Archives for category: Teacher Evaluation

Regular readers may have noticed a flurry–one might say–a deluge of comments by a reader who signs as “Virginiasgp.” SGP stands for “student growth percentiles.” He believes with a religious fervor in student growth measures for evaluating teachers. He also says that he has worked in the U.S. Navy on a submarine. Another reader who signs as “NY Teacher” offered Virginiasgp some ideas about the deficiencies of test scores for teacher evaluation:

 

VAsgp
Apparently you think it’s a great idea to run public schools like the Navy runs its nuclear submarine fleet. Well thanks for the inspiration man. You really are a hoot-n-a-half on this. Shear genius. Now let’s take your fantabulous idea and put it to work for the Navy.
Don’t worry, I am highly qualified to help the US Navy mainly because I have zero experience with nuclear submarines. At least we’re square on the experience piece. Well, here goes – my suggestion . . . no, make that my insistence!

 

We must run the Navy’s nuclear submarine fleet just like a high needs, impoverished urban, Title 1 public school. As chief submarine Officer, please understand that there will be a few simple changes to protocol.

 

1) Your evaluation will be based on the ability of you and your crew to navigate a detailed, three dimensional attack course. You evaluation will be based on precision of tracking , speed and acceleration control, and stealth. Numerical data will be assigned to each of these three variables. I’ll even give you one of the newly commissioned, Virginia class ( SSN-774) nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. Seems appropriate Virginia.

 

2) Your crew will consist, instead of the usual adult Navy volunteers, 7th and 8th grade students from the worst performing middle school in the Bronx. Don’t worry, we will give them the same 5 week crash course that a TFAer would get and – you get to teach them! The U.S. Naval Submarine School New London in Groton CT works for me.
As the chief submarine Officer you must ensure that all systems run smoothly. That means you are responsible for your crew of youngsters and their jobs:

 

1) Operating a nuclear reactor and nuclear propulsion system
2) Maintaining on board weapons systems
3) Managing atmosphere control and fire control
4) Driving the vessel and charting its position
5) Operating communications and intelligence equipment

 

FYI/Heads Up:
On any given day or at any given moment, any one or more of your teenage crew may . . .
Be highly distracted and completely inattentive
Refuse to follow orders
Give you the one finger salute
Text and snap chat incessantly while on duty
Be very loud and boisterous
Ask permission to go to the bathroom – every 40 min.
Fight and argue with each other
Argue with you
Sleep on the job
Be absent from duty – some chronically
Disrupt crew meetings
Report for duty under the influence of illegal substances
Express their inner drama queen
Hang out in small groups and completely ignore you
Frequently exhibit silly, irrational, or bizarre behaviors
Forget most of what you taught them in the 5 week’r
Laugh when you yell at them
Stick chewing gum into electronic ports
Complain incessantly

 

Kind of tickles your innards knowing that your Naval career rests on the whims of a crew of mostly dysfunctional adolescents, doesn’t it?

From a reader:

“Florida VAM formula … from the DOE website. This is a terrible joke.

y_i=μ+∑_(g=1)^M▒〖δ_g x_g 〗+∑_(j=1)^K▒〖β_j x_j+θ_(k)i+ω_(mk)i+ε_i; 〗

“VAM is a SCAM and my children will be no part of it.”

Steve Nelson, head of a progressive private school in Néw York City, writes vividly and cogently about the inevitable failure of so-called reform.

The corporate reforms fail because they are built on extrinsic motivation, that is, a regime of carrots and sticks to drive teachers and students to comply with reformers’ demands.

Extrinsic methods tend to depress motivation. People resent being compelled, and they lose the desire to do what they would have willingly done without the whip hand over them.

Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, brings out the best in people.

Nelson writes:

“Intrinsic motivation is driven by factors that emanate from within: Self-satisfaction, desire for mastery, curiosity, fulfillment, pleasure, self-realization, desire for independence, ethical needs, etc. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful innate characteristic of all humans, across cultures and societies. Anyone with children or working with children observes the natural intrinsic motivation of young children – a nearly insatiable curiosity, drive to explore, and desire for mastery.

“A considerable body of research confirms that intrinsic motivation is more powerful, long lasting and important. But intrinsic motivation steadily declines from 3rd grade until 8th or 9th grade as extrinsic structures dramatically increase. The stakes get higher. Tests increase in frequency and duration. Expectations around college and achievement ratchet up. Grade point averages, honor roles, valedictorians, salutatorians, class ranks, honor societies . . . all of these forms of extrinsic motivation are ubiquitous.”

As Jerome Bruner points out, “learning becomes steadily de-contextualized as children move from grade to grade. As school becomes more controlled, more about instruction than exploration, more about abstraction than experience, children’s natural intrinsic motivation declines. The learning is unrelated to their lives. Why would they care?”

Nelson concludes:

“Students and teachers are being subjected to increasingly punitive extrinsic structures: Scores, grades, evaluations, assessments, punishments, discipline, rigidity, standardization, absence of context, divorced from individual experience.
All the factors that stimulate and perpetuate intrinsic motivation are disappearing.

“To say education reform has it wrong is a monumental understatement. Policy makers and educational reformers seem hell bent on beating students and their teachers until their morale improves.

“That’s just stupid.”

Hawaii applied for and won a Race to the Top grant. So, of course, Hawaii was required to create a new teacher evaluation system that incorporated student test scores. Many teachers objected. Mireille Ellsworth was one of them. She especially opposed the use of “Student Learning Objectives.” She said the measures were invalid and unreliable. Because she refused to complete the “SLOs,” she got a subpar rating. She challenged the rating, and she won.

 

 

When the Hawaii Department of Education released the details of its new teacher evaluation system three years ago, veteran teacher Mireille Ellsworth made a radical decision: She would simply refuse to do part of it.

 

Like many teachers in the state, Ellsworth felt that linking teacher pay — even partially — to student test scores was unfair. But there were other portions of the complex and multi-tiered system that she objected to as well, including the use of Student Learning Objectives as a measure of teacher success.

 

“I could tell it was something that could be easily manipulated by any teacher,” Ellsworth said. “Essentially it would be a dog and pony show.”

 

The new evaluation system was put into place over the past five years, at a cost of millions of dollars, teacher demoralization, and untold hours of work. When the results were tallied, 97% of the state’s teachers were found to be highly effective or effective. The search for “bad” teachers was very expensive and ultimately a failure.

 

Ellsworth said no to the whole process.

 

Ellsworth, who teaches English and drama at Waiakea High School in Hilo, has a slew of objections regarding the EES. The 18-year teacher’s biggest beef though is with the Student Learning Objectives or SLOs, which she refused to complete two years in a row.

 

For the SLOs, teachers are asked to predict the growth or achievement of each student — something they can then come back and revise mid-semester. Ellsworth felt it was a student privacy violation for this student data to go into her personnel file, and said the data could easily be manipulated by teachers.

“It’s just an exercise in trying to justify your existence and pass it no matter what,” Ellsworth said.

 

She had philosophical objections to the SLOs as well.

 

“If a teacher has low expectations for a student, research has shown that student will perform at a lower rate,” Ellsworth said. “For me to put on paper and then in my professional portfolio online that I expect anything short of success is completely wrong and is against everything I’ve been taught.”
It is, she said, like committing “educator malpractice.”

 

The strongest support for test-based teacher evaluation comes from the conservative National Council of Teacher Quality, which defends the process that Ellsworth and other teachers find objectionable. NCTQ seems certain that the schools are overloaded with ineffective teachers, but does not attempt to explain why the new RTTT-mandated systems in almost every state find that 95-99% of teachers are rated effective or highly effective. All those billions spent, for what?

 

For her courage in resisting the government’s attempt to force her to violate her professional ethics, Mireille Ellsworth joins the blog’s honor roll of champions of public education.

 

I have gotten to a point where I hate posting statements by teachers who are giving up because of stupid mandates and idiotic “reforms.” I don’t want anyone to quit. I want teachers to stay and fight for themselves, their students, their profession. At the same time, I understand that sometimes people reach a breaking point, and they can’t take it anymore.

 

The only good thing about these statements is that they tell the world about the damage done by ill-informed, misguided, punitive “reforms.” We can’t afford to drive good teachers away, yet that’s what current metrics are doing.

 

Here is a statement by Jennifer Higgins. She knows she’s a terrific teacher, but the data say she’s not. I hope she fights back. Don’t let the reformers win. If you quit, they win.

 

 

Today, for the first and only time in as long as I can remember, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher.

 

Today, for the first and only time in as long as I can remember, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher. The reason? One that I am embarrassed to admit.

 

As an elementary educator, there are any number of challenges I face on a daily basis. We’ve ALL been there.

 

Schedules that seem impossible, students who struggle, curriculum demands, parental communication, interruptions for students leaving early or coming late, social drama “spillover”, not enough time in the day, the list goes on and on…and on. We teachers wear many hats – at times, we are parents, coaches, friends, mentors, social workers, psychologists, and cheerleaders, just to name a few. Yes, our job is to teach our students reading comprehension, problem solving strategies, and research skills, but our job is also to remind them of their manners, to encourage them to talk and to listen to each other, to practice kindness so they may model it, to comfort them when they come into school upset because a parent or grandparent is in the hospital, to reassure them when they are nervous about taking a test, to give them a hug and a Band-Aid when they give themselves a paper cut…because if we don’t do it, who will? So, we do. And most of us – myself included – love every minute of it. And because we love it, we don’t just do it – we do it with enthusiasm, with compassion, and with pride.

 

I don’t know how you would measure the value of a teacher in a student’s life, but if you could, I would rest assured knowing that anyone whose job it was to evaluate me would notice how I greet each child with a smile every day, how I incorporate Community Building activities into my classroom, and how I work for hours at night and on the weekends planning, giving feedback on assignments, and coming up with creative ways to teach 21 st Century skills to my eager learners. In addition to teaching 4 th grade in a collaborative, special education integrated classroom, I also actively participate in my school and district community as a Student Council co-advisor, volunteer on our Teacher Center policy board, summer school remediation teacher, and member of various committees including curriculum writing and the OLWEUS Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee. I would be comfortable with having someone observe my classroom management, read through my plan book, take notes on my rapport with children, view my parent communication log, or otherwise evaluate any number of measures, which contribute to being a dedicated and effective professional.

 

Too bad that New York State has other plans in mind. Instead of fairly measuring the effectiveness of my planning and teaching by utilizing methods deemed appropriate by actual educators, my evaluation is based on a convoluted matrix, developed by some non-transparent “powers that be”. I have read about it, researched it, had many discussions centered around it, taken countless notes at meetings – and still, I can’t tell you how it is calculated. What I can tell you is this (and this is extremely difficult for me as someone who does not enjoy “tooting my own horn”):

 

I have been told by my colleagues that they love working with me. I have been told by my principal that I am an exemplary educator. I have been told by parents that I have made their children love school and that I was the best teacher they have ever had. I have been told by students that they wish I could follow them to the next grade. I have been thanked by administrators for my involvement and dedication. I have even recently been made aware that there is a Facebook group for moms in my school, in which I have repeatedly received accolades and compliments.

 

But… I have also now been told by New York State that I am 2 points short of being an “effective” teacher; that, in fact, after 12 years in the classroom, I am only “developing” at my profession.
So what now? Well, when I heard this news, I did what any person wanting to be rational but acting with their heart instead would do – I cried…and cried…and cried. I didn’t sleep. I had trouble focusing on anything else. And then, the more I thought about it, the more I got angry.

 

I am angry that I spent hours and hours of time last school year using test prep books that made students miserable. I am angry that some of the brightest students I know received grades on the state test that will no doubt make them question their own intelligence. I am angry that if someone doesn’t know me better, they could look at my score of 72/100 and think that I am not a very good educator. I am angry that there are other good teachers in the same position as me. I am angry because, if I am truly failing at what I am supposed to be accomplishing, there is absolutely no way to improve because I have no idea what I did “wrong”. And I am angry because I would never give a score lacking feedback to a student, and yet that is exactly what is being done to me.

 

Let me be clear: I believe in evaluating teachers, and I am the first one to admit that there is always room for improvement. I self-reflect, I study best practices, and I try – each day, each month, and each year – to be better at my job than I was before. What would a fair system for evaluating teachers look like? I’m not sure, but I know with absolute certainty that it would not look like this !

 

I received a BA from Dartmouth College in Psychology, and I received my MA in Elementary Education from Columbia Teachers College. Sadly, I have been asked MANY times why I went to “such good schools to become a teacher”. The answer that I want to share, but often don’t, is: Shouldn’t a world-class education, from institutions that encourage you to persevere, to challenge yourself, and to think critically, be exactly what we want teachers to have in order to ensure that the next generation will be prepared to inherit the world and hopefully do a better job with it than we have? The answer that I usually give is to laugh and shrug nervously, because NO answer I can give can overcome the fact that the question is reflective of a much bigger problem. The truth is that most of our society still thinks of teaching as a “fallback” job, one that is not to be respected, and one that is undertaken by people who can’t do anything else. Clearly, this is the way we are thought of by the leaders of our state; otherwise, we would not be subjected to such an antiquated and unjust manner of “evaluation.”

 

Something needs to change, because if it does not, people like me – who have wanted to be teachers since they were little kids and who pour their heart and soul into their profession – will continue to feel at best dejected and at worst outraged. And eventually, those people will leave the field – either of their own volition or because they have been asked to do so because of their low performances on these evaluations.

 

Today, the reason that for the first and only time in as long as I can remember I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a teacher, was that New York State told me that I am not good enough to be one.

 

The best – and the only – recourse I have is to take my frustration and sadness and turn it into a call to action. This cannot go on any longer. I can’t sit back and watch it happen. Change is necessary – and it’s necessary NOW.

 

Jennifer Higgins

.

Stuart S. Yen, a professor at the University of Minnesota, contends in this article in the TC Record that value-added-modeling is neither valid nor reliable.

 

He reviews the existing literature and notes that VAM is now used to hire, fire, promote, and reward teachers, all high-stakes decisions.

 

He writes:

 

In principle, value-added modeling (VAM) might be justified if it can be shown to be a more reliable indicator of teacher quality than existing indicators for existing low-stakes decisions that are already being made, such as the award of small merit bonuses. However, a growing number of researchers now advocate the use of VAM to identify and replace large numbers of low-performing teachers. There is a need to evaluate these proposals because the active termination of large numbers of teachers based on VAM requires a much higher standard of reliability and validity. Furthermore, these proposals must be evaluated to determine if they are cost-effective compared to alternative proposals for raising student achievement. While VAM might be justified as a replacement for existing indicators (for existing decisions regarding merit compensation), it might not meet the higher standard of reliability and validity required for large-scale teacher termination, and it may not be the most cost-effective approach for raising student achievement. If society devotes its resources to approaches that are not cost-effective, the increase in achievement per dollar of resources expended will remain low, inhibiting reduction of the achievement gap….

 

This article reviews literature regarding the reliability and validity of VAM, then focuses on an evaluation of a proposal by Chetty, Friedman, and Rockoff to use VAM to identify and replace the lowest-performing 5% of teachers with average teachers. Chetty et al. estimate that implementation of this proposal would increase the achievement and lifetime earnings of students. The results appear likely to accelerate the adoption of VAM by school districts nationwide. The objective of the current article is to evaluate the Chetty et al. proposal and the strategy of raising student achievement by using VAM to identify and replace low-performing teachers.

 

Method: This article analyzes the assumptions of the Chetty et al. study and the assumptions of similar VAM-based proposals to raise student achievement. This analysis establishes a basis for evaluating the Chetty et al. proposal and, in general, a basis for evaluating all VAM-based policies to raise achievement.

 

Conclusion: VAM is not reliable or valid, and VAM-based polices are not cost-effective for the purpose of raising student achievement and increasing earnings by terminating large numbers of low-performing teachers.

 

This is a video in which Yen discusses his findings about VAM.

 

 

 

 

At the annual meeting of Pennsylvania AFT, the leaders of the union called on the legislature to eliminate the test-based teacher evaluation system. Because of the inducements offered by Race to the Top, almost every state spent many millions to design a new teacher evaluation process, based on Arne Duncan’s insistence that such a system would weed out “bad” teachers. Behind that assumption is the wacky belief that bad teachers cause low test scores.

Last year, the first year of the new system, 98.2% of teachers were rated satisfactory or higher.

This year, 97% of Pittsburgh’s teachers were rated proficient or distinguished. The statewide figures for this year are not yet available.

“AFT Pennsylvania president Ted Kirsch said, “The law was based on a false narrative that low-performing schools exist primarily because of ineffective teachers, which is not the case. There are many factors involved in student success that are not given the proper weight under Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system. The result is a system that gives high marks to educators working in well-funded schools with few disadvantaged students and penalizes teachers who take the tough assignments in under-funded schools with large concentrations of students from low-income families or with special needs or English language learners.”

“The release stated the delegates want a system that is “transparent and understandable by teachers and the community“ and is “primarily a professional growth system that supports teachers in their development and differentiates evaluation for new and experienced teachers to ensure that new teachers who are in need of support are not driven away.”

This story is behind a paywall, although some readers found a way around the paywall. It was written by staff writer Fred LeBrun. It accurately describes the revulsion that parents and educators feel toward Governor Cuomo’s mean-spirited plan to tie everyone to a stake made of standardized test scores. LeBrun also points out that the State Assembly, which appoints new Regents, might well flip the majority next spring by appointing two new Regents to join the board. Chancellor Merryl Tisch has been a steadfast ally of Governor Cuomo and his plan (which is based on a letter she wrote one of his aides last December, outlining the changes she supported, without consulting the other members of the board of Regents.) If the opt out movement continues to grow–and there is every reason to believe that it will–the Assembly may not re-appoint Tisch to the board, where she has been a member since 1996.

 

 

In the linked article, LeBrun writes that it could have been much worse. Cuomo’s “education tax credits” to cut the taxes of billionaires while creating back-door vouchers did not pass.

 

 

What the Legislature and governor did agree to during the Legislative session’s final days was to direct the State Education Department to assure that the deeply controversial standardized growth tests and individual questions in Cuomo’s plan are at least age and grade appropriate and more useful as teaching tools. Also, that teachers are no longer gagged from discussing the test questions once they’re made public, and that a teacher’s student growth score, critical to whether that teacher stays employed according to the Cuomo plan, must also consider a number of student characteristics such as special needs, English as a second language, and most importantly, poverty.

 

Common sense tweaks, but far too few to make much of a difference. The core remains rotten. The Cuomo plan needs to be scrapped for something that actually works and that’s fair to all.

 

That is not so farfetched as it might seem.

 

As the Cuomo plan reveals itself as unworkable, unuseful and publicly about as popular as a dead whale in the living room, increasingly the Legislature and governor are shunting off the overly complicated implementation — and blame — on the state Education Department and the state Board of Regents, the body that by law is supposed to set and govern state public education policy. Unequivocally, Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island last week told reporter Susan Arbetter that the Legislature and the governor have all along been stepping on the Regents’ toes over formulating teacher evaluations, and not a single one of the 17 Regents is in favor of the present student and plan so favored by the governor.

 

After recent personnel changes, the Regents are very quickly becoming radicalized over the evaluation plan, and the so-called ”reform” agenda that embraces it.

 

The balance of those stridently opposed to the governor’s plan is at present a strong minority, and by March, when the terms of Chancellor Tisch and another Regent are up, that could well become a majority.

 

Already the Board of Regents is beginning to show new energy. Last week, while reluctantly accepting the education department’s draft teacher evaluation regulations as mandated by the Cuomo plan, the Regents found wiggle room that clearly signals they want to turn this garbage scow around.

 

The Regents voted for granting four-month hardship waivers without aid penalties to school districts that feel they will not be ready with a teacher evaluation plan by the required Nov. 15 of this year. That takes it to March of next year, which realistically means not before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. They also decided that yet-to-be created and approved alternative local tests will be acceptable instead of the state standardized tests to meet the Cuomo student growth requirement, and they voted to create their own study group to evaluate and assess the entirety of the current evaluation plan with an eye to changes.

 

What that study group comes up with will make a dandy justification for an Assembly package of bills to give us a reasonable evaluation plan.

 

Meanwhile, other major factors speak to dramatic change. Next week, MaryEllen Elias becomes our new state education commissioner. She fills the vacancy left by the largely useless John King. He and Tisch were the main architects and promoters of Cuomo’s draconian version of a Common Core based plan. Elias is a veteran educator who is certainly familiar with the issues facing New York. Let’s see what she can do….

 

 

Cuomo can thumb his nose at the Legislature and the education establishment with seemingly little consequence.

 

It’s another matter when he tries to jam his malarkey down the throats of livid parents and their anxious youngsters, also known as the electorate. Last year, 60,000 Opted Out. This year 200,000. On Long Island alone, 40 percent of the students who could take those tests didn’t. Opt Out is a political force with quickly developing muscle, reflecting deep public dissatisfaction.

 

No single issue has contributed more to the rapid and still sinking decline of Cuomo’s popularity than his boneheaded war with students, teachers and public schools generally, and there’s no end in sight. Legislature take note.

Joanne Yatvin has been a teacher, principal, superintendent, and literacy expert. In this post, she gives her views on teacher evaluation.

 

She writes:

 

“New York Times columnist Joe Nocera recently wrote about a new teacher evaluation system proposed by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The system had two central pieces: trained classroom observers who would visit often and give helpful feedback to teachers and student achievement measured by a student’s yearly growth rather than grade level expectations. Unfortunately, the Michigan legislature rejected the proposal, but Nocera hopes that something like it may be picked up by other states or school districts.

 

“I agree that the proposed system would be an improvement over the systems now used in most states. But it also looks complicated, time consuming and expensive. I believe there is a simpler, more meaningful way to determine teacher effectiveness that could be used everywhere: Ask the students. After all they’ve been with their teachers every day for a whole year and directly felt the effects of their teaching.

 

“Here’s how this system would work. At the end of the school year, outside their classrooms, students would be given a printed form for rating their teachers. Young children would have questions with three or four answers to choose from. Older students would be expected to write in their own answers. The completed forms would go to principal, who would supplement them with her own classroom observations in order to produce a teacher rating. Later, teachers could read what their students said about them, but with no names attached.

 

“Below I suggest some questions that I think should be asked, though with different wording for different age levels.

 

What were the best things you learned at school this year?

 

How easy was it to understand your teacher’s explanations and questions?

 

How often did your teacher give you personal attention?

 

How often did you feel bored or frustrated in class?

 

Was the amount and type of homework reasonable?

 

Was the discipline reasonable?

 

Do you feel prepared for the next grade?

 

“I think there should probably be a few more questions for older students, but not so many that they stop caring about their responses.”

Surprise: Most of the teachers in Ohio are effective or highly effective.

 

However, there are more ineffective teachers in districts with high levels of poverty.

 

Chicken-and-egg? Correlation?

 

Lesson: if you want to be a highly-rated teacher, avoid high-poverty schools and districts.

 

Second lesson: This is a ridiculous way to evaluate teachers, and the results were predictable and flawed. Also meaningless.

 

How many millions were spent to learn this?

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154,592 other followers