Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Remember that the Los Angeles Times released the value-added ratings (made up by their own consultant) with the names of teachers in 2010?

 

Recently, the paper sued to get the ratings for three years-=-2009-2012. The LAUSD said it would release the ratings but not the names attached to them.

 

Yesterday a three-judge panel said the district did not need to release the names of the teachers with their ratings.

 

The public has no right to know the names of Los Angeles Unified School District teachers in connection with their job performance ratings, according to a court ruling issued Wednesday. In denying a request for disclosure by The Times, a three-judge state appellate court panel found that keeping the names confidential served a stronger public interest than releasing them. The panel overturned a lower court ruling ordering disclosure and rejected The Times’ assertion that the public interest of parents and others in knowing the ratings of identifiable teachers outweighed the interest in confidentiality.

 

Instead, the panel accepted L.A. school Supt. John Deasy’s contention that releasing the names would lead to resentment and jealousy among teachers, spur “unhealthy” comparisons among staff, cause some instructors to leave the nation’s second-largest school system, and interfere with teacher recruitment.

 

The judges said the specter of parents battling to place their children with the highest-performing teachers was of “particular concern.”

 

Is the rating based on test scores? Is it valid? Has anyone asked for the ratings of police or firefighters or other public employees?

 

Jim Ewert, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., said the ruling was “unbelievable” and that accepting “conjecture” as evidence to deny public disclosure was “without precedent.”

“How a speculative declaration can rise to the level of clearly outweighing the public interest in disclosure is a mystery to me,” he said.

The Times sought three years of district data, from 2009 through 2012, that show whether individual teachers helped or hurt students’ academic achievement, as measured by state standardized test scores. L.A. Unified has provided the data but without the teacher names or their schools.

Using a complex mathematical formula, the district aims to isolate a teacher’s effect on student growth by controlling for such outside factors as poverty and prior test scores. The district sought to use the analysis in teacher evaluations but was resisted by the teachers union, which called it unreliable.

The court did not rule on the validity of the analysis, known in L.A. Unified as Academic Growth Over Time.

The judges did find that the public might have a right to know the schools where the anonymous teachers worked. They sent that issue back to the lower court for consideration.

 

Think about it. The LA Times published the names and ratings of individual teachers in 2010. Can anyone honestly assert that this data release improved the schools? Did it mean that the schools hired better teachers or that parents chose better teachers?

 

This is a thicket into which Race to the Top has led us, as districts and states across the nation use “value-added assessment” to measure the unmeasurable. No one has figured out how to make it work, but people continue to believe in it as if it were a magic talisman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The word is getting out. Basing teacher evaluations on test scores is a sham. Or unpopular. Or junk science. Or Gates said not to do it.

 

Whatever the reason, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has announced that his state will cut back on the importance of test scores in evaluating teachers.

 

“Governor Christie announced the rollback Monday while ordering the creation of a commission to study the effectiveness and impact of all standardized tests given in the state.

The two actions came amid growing criticism of the new academic standards known as Common Core and the tests linked to them. Many parents have contended that too much testing is harmful to students. The teachers union has argued that the new exams have been rushed, that districts aren’t ready, and that it’s too soon to judge teachers on the results. Political conservatives — a key constituency for potential GOP presidential hopefuls like Christie — believe the standards are a federal intrusion in the classroom, and they have put pressure on governors to roll them back.

“This is an issue that is a national issue,” state Education Commissioner David Hespe said in an interview Monday. “We want to understand all the assessments that our children are taking. We want to know: Are they all necessary and can we do it better? I think the answer is yes.”

The rollback would minimize the impact of tests on teacher evaluations, making them worth 10 percent in the next school year instead of 30 percent. Their portion of teacher evaluations might increase to as much as 20 percent in the next two school years….

The New Jersey Education Association, which represents teachers, welcomed the compromise with the Christie administration.

“The NJEA believes this agreement is the best possible outcome, and it should lead to common-sense, research-based recommendations from the Study Commission,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the union.

He pointed to bills in the Senate and the Assembly that would delay the use of tests as teacher performance measures and to create a task force to examine the Common Core standards. Steinhauer said he believes the key reason for Christie’s concession was that the measure had wide public support, was overwhelmingly passed in the Assembly, and was poised to pass in the Senate — which could have forced a gubernatorial veto.

Steve Wollmer, communications director for the union, said the governor saw that the implementation would be a “train wreck” and could have led to greater problems.

In the practice rounds of testing this year, districts reported problems with technology. Parents feared that preparation for tests had dominated classroom instruction.

The commission created by Christie’s executive order will review the effectiveness of all K-12 tests used to assess student knowledge. The commission will look at volume, frequency and impact of student testing throughout New Jersey school districts.

Christie will appoint all nine commission members, who should have expertise or experience in education policy or administration, according to his order. The commission will issue an initial report with recommendations by Dec. 31, and a final report seven months later.

Hespe said the commission will check on whether tests can be used for multiple purposes and whether any are redundant.

Jean McTavish, a Ridgewood parent who had her children opt out of new standardized tests, said she remains skeptical of real change. She worried the tests led teachers to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test, and that liberal arts education was suffering as a result.

“Ultimately, I don’t think this is going to change much, but it’s a good thing people are going to learn more,” she said. “I anticipate this is going to be a long conversation about how best to educate our children.”

The task force will not review the effectiveness of the Common Core State Standards in general, as some critics had wanted. New Jersey adopted the standards in 2010 and was one of 44 states to do so.

The standards, developed with support from governors and business, created a uniform list of what students should learn in English and math by grade level. It was intended to raise standards and better prepare students for college. But controversy and complaints have prompted many states to pass laws in recent months to review or revoke standards.

Political conservatives have been among the harshest critics and have assailed Republicans who support the standards. Christie could face questions about his support for Common Core if he seeks the Republican Party nod for president.

In a press release, Christie touted his commitment to school spending, rigorous education and teacher effectiveness.

“Establishing this commission is just another step in ensuring we’re providing the best quality education possible to our students.”

 

Stephen Sawchuck did a good job reporting the heated debate about the Common Core standards at the AFT convention. The Chicago Teachers Union wanted to dump them. The head of the New York City United Federation of Teachers mocked the critics of the standards. One union official said that the critics represented the Tea Party. That’s pretty insulting to the Chicago Teachers Union and one-third of the AFT delegates, as well as people like Anthony Cody, Carol Burris, and me.

As far as I can tell, no one explained how states and districts will find the hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for hardware and software required for “the promise of Common Core.” Early estimates indicate that Pearson will have a contract of $1 billion to develop the PARCC tests. Who will pay Pearson? Who will be laid off? How large will class sizes go?

There were no Martians on the committee that wrote the Common Core standards, but there were also no classroom teachers, no early childhood teachers, no special education teachers. There were a number of testing experts.

Frankly the best and only hope for the future of these standards is that they are totally decoupled from testing. It is not likely to happen because doing so would deny the privatizers the data to prove that schools are failing and must be closed at once. That’s where the next big fight will occur.

Will they prepare all children for college and careers? Nobody knows. Will they help prepare our children for “global competition?” Not likely if the global competition works for $2 an hour for 18 hours a day under unsafe conditions.

The Common Core standards will never be national standards. They were developed in haste, paid for by one man (the guy is Seattle who thinks he knows everything), sold to the public via a slick PR campaign. They were never tried out. The tests connected to them are designed to fail most kids. Arne Duncan and Bill Gates thought they could pull a fast one and bypass democracy. Sorry, boys, you are wrong. Public education belongs to the public. Children belong to their parents. Neither public education nor children are for sale.

The Gates Foundation called for a two-year suspension of the high stakes evaluation of teachers–ratings and rankings tied to student scores—but not a moratorium on the testing. A reader writes:

“If there is a moratorium on the evaluations connected to the tests, then there is no point in continuing the tests either since the sole purpose of the tests was to attempt to measure growth for the purposes of the evaluations. The real reason the evaluations are being suspended is that there simply cannot be any remotely accurate growth measures to base them on while the CC$$ is being implemented. This moratorium is like saying we will suspend the use of nails but are still required to swing the hammers and hit the wood. And, once the CC$$ is being ramped up and many more teachers see it’s problems manifesting themselves, such as it being developmentally inappropriate for K-3, will the moratorium be extended while that and any other problems are being solved? How will they be solved, with the input of teachers as should have been the case from the beginning? Or not? Hard to say since it is a copy righted product.”

Mr. Anonymous, an education policy analyst who is working towards his doctorate, wrote the following cautionary story about the use and misuse of statistics for political purposes. He requires anonymity for the usual reasons, mostly fear of retaliation for speaking up.

He writes:

The Common Core and Departments of Education: Lies, Darn Lies, Statistics and Education Statistics

Numbers have taken center stage in the discussion of education policy in the United States. Test score metrics have become a particularly critical set of numbers. They are seen as objective measuring devices, comparable across years, that provide a reliable evaluation of how students, teachers, schools, districts, and the United States as whole are doing. But are they really objective?
The push for implementation of Common Core exams has caught the attention of the public. In New York State, as in many other states across the nation, questions have been raised about the motivations of those pushing for the roll-out of these exams and their use in high-stakes evaluations. As we will see below such concerns are definitely legitimate given the history of the New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents in setting cut-scores and changing exams in ways that serve political and other ends.

Let’s start with Biology, a standard course that almost every high school freshman takes. Remember dissecting that frog? In 2001 the New York State Department of Education changed the Biology Regents to a re-named “Living Environment.” A rather remarkable aspect of the change was the dramatic lowering of the passing score. In the Biology exam a student needed at least 59 points (out of a total of 85 possible points) to earn a passing grade of 65. On the new Living Environment Regents students need only 40 points (out of a total of 85 possible points) to earn a passing grade of 65. In some years (e.g. 2004) a student needed only 38 out of 85 points to earn a passing grade of 65.

The story repeats itself in mathematics. Until 2002 the New York State Department of Education required students to take a “Sequential Mathematics I” exam. That test had a total point value of 100 points. The conversion was simple enough, each point was equal to one point and a student needed 65 points to pass. Then, in 2002, the math exam was switched to a “Mathematics A” exam.

On this test students needed to score 35 out of a possible 84 points to earn a 65 and pass. Earning 42% of the possible points led to a 65. Then, in 2008, the math exam was switched again, this time to an “Integrated Algebra” exam. On this test students needed to earn 30 out of a possible 87 points to earn a 65 and pass. Earning 34% of the possible points now led to a 65.
The United States and Global History exams underwent similar changes at the turn of the millennium. Before the changes students were required to write 3 essays accounting for 45% of their final score. After the changes students were required to write only two essays accounting for only 35% of their final score. On one of the essays students are provided with extensive information they can use in their writing.

A couple of years later the exact same process occurred with the English Regents. In 2011 the New York State Department of Education changed the exam from a two part six hour test with two essays to a single part three hour test with only one essay. Again the cut scores were dramatically lowered. The scales on these two exams are very different making comparison difficult. One way to measure the change is to look at the grade a student would receive if s/he got exactly half the multiple choice questions correct and earned exactly half of the possible points on the essay(s). On the old English exam that student would have received a grade of 43. On the new English exam a grade of 50.

A year ago the New York State Department of Education changed things yet again. But this time they did not change the exam. They just changed the cut scores. From 2011 until 2013 out of 286 possible point combinations on the exam an average of 74 resulted in a passing grade. Then, in June of 2013, the number of point combinations leading to a passing grade was dramatically lowered by 23%. Since then an average of 63 point combinations out of 286 leads to a passing grade.

It is disturbing that this change occurred at the very moment when the test results would first be used to evaluate teachers. The research base shows that such value-added metrics are unreliable. For example a RAND report concluded “the research base is currently insufficient for us to recommend the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions.” A report out of Brown University concluded “the promise that value-added systems can provide such a precise, meaningful, and comprehensive picture is not supported by the data.” Nonetheless New York State passed laws requiring school districts to use test scores in teacher evaluations. Why, at the same time, did the Department of Education quietly change the cut scores on the English Regents? Is it an attempt to ensure that more teachers are rated ineffective? This would allow certain interest groups to declare the law a success and claim that “bad teachers” are now being identified and should be fired. Is it an attempt to create evidence that there is an epidemic of failing students in New York State? This would allow certain interest groups to proclaim that the crisis can only be solved if the new Common Core Standards are implemented without delay.

Advocates of the Common Core are either ignorant of or deliberately ignore this history. A decade ago New York State Department of Education decided that the high school graduation rate was too low. They therefore changed exams and cut scores to make them easier. The graduation rate went up. Now it seems that some powerful interests have decided that it is too easy to graduate. So they want the exams made harder and the passing cut scores raised. It is evident from the history reviewed above that playing with cut scores is not the way to improve education. After all that just leaves us in the very place we are in today. Yet we seem to be condemned to repeat this cycle all over again. We seem to be enamored of easy solutions. Make exams harder (or easier). Raise cut scores (or lower them). What we do not seem to be willing to do as a nation is roll up our sleeves and do the really, really hard work of ensuring that every student receives a quality education.

Olivia Chapman taught for five years in the public schools of the District of Columbia. Then she decided that her philosophy of education was diametrically opposed to the District’s demands. She resigned her position. Her letter of resignation was first posted on Rachel Levy’s blog, All Things Education.

When she resigned, she was asked what DCPS could have done to retain her. Her letter of resignation began like this:

“I truly don’t think that there is anything that you could have done to retain me in the district. Our educational philosophies do not align, specifically what those philosophies look like in action, not necessarily how they are written and presented. Although it would seem that your will and proclaimed dedication to educating all students and improving struggling schools are aligned to my own beliefs; stating your beliefs and acting on them can be extremely different.

“In my opinion and based on five years of experience in a struggling school (which I believe you now call a “40-40″ school), the actions that you have imposed that are supposed to be helping to educate all students and improve the education of underprivileged students are backfiring. I know some of your test scores are going up, but that means so little when morale decreases and discontent from the community, teachers and students increase. Additionally, student behavior continues to worsen as their teachers are “impacted out”, the students are over-tested and the constant change in leadership causes students to lose faith in anyone sticking around long enough to invest in their successes. Your standards are higher while our resources are lower and the teachers are less effective because of constant turnover and poor training programs (Yes, I am referring to Teach for America and DC Teaching Fellows).

“IMPACT and high stakes standardized testing are deteriorating education. I have enjoyed working with each and every one of my students, as challenging as some of them may be, but I can no longer participate in a system that is tearing them down, wasting their time and breaking their spirits. I can no longer participate in the rigid guidelines of IMPACT/Common Core/Standardized testing; it is not what my kids need or ever needed to be successful. Yes, they need quality teachers, learning standards and assessments-but the manner in which you have delivered these three essential components of education are not effective. I have been witness to this for five years. You can throw data and numbers at me all you want, but it is not working for my students nor my school, and I know I am not alone in stating this, especially in Ward 8. You have poured enormous amounts of money into IMPACT and testing and not nearly enough into professional development, technology or character education programs for students. We have lacked the supplies and trainings to properly implement Common Core for the last three years. Honestly, you can call the standards whatever you want, revise them, increase their “rigor”, do whatever you please; but until communities, families, parents and students are held accountable for their participation in education, none of this matters…”

Read on.

At the Vergara trial, a student identified one of her teachers as undeserving of tenure. She named Christine McLaughlin of Blair Middle School. Ms. McLaughlin had been selected as Pasadena Teacher of the Year. So which is she?

This reader writes:

“Here’s a video of one of the “grossly ineffective teachers” and “2013 Pasadena Teacher of the Year” named in this lawsuit (by her former student and plaintiff Raylene Monterroza):

Mind you, this above video was played during court, and Ms. Monterroza was questioned about how it felt to watch the video of students praising her “grossly ineffective teacher” (starting at 00:49). She replied that watching it was upsetting, and that those students must have been lying as that wasn’t Ms. Monterroza’s experience.

Hmmm…

Watch the “teacher of the year” video again, starting at 00:49, where the students give their opinion of the teachers.

Do these kids sound like they’re lying? Do the kids’ description of their teacher Ms. McLaughlin align with the criteria of the stereotypical “grossly ineffective teacher” that the Vergara legal team claims that Ms. McLaughlin is?

Again, this is a video portrait, as you see, celebrating and profiling Ms. McLaughlin’s award-winning teaching, as the “Rotary’s Pasadena 2013 Teacher of the Year.”

The student plaintiff, Ms. Raylene Monterroza, claimed in her testimony that those students in the video can’t be telling the truth, as it conflicts with her own experience. She said that watching that video prior to her testimony, “upset” her… as it included countless students contradicting her and the entire Vergara team’s claims that Ms. McLaughlin is… again… “a grossly ineffective teacher.”

Again, watch the video portrait of Ms. McLaughlin (who was also won the Pasadena NAACP’s “2008 Star of Education” award, by the way) and ask yourself…

So which is Ms. McLaughlin?

a deserving, multi-award-winning “Teacher of the Year”, praised to the hilt by countless students in the video?

OR

“a grossly ineffective teacher” according to JUST ONE student, and a teacher who taught the (Vergara plaintiff) Ms. Monterroza “nothing,” and thus destroyed Ms. Monterroza’s education?

“Indeed, this whole Vergara trial was like something out of Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” in China during the 1960′s. For those not acquainted with this, here’s primer: zealous students, under party leaders’ directions, would persecute their teachers. Kids would get their jollies as they put their teachers on a stage, put dunce caps on them, then screamed at them while forcing their teachers to bow their heads, kneel down, and confess their “crimes” and on and on…

These kids—appointed and empowered as “Red Guards” by Mao’s henchmen— would parade their former teachers through the streets…

Hey wait… there’s a scene from THE LAST EMPEROR that shows this way better than I could describe it…

Watch from: 01:19 – 04:19

(at which point—04:19—some female Red Guard students start performing an inane Commie “line dance” of sorts… creepy…)

At 02:45, watch “Pu Yi”—the former-Chinese-emperor-now-gardener—as he tries to stand up for his former teacher (for clarification: years ago, while Pu Yi’s was imprisoned, his teacher was referred to as “governor.”)

In response to Pu Yi, a teenage “Red Guard” zealot screams in his face:

“Join us (in the persecution of teachers), Comrade, or f— off!”

Next, the students force Pu Yi’s former teacher to his knees and demand that he “confess his crimes.” Amazingly, he refuses.

Pu Yi then chimes in, shouting:

“But he is a teacher! A good teacher! You cannot do this to him!”

… before Pu Yi is violently subdued by the student fanatics.

Anyway, this scene is all happening AGAIN, and it’s happening HERE in the Vergara case courtroom, and soon will in countless more “Vergara” courtrooms to come. It’s a less intense version, to be sure, but THE overall situation is the same:

we know we have kids—directed by and empowered by evil adults with an evil agenda—enthusiastically persecuting their innocent teachers.”

Ed Johnson is a longtime critic of test mania in Atlanta and in the nation. He was one of the few people who was not surprised when Atlanta’s nationally acclaimed superintendent Beverly Hall was ensnared in a cheating scandal. When test scores become the measure of everything, they assume far too much importance.

In this letter by Ed Johnson (posted on Audrey Beardsley’s blog VAMboozled), Johnson rips into Raj Chetty and his much-hyped touting of testing and VAM.

This is a terrific article by Steve Nelson. I wish I could republish it in full but that is not allowed.

He actually says that what is called reform is “a national delusion.”

He writes:

“As I watch the education “debate” in America I wonder if we have simply lost our minds. In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools, vouchers, testing, more testing, accountability, Common Core, value-added assessments, blaming teachers, blaming tenure, blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”

“None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in America’s international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.”

Read it!

His conclusion:

“Doing meaningful education with the most advantaged kids and ample resources is challenging enough with classes of 20. Doing meaningful work with children in communities we have decimated through greed and neglect might require classes of 10 or fewer. When will Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton Family, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan and other education reformers recommend that?

“No, that’s not forthcoming. Their solution is more iPads and trying to fatten up little Hansel and Gretel by weighing them more often. Pearson will make the scales.

“Only in contemporary America can a humanitarian crisis be just another way to make a buck.”

Stephanie Simon reports at politico.com that former high-level Obama advisors will help the fight against teacher unions and due process rights. Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor who is highly antagonistic to teachers’ unions, is creating an organization to pursue a Vergara-style lawsuit in New York against teachers’ job protections. Her campaign will have the public relations support of an agency led by Robert Gibbs, former Obama Press Secretary, and Ben LaBolt, former Obama campaign spokesman.

Simon writes:

“Teachers unions are girding for a tough fight to defend tenure laws against a coming blitz of lawsuits — and an all-out public relations campaign led by former aides to President Barack Obama.

“The Incite Agency, founded by former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs and former Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, will lead a national public relations drive to support a series of lawsuits aimed at challenging tenure, seniority and other job protections that teachers unions have defended ferociously. LaBolt and another former Obama aide, Jon Jones — the first digital strategist of the 2008 campaign — will take the lead role in the public relations initiative.”

Campbell Brown achieved a certain notoriety or renown for articles she wrote in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere insisting that the unions were protecting “sexual predators” in the classroom.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105,365 other followers