Archives for category: Teacher Evaluation

Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut announced he will stay the course on his corporate education reform policies, despite the huge scandal associated with the Jumoke charter school. Jumoke was one of the governor’s star charters until it was revealed that its CEO had a criminal past and a fake doctorate. Malloy supports tying teacher evaluation to test scores, despite the fact that this method has worked nowhere. And as Pelto reminds us, he proposed eliminating (not reforming but eliminating) teachers’ due process rights. He also advocated a no-union policy in the state’s poorest schools. He seems to have bought hook, line, and sinker the reformer claim that unions and tenure depress student test scores, even though the highest performing schools in the state have unions and tenure.

Why would a Democratic governor advocate for the failed policies of corporate reform? One guess. Connecticut has a large concentration of hedge fund managers, whose ideology and campaign contributions are aligned. In their highly speculative business, no one has unions or tenure. When stocks or investments go bad, they dump them. They think that schools should live by their principles. They should read Jamie Vollmer’s famous blueberry story. You can’t throw away the bad blueberries. Unless you run a charter school. Then you can exclude bad blueberries and kick out other bad blueberries.

A study commissioned by school leaders in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley reviewed the state’s teacher evaluation system and concluded that it was irreparably flawed.

“The study, released Friday, found that the state formula for calculating evaluations forces school districts to inflate classroom-observation ratings so teachers do not get poor overall scores.

“If districts were to give more accurate grades to teachers after classroom visits, the study found, many teachers would “unjustly” receive overall ratings of “developing” or “ineffective.” Such districts would “end up looking like they have an underperforming workforce,” the report said.

“This is not something that can be fixed; the state Education Department needs to start over,” said Louis Wool, Harrison schools superintendent, who was president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents when the group commissioned the study last year.

“The study reviewed 2012-13 evaluation results for 1,400 teachers in 32 districts in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam and Dutchess counties. The superintendents group provided the data to Education Analytics, a non-profit organization in Madison, Wisconsin, which did the study.

“Researchers credited New York state with improving its methods of measuring teacher effectiveness. In fact, the report called New York “a pioneer” in developing a modern evaluation system. But researchers said there are few examples nationally of effective implementation and that strong use of data may not necessarily translate into good policy.”

The state apparently wants a system that gives many teachers low scores so they can be fired; schools and districts want to retain their decision-making power over which teachers should be kept or terminated. The state is trying to take that authority away from schools and districts by creating a mechanical formula. The formula doesn’t work, and no such formula works anywhere in the country. The biggest problem in teaching today is recruiting, supporting, and retaining good teachers, not finding and firing bad ones. Any administrator worth her salt knows how to do the firing part.

The state should not start over. The state should get out of the way.

Thanks to Pam Hricik for sending this gem of a question.

Read this and evaluate Mr. Jackson.

EduShyster has been trying to crack the case of the mysterious disappearance of minority teachers in urban districts. She takes a close look at Boston, especially the prestigious Boston Latin School.

Here is her beginning:

“Today’s high-stakes question involves the demographics of our nation’s teaching force. When and where is it appropriate to discuss the urgent need to diversify the nation’s teaching force whilst failing to acknowledge what’s happening to the ranks of minority teachers who are already teaching? The answer: in whatever city Arne Duncan’s *bigger rigor* bus tour happens to have landed. You see, even as a much-needed conversation about the vital importance of having teachers of color in front of an increasingly diverse student body is taking place, a bouquet of reform policies is effectively pushing out existing teachers of color. Bundle up reader, because we’re headed to Boston where the nip of fall is in the air and minority teachers are being *reformed* right out of the city’s public schools.”

Read her links by opening her sad tale of the use of new evaluation systems to screen out teachers of color.

Peter Greene has an endless willingness to read the steady deluge of think-tank reports on how to fix teaching, how to fix schools, etc. it is not necessary to be a teacher to write these reports. That’s what think tanks do.

In this instance, he has read and dissected TNTP’s new report on how to fix tenure. Bear in mind that the original name of the organization, founded by Michelle Rhee (some claim that it was actually founded by Wendy Kopp but what difference), was The New Teacher Project. Its purpose was to place new teachers in urban districts. Thus, TNTP has a vested interest in teacher turnover as it creates more slots for its recruits to fill.

Given that anywhere from 40-50% of teachers don’t last five years, there are already plenty of slots anyway. One would think that a genuine reform would focus on how to recruit, support, and retain excellent teachers who want to make a career of teaching. But no, we still live inn an era when reformers are obsessed with he idea that schools are granting tenure too easily, and tenured teachers are in need of constant watch, lest they slip into their lazy, slacker habits bred of complacency.

Recommendation number one of the report is that no one should get tenure in less than five years. Greene says that any administrator who needs five years to decide whether a teacher is worthy of due process is a dope. (My word, not his.) it is also suggested that tenure be revocable based on test scores, which means it is not tenure at all.

Anthony Cody notes a rift among allies. Mark NAISON wrote critically about PAR–Peer Assistance and Review.

Writing from his experience, Cody explains how PAR works.

The bottom line is this: If choosing how to be evaluated as a teacher, would you rather be evaluated by the rise or fall of test scores (VAM); by the principal, acting alone; or by a committee of peers and administrators whose first obligation is to help you?

Paul Karrer, who teaches in Castroville, California, writes a scorching review of what is laughingly called “reform.”

He begins:

“Arne Duncan and his patron President Barack Obama have gotten themselves in a bit of an educational bind. Big news came out of the White House on Aug. 21 but a lot of America missed it. It seems a collision course of: 1. sunsetting of the year 2014 and the imbecilic impossible fatwa of No Child Left Behind (the obscenity of schools held accountable for testing without a morsel of input for poverty); and 2. a large push by teacher unions to dethrone he of the basketball — Sir Arne Duncan.”

So Duncan made his statement about testing “sucking the oxygen” out of teaching, a typical Duncanism in which he denounces the policies he promote and still enforces.

Says Karrer of Duncan’s fancy step:

“Is it a complete flip flop? No, it is a little greasy middle-of-the-road weaseling meant to gain favor from Obama’s once-upon-a-time education supporters and to patch the rebellious hemorrhaging of his pet bamboozle Race To The Top and its ugly stepsister Common Core. Ever since Obama initiated his slash and burn policy regarding public education with pro-privatization, the green light to pro-charter corporations, his relationship with publishing-testing companies, and his knee in the groin and knife in the backs of teachers with rigorous evaluations based on kids’ test scores, he’s been trusted about as much as a pedophile at a playground by those who once-upon-a-halo included him in their sacred prayers.”

Karrer says time is running out for the Age of Test and Punish. More and more people are speaking up and the public is catching on to the failure of test, test, test. The momentum is growing. Time is running out.

Levi Cavener, a teacher of special education in Idaho, learned that Idaho will give the Common Core test SBAC) to tenth graders even though it includes eleventh grade content.

“However, I was shocked during this exchange when the Director told me that the decision was due to the fact the state was worried students wouldn’t take the test seriously, and they didn’t want their data set tainted…because, you know, then the results wouldn’t be valid.

“Here is the Director’s response to my question of the logic in giving 10th graders the SBAC instead of 11th graders:

[The director said “Grade 11 is optional this year as your juniors have already met graduation requirements with the old ISATs and might not take the new tests seriously if they were used for accountability.”
Well, that’s convenient. I’m glad the State Department can cherry-pick the students who take the SBAC “seriously” and which students will not; I’m sure they will give that same privilege to teachers…oh..err…I guess not.]

See, here’s why my jaw was left open: The Director of Assessment admitted, rightfully and logically, that if students won’t take the test seriously, then there is no point in assessing them because the data will be invalid. And, if that’s true, let’s not assess those kidos because it would be a total waste of time and resources, not to mention the fact that the data would be completely invalid.

Thus, it would be logical to conclude that if the data is not accurate, then the SDE surely wouldn’t want to tie those scores to something as significant as a teacher’s livelihood.

Oh wait…they want to do exactly that? Shucks!

According to the the Idaho State Department of Education’s recent Tiered Licensure recommendations, SBAC data will be tied directly to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation.

Yet, If the Dept. of Ed admits SBAC data isn’t accurate, then what in the world are they doing on insisting that the data be tied to a teacher’s certification, employment, and compensation?

The insistence of tying data that is admittedly invalid is synonymous to tying a fortune cookie to real-world events. I don’t know about you, but my lucky numbers haven’t hit the lottery; what a scam!”

The test is more than eight hours long.

Writes Levi, “Isn’t it logical to conclude that at some point that kidos decide they would rather go outside to recess rather than reading closely on a difficult text passage or spending more time editing a written response? When the kido makes that decision, do we hold the teacher responsible for the invalid data?”

And what about special education kids? “Let’s compound that scenario for special education teachers who work with a population of students qualifying for a special education eligibility under categories of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, Emotional Disturbances, and Autism Spectrum diagnosis.

“Yup, I’m sure these students will always take the multi-day SBAC with the utmost earnestness; it’s not like the very behaviors they demonstrated to qualify for special education services to begin with would impede their ability to complete the SBAC with total validity of the results?”

Peter Greene here evaluates a report by two analysts at Bellwether Education, a DC think tank, about how teachers should be evaluated. His post is a model of how to tear apart and utterly demolish the musings of people far removed from the classroom about how things ought to work.

He begins by situating its sponsor:

“I am fascinated by the concept of think tank papers, because they are so fancy in presentation, but so fanceless in content. I mean, heck– all I need to do is give myself a slick name and put any one of these blog posts into a fancy pdf format with some professional looking graphic swoops, and I would be releasing a paper every day.

“Bellwether Education, a thinky tank with connections to the standards-loving side of the conservative reformster world, has just released a paper on the state of teacher evaluation in the US. “Teacher Evaluation in an Era of Rapid Change: From ‘Unsatisfactory’ to ‘Needs Improvement.’” (Ha! I see what you did there.) Will you be surprised to discover that the research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?”

He reviews what they describe as current trends and pulls each one apart.

Here is an example of a current trend and Greene’s response:

“3) Districts still don’t factor student growth into teacher evals

“Here we find the technocrat blind faith in data rearing its eyeless head again”

The authors say: “While raw student achievement metrics are biased—in favor of students from privileged backgrounds with more educational resources—student growth measures adjust for these incoming characteristics by focusing only on knowledge acquired over the course of a school year.”

“This is a nice, and inaccurate, way to describe VAM, a statistical tool that has now been discredited more times than Donald Trump’s political acumen. But some folks still insist that if we take very narrow standardized test results and run them through an incoherent number-crunching, the numbers we end up with represent useful objective data. They don’t. We start with standardized tests, which are not objective, and run them through various inaccurate variable-adjusting programs (which are not objective), and come up with a number that is crap. The authors note that there are three types of pushback to using said crap.

“Refuse. California has been requiring some version of this for decades. and many districts, including some of the biggest, simply refuse to do it.

“Delay. A time-honored technique in education, known as Wait This New Foolishness Out Until It Is Replaced By The Next Silly Thing. It persists because it works so often.

“Obscure. Many districts are using loopholes and slack to find ways to substitute administrative judgment for the Rule of Data. They present Delaware as an example of how futzing around has polluted the process and buttress that with a chart that shows statewide math score growth dropping while teacher eval scores remain the same.

“Uniformly high ratings on classroom observations, regardless of how much students learn, suggest a continued disconnect between how much students grow and the effectiveness of their teachers.

“Maybe. Or maybe it shows that the data about student growth is not valid.

“They also present Florida as an example of similar futzing. This time they note that neighboring districts have different distributions of ratings. This somehow leads them to conclude that administrators aren’t properly incorporating student data into evaluations.

“In neither state’s case do they address the correct way to use math scores to evaluate history and music teachers.”

After carefully pulling apart the report, here are the conclusions, theirs and his:

Greene reviews their recommendations:

“It’s not a fancy-pants thinky tank paper until you tell people what you think they should do. So Adelman and Chuong have some ideas for policymakers.

“Track data on various parts of new systems. Because the only thing better than bad data is really large collections of bad data. And nothing says Big Brother like a large centralized data bank.

“Investigate with local districts the source of evaluation disparities. Find out if there are real functional differences, or the data just reflect philosophical differences. Then wipe those differences out. “Introducing smart timelines for action, multiple evaluation measures including student growth, requirements for data quality, and a policy to use confidence intervals in the case of student growth measures could all protect districts and educators that set ambitious goals.

“Don’t quit before the medicine has a chance to work. Adelman and Chuong are, for instance, cheesed that the USED postponed the use of evaluation data on teachers until 2018, because those evaluations were going to totally work, eventually, somehow.

“Don’t be afraid to do lots of reformy things at once. It’ll be swell.

“Their conclusion

“Stay the course. Hang tough. Use data to make teacher decisions. Reform fatigue is setting in, but don’t be wimps.

“My conclusion

“I have never doubted for a moment that the teacher evaluation system can be improved. But this nifty paper sidesteps two huge issues.

“First, no evaluation system will ever be administrator-proof. Attempting to provide more oversight will actually reduce effectiveness, because more oversight = more paperwork, and more paperwork means that the task shifts from “do the job well” to “fill out the paperwork the right way” which is easy to fake.

“Second, the evaluation system only works if the evaluation system actually measures what it purports to measure. The current “new” systems in place across the country do not do that. Linkage to student data is spectacularly weak. We start with tests that claim to measure the full breadth and quality of students’ education; they do not. Then we attempt to create a link between those test results and teacher effectiveness, and that simply hasn’t happened yet. VAM attempted to hide that problem behind a heavy fog bank, but the smoke is clearing and it is clear that VAM is hugely invalid.

“So, having an argument about how to best make use of teacher evaluation data based on student achievement is like trying to decide which Chicago restaurant to eat supper at when you are still stranded in Tallahassee in a car with no wheels. This is not the cart before the horse. This is the cart before the horse has even been born.”

Multimillionaire equity investor Rex Sinquefeld doesn’t like public education. Apparently he doesn’t like teachers either. He doesn’t think teachers should be evaluated by their administrators but by the standardized test scores of their students. Evidently he doesn’t know that this method of evaluating teachers has failed to work wherever it was tried; evidently he doesn’t know that even the District of Columbia, which was first to implement this method, has put it on hold. Mr. Sinquefeld also seems unaware that about 70% of teachers don’t teach tested subjects.

He was unable to get these ideas adopted by the Missouri state legislature so he created a Constitutional amendment, which will be on the ballot this fall. It is called Constitutional Amendment 3.

If it passes, the problems and costs will begin. Missouri will have to develop tests for every subject that is taught and administer them at the beginning and end of each course. How will Missouri measure the effectiveness of art teachers, music teachers, physical education teachers? Vast new sums must be spent to create and administer dozens of new tests.

Experience in other states shows that teachers in affluent districts will get higher ratings than those who teach children in poor districts and those with disabilities. The tests measure advantage and disadvantage, not teacher quality.

The bottom line with Mr. Sinquefeld’s proposal is that it will be very costly and it will not identify the best and worst teachers. It will reward teachers in high-income districts and punish those who choose to work with students who are English learners or have disabilities or are homeless.

It will take decision-making power away from local administrators and shift it to a centralized bureaucracy. It has been tried and failed in many districts. It demoralizes teachers by reducing their jobs to nothing more than test scores.

There are research-proven ways to improve education, such as early childhood education, reduced class sizes for the students who need extra help, regular access to medical services for those who can’t afford it, and experienced teachers. These strategies have a solid research base.

Missouri should do what works, rather than investing many millions of dollars in proven failure.


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