise been spent writing and solving and graphing inequalities from real-life situations.

“During class last Monday, May 19, a teacher jokingly mentioned that the students should get paid for taking the test since their participation helps the PARCC and at the end of class the students pressed Laroche further on the idea.

“The kids proceeded to tell me that PARCC is going to be making money from the test, so they should get paid as guinea pigs for helping them out in creating this test,” said Laroche. “So I said, ‘OK, if that’s the case and you guys feel strongly then there are venues and things you can do to voice your opinion, and one would be to write a letter and have some support behind that letter with petition.”

“At 8 p.m. that night Laroche received a shared Google document with an attached letter from A-period student Brett Beaulieu, who asked that he and his peers be compensated for their assistance.

“I thought it was unfair that we weren’t paid for anything and we didn’t volunteer for anything,” said Beaulieu. “It was as if we said, ‘Oh we can do it for free.’”

“Beaulieu used his math skills in the letter, determining that the two classes would collectively earn $1,628 at minimum wage for their 330 minutes of work. He then went on to figure out how many school supplies that amount could buy: 22 new Big Ideas MATH Common Core Student Edition Green textbooks or 8,689 Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils.

“Even better, this could buy our school 175,000 sheets of 8 ½” by 11″ paper, and 270 TI-108 calculators,” Beaulieu wrote.

“On Tuesday, May 20 he gathered over 50 signatures from students, as well as from assistant principal Kathy McMahon, principal David Fabrizio and Laroche.”

The students wrote to PARCC, Arne Duncan, and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone.

Last night, the school board in Cambridge, Massachusetts, voted to delay the implementation of PARCC, one of the two federally-funded online Common Core assessments. This was something of a problem for Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, because he is chair of the governing board of PARCC.

The Cambridge School Committee acted in response to a parent petition. Parents are concerned about teaching to the test, narrowing the curriculum, and relying on online testing.

Massachusetts is preparing to lift the cap on charter schools, the assumption being that they have cracked the code to educating the neediest children. The Boston Globe has been cheerleading for the charter sector, along with the usual hedge funders and philanthropists.

Only problem, says Edushyster, is facts.

EduShyster writes:

“At the heart of our great debate about how much greater charter schools are than the long-suffering public schools that they are outperforming by every conceivable measure lies a great assumption: that charters represent the best way to propel urban students through the pipeline of college readiness. Except that the pipeline turns out to be of an exceptionally narrow gauge. Take Match Charter Public School, from which six boys graduated last year. You read that correctly, reader. That number was six. Which is the same number of boys who graduated from Codman Academy Charter Public School in 2013. But that’s still a bigger number than four, the number of boys who graduated from City on a Hill Charter Public School last year.”

And she adds:

“The point, reader, is that we know, down to our vestigial organs, that charter schools are doing a much better job of preparing the city’s students for college because we are secretly in love with Boston Globe columnist Scot Lehigh and hence hangeth upon his every word. Except that a recent study called Charter Schools and the Road to College Readiness, commissioned by the Boston Foundation and paid for by the New Schools Venture Fund, found that male and female students who attend Boston’s six charter high schools are no more likely to graduate than their public school peers. (See p. 24). Which is not what the researchers were expecting to find, and certainly not what Scot Lehigh was expecting to write about. Which is no doubt why he didn’t.”

Sadly, the legislature is set to increase funding for the charters even as the much-maligned Boston public schools are experiencing remarkable success. “The irony is, of course, that the beleaguered Boston Public Schools are sending more students to college than at any time in the city’s history. Or they were. As the city grapples with the deep budget cuts that operating two separate school systems will entail, the *extra* programs that help lots of kids in places like Boston get to college and stay there are likely to be the first to go.”

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