Archives for category: Teacher Evaluation

Karen Magee, president of Néw York State United Teachers, has called for a mass opt out from state testing. Her protest is in response to Governor Cuomo’s hostile actions towards teachers and public schools.

Magee said (correctly) that test-based evaluation is an unreliable measure of teacher quality.

“New York State United Teachers president Karen Magee hinted on Monday that the powerful statewide union would launch a campaign to further encourage parents to have their children “opt out” of state-administered, Common Core-aligned exams in order to undermine the use of test scores as a component of teacher evaluations.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Magee said the union has posted information on its website instructing parents on how to have their children refuse the third through eighth grade English and math exams, which are required by the federal government and will be administered next month.

“I’m a parent,” said Magee, who lives in Westchester. “My child is in 11th grade at this point in time. Had he been a third to eighth grader, he would not be taking the test. The tests are not valid indicators. The American Statistical Association has said there is no direct link to tie these tests to student performance or teacher evaluation. Let’s look at tests that are diagnostic in nature, that actually inform practice in the classroom, that actually work to serve students who are directly sitting in front of the teacher for the year as opposed to what we have in place right now.

“At this point in time, yes, we are encouraging parents to opt out,” she said. “We will be taking further steps to make parents aware of this…..”

“Magee admitted that some level of opt outs could hurt teachers in this way, but said, “Statistically, if you take out enough, it has no merit or value whatsoever.”

“When asked whether it was her goal to impact the validity of the exams, the union president responded: “At this point in time it’s the best way to go.”

Cuomo sought the most punitive possible evaluation approach to teachers. Despite the evidence against tying teacher evaluation to test scores, Cuomo demanded that 50% of each teacher’s evaluation be based on test scores.

He never explained his plan to evaluate the 70% of teachers who do not teach tested subjects.

He also has insisted that the views of an independent evaluator count more than that of principals, but has not explained the cost of hiring thousands of evaluators or why the judgment of a drive-by evaluator should have greater weight than that of the principal.

His hostility towards teachers is palpable. Future leaders will have to repair the damage Cuomo has done through his blatant disrespect for teachers, all teachers. Who will want to teach?

In a post earlier today (http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/29/nearly-100-superintendents-sign-petition-to-save-public-education-in-ny/), I reported that “nearly 100″ superintendents had signed the statement questioning Governor Cuomo’s agenda for the schools. Some readers asked for a list of names. Here is a letter with the names of 102 superintendents who signed the declaration, plus Board members and PTA presidents who signed. In some cases, entire Boards of Education wanted to sign the statement. As word gets out, expect the list to grow.

For the copy of the letter with 16 pages of signatures, select the link below.

3-27-15 pm AllianceLetter

 

This is a press release from the Alliance to Save Public Education:

 

 Superintendents and community leaders want meaningful reform

 

A group of superintendents from Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties gathered at South Side High School in Rockville Centre to discuss a legislative proposal to establish a special commission that would create a new teacher evaluation system. The educators, members of the Alliance to Save Public Education, first came together in late February to draft and sign a letter that urged legislators to separate education reform from the state budget process.

 

To date, the letter has 150 signatures, representing support from 13 percent of the school districts in New York State, which span a wide range of demographics – poor and wealthy, big and small, urban, rural and suburban, upstate and downstate. While the group agrees with the idea of a commission, they said the plan to evaluate teachers and principals must be valid and appropriate and reflect the best interests of students. “We want a commission that will create an evaluation system that promotes student growth,” Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen said. “It should include educational researchers, world-renowned experts in the field, psychometrics, superintendents and teachers.” Members of the alliance said they are in favor of testing that values education and works for students, and indicated that if the state is not willing to create a commission that includes relevant stakeholders, they would create a commission that does.

Leonie Haimson includes in this post a summary of the latest Quinnipiac poll about public reaction to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s education proposals. The long and short of it is that they are so unpopular that they have dragged down his overall rating.

 

28% approve his proposals while 63% reject them.

 

The Quinnipiac poll shows that Cuomo has dropped to his lowest rating ever–50%, and the poll connects his declining popularity to his ferocious attacks on public schools and teachers. He doesn’t seem to understand that most people like both and can’t understand why the Governor wants to destroy them. They have a low opinion of all his plans to “improve” them by raising the stakes on testing. This should be a warning to other politicians who think they can attack public education without arousing public antagonism. Most Americans–say, 90%–went to public school and presumably have good memories of their teachers and schools. Why would the governor or any other politician want to send public money to private and religious schools?

Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi school district, here explains how the education profession has been attacked and demonized, with premeditation.

 

He begins:

 

So you want to kill a profession.

 

It’s easy.

 

First you demonize the profession. To do this you will need a well-organized, broad-based public relations campaign that casts everyone associated with the profession as incompetent and doing harm. As an example, a well-orchestrated public relations campaign could get the front cover of a historically influential magazine to invoke an image that those associated with the profession are “rotten apples.”

 

Then you remove revenue control from the budget responsibilities of those at the local level. Then you tell the organization to run like a business which they clearly cannot do because they no longer have control of the revenue. As an example, you could create a system that places the control for revenue in the hands of the state legislature instead of with the local school board or local community.

 

Then you provide revenue that gives a local agency two choices: Give raises and go into deficit or don’t give raises so that you can maintain a fund balance but in the process demoralize employees. As an example, in Michigan there are school districts that have little to no fund balance who have continued to give raises to employees and you have school districts that have relatively healthy fund balances that have not given employees raises for several years.

 

Then have the state tell the local agency that it must tighten its belt to balance revenue and expenses. The underlying, unspoken assumption being that the employees will take up the slack and pay for needed supplies out of their own pockets.

 

Additionally , introduce “independent” charters so that “competition” and “market-forces” will “drive” the industry. However, many of these charters, when examined, give the illusion of a better environment but when examined show no improvement in service. The charters also offer no comprehensive benefits or significantly fewer benefits for employees. So the charters offer no better quality for “customers” and no security for employees but they ravage the local environment.

 

Then create a state-mandated evaluation system in an effort to improve quality…..

 

That is how it begins.

 

For his willingness to speak out honestly and courageously, I add Steve Matthews to the blog’s honor roll as a hero of public education.

 

 

 

Ken Mitchell, who recently retired as a school superintendent, attempts to shed light on thorny problems in current education policy in this article.

 

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have been dismal failures, and their main result appears to be the creation of chaos and incoherence at the local level. Both assume that standardized tests are not only the measure of education but the goal of education. Legislators are reacting by passing laws about how to evaluate teachers, a subject about which they are not expert and not well-informed.

 

Mitchell calls for the creation of an education summit, but with a twist:

 

It is time for an education summit, but not one that emanates from the governor’s office.

 

The governor has appointed commissions on mandate relief, school reform, and Common Core, naming members who often lacked expertise or objectivity. This time we need a summit involving stakeholders: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and school boards. We need a de-politicized venue to ensure an objective analysis of the evidence behind current and proposed reforms related to assessment, teacher evaluation, Common Core and charter schools. If policymakers continue to mandate without evidence and allow profiteers to influence educational decisions, children will be harmed and public education ruined.

 

His suggestion makes sense. The Legislature should listen to the experts, rather than attempt to regulate the teaching profession. They would never dream of passing laws to evaluate the medical profession or any other profession. Why should they tell principals and superintendents how to evaluate teachers?

Peter Greene writes here about the 16 superintendents of Lorain County who are fighting the bad policies that will hurt students, demoralize teachers, and destroy public schools.

Greene has a special interest in Lorain because his first teaching job was at Lorain High School. Where the school was stood is now an empty lot.

The superintendents “have come together to call for big changes, particularly targeting “excessive student testing, overly strict teacher evaluations, loss of state funding to charter and online schools, and other cuts in funding.”

“Funding formulas are a special kind of bizarre in Ohio. According to the superintendents, the state actually pays more to send students to charters and cybers than to send them to public school. They offered some specific examples but the overall average is striking by itself– the state average per pupil payment to traditional public schools is $3,540 per student, but the average payment to an Ohio charter is $7,189.”

When the superintendents conducted a survey of the community, this is what they learned from the public:

“* their school districts are doing an excellent or good job,

* high quality teachers are the most important indicator of a high quality education

* earning high marks on the state report card isn’t that important

* increased state testing has not helped students

* decisions are best made at the local level,

* preschool education– especially for those students from poverty– should be expanded (and they said they would increase their taxes to support it)

* school finance is the biggest challenge facing our schools,

* and their local tax dollars should not be going to support private schools and for-profit and online charter schools”

Greene concludes:

“Ohio has been hammered hard by the reformsters, and the political leaders of the state have made no secret of their love for charters and privatization. It’s nice to see an entire county’s worth of school leaders standing up to fight back for public education.”

I was invited to write an article for the New York Daily News reviewing Governor Cuomo’s recently announced “opportunity agenda” for education.

 

Here is what I wrote.

 

The Daily News published other articles praising the Governor’s plans for toughening teacher evaluations, adding more charters, and introducing voucher legislation. Given the limitation of 800 words, I was unable to write about the noxious effects of vouchers, which have succeeded nowhere.

 

It is an agenda that will subject the state’s children to more testing, more test prep, and less of everything that they enjoy about school.

 

It is an agenda that will ignores expert opinion about the harmful effects of judging teachers by the test scores of their students.

 

It is an agenda that is innately hostile to public education.

 

 

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