Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Despite the lack of evidence for tying teacher evaluation to student test scores, despite the hundreds of millions spent to implement it without success, this is Arne Duncan’s line in the sand. He insists on mandated annual testing, because without it, his idea of teacher evaluation crashes. He doesn’t care that most teachers don’t teach tested subjects. It is not the annual tests he loves, it is the teacher grades based in annual test scores.

 

In this thoughtful article in Education Week, Alyson Klein explains the dilemma of states. They need an NCLB waiver, but to get it they must follow Duncan’s orders on teacher evaluation. If the new Congress reauthorizes NCLB, all of this might be swept away. So the US DOE is trying to lock states into plans that last until 2018, long after this administration is gone. Once Duncan is gone, most states will abandon his mandates if they can.

 

 

Klein writes:

 

 

Congress is moving full steam ahead on a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act that could undo nearly of the Obama administration’s K-12 policy priorities, including state goals for student achievement, dramatic school turnarounds, and evaluating teachers through test scores—and maybe even the tests themselves.

 

But, even the most optimistic prognosticators don’t expect the final legislation to make it across the finish line until the summer.

 

That means states with waivers from the No Child Left Behind law—42 plus the District of Columbia—will still have to negotiate the finer points of their accountability plans with the department for waiver renewals that could last through 2018-19, well beyond the end of the Obama administration.

 

Already states, including Texas and Maine, have been told they need to make changes to their teacher rating systems—or provide the department with much more information—before submitting their renewal applications at the end of March. Neither state’s waiver has been put on high risk status just yet. (More below.)

 

The administration, though, may be entering into the waiver-renewal process with a severely weakened hand, especially when it comes to holding states’ feet to the fire on the policy that seems nearest and dearest to its heart: crafting teacher evaluation systems that take state test scores into account, and align with the administration’s vision.

 

“I think there’s going to be so much state pushback on that that the department may have to be open to negotiations on what states put in for teacher evaluation,” said Terry Holiday, Kentucky’s education commissioner who, coincidentally enough, is testifying at a Senate NCLB reauthorization hearing on Tuesday on teacher quality…

 

What’s more, once the waivers are a thing of the past—either because NCLB has been reauthorized or because a new president has gotten rid of them—states aren’t likely to continue with teacher evaluation through outcomes on assessments, Holliday said.

 

I think we’d all quickly abandon all the work on tying teacher evaluation to test scores,” he said.

William Cala, superintendent of schools in Fairport, Néw York, wrote a scathing critique of Governor Cuomo’s plan to increase charter schools, fund “tax credits” for private and religious schools (vouchers), and increase the importance of test scores in teacher evaluations.

 

This is what he wrote:

 

Dr. Bill Cala
Superintendent, Fairport Central School District

 
Good Morning!
This week’s State of the State address by Governor Cuomo was what most of us expected. It was an all-out assault on public education, teachers, children, families and local control. It appears that breaking teachers is his solution to poverty, income inequality and inadequate school funding.
As we have experienced on a first-hand basis over the past few years, the APPR system is indeed a fatally flawed proxy for genuine evaluation done at the local level. The governor’s solution is to up the ante by increasing the tenure period to 5 years and making state test scores 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. Given the already bogus cut score setting process for the state exams, we are assured of a whole new wave of unreliable ratings designed to crush teachers, close schools and open the door to his other “reforms,” such as lifting the cap on charter schools and creating a tax credit for private schools and charters and increasing the amount the state gives charters per pupil. This last item of increasing charter aid is especially interesting as there are no strings attached. The regular public schools will only get an increase in aid if the legislature approves all of his draconian measures mentioned above. Two major studies have demonstrated with great clarity that charters perform worse than public schools and only 17% of charters perform equal or better to publics (CREDO 2013). Apparently, that’s fine….they get increases in spite of their failing performance.
Let’s be clear that the governor’s agenda has nothing to do with what is good for kids. Far from it. It is what is good for his financial supporters: the corporations who are making billions of dollars on the tests, the texts, the technology, the corporate professional development and the data collection, retrieval and distribution.
As this country gets poorer and poorer and the few get richer and richer the pride of our nation, its public schools, are being disassembled while Bill Gates, The Walton’s, The Koch Brothers, Eli Broad and other scavengers are feasting at the table of greed.
While the situation may seem hopeless, I believe parents are able to bring this tyranny to a screeching halt. Assessments should be used only for the benefit of students…..nothing else. Last year over 60,000 parents in New York refused the 3-8 tests. This year it is expect that number will triple. The refusal movement will indeed collapse the evaluation system and the governor’s plan to dismantle public education.
Parents will play a critical role. What role will we play? How will we speak out? This is our profession. These are our children. This is our responsibility.
Action and activism takes courage. Last week I spoke of my hero Rosa Parks. Let her courage and actions inspire us. I will close with the wisdom and inspiration of Frederick Douglass.
Where justice is denied; where poverty is enforced; where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress,; rob and degrade them; neither persons nor property will be safe.
Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.
Time to start plowing.
Peace,
Bill

Anthony Cody has been a persistent critic of the hubris of the Gates Foundation. Not long ago, he managed to get an agreement from the foundation to engage in a debate about the foundation’s agenda, what it is and what it should be. That debate became the basis for Cody’s recent book The Educator and the Oligarch. Cody wants the foundation to pay more attention to experienced educators, not so much to economists and theoreticians who don’t know much about the realities of classrooms today.

 

In this post, he holds out hope that the foundation might display a new humility because of the recently expressed views of its new CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman, who taught for two years in Uganda. She was quoted saying,

 

On a very practical level, that time in Uganda was a lesson about what it takes to work successfully in a different culture. “I learned about what it really takes to work at scale in a poor country. As a western academician, as a Gates Foundation person, the first thing you should be doing is listening and learning. And have a huge sense of humility about what you don’t know,” she said.

 

I googled Dr. Desmond-Hellman, and I must say, she has an extraordinarily impressive resume. I think her appointment signals that the Gates Foundation will review and increase its investments in public health, especially in impoverished nations.

 

It is not clear where she might take the foundation’s top-down, heavy-handed education agenda, which has so far produced no results and tremendous hostility towards the foundation. Bill Gates said in 2013 that “It would be great if our education stuff worked, but that we won’t know for probably a decade.” It seems that the many teachers and principals who have been fired, the wreckage caused by the foundation’s love of standardized testing and data, are simply collateral damage while Mr. Gates waits to figure out, a decade from now, whether “our education stuff” is working.

 

I am betting on Sue Desmond-Hellman. Something tells me that her life experience is broad enough and deep enough to warn her away from evidence-free experimentation with people’s lives. I may be wrong, but I will take a wait-and-see attitude and hope for the best. Sue, I’m counting on you.

The U. S. Department of Education is forcing Maine to use junk science for teacher evaluations. The legislature enacted a teacher evaluation program, but it was not tough enough for the Feds, says Politico.

“MAINE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Education officials in the Pine Tree State are warning that Maine could lose its No Child Left Behind waiver if the state legislature doesn’t take swift action to strengthen its teacher evaluations. The department has aligned itself with the feds in insisting that students’ performance on state assessments be a significant factor in teacher ratings. But the legislature has sided with teachers unions in demanding a more flexible framework. Its rules do call for evaluations to include measures of student learning. But those measures don’t have to incorporate state test scores. Instead, local committees made up mostly of teachers can come up with their own metrics (within certain parameters), such as students with disabilities’ progress toward IEP goals.

– That’s not good enough, Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle told Maine officials in a letter late last year. After multiple conversations with Delisle’s team, state officials have drafted a bill that they say would meet federal expectations standards and save Maine’s waiver. But it’s far from clear that the legislature will go along. In a recent blog post, state Rep. Brian Hubbell, a Democrat, wrote that federal concerns “may be addressed more productively simply by clarifying Maine’s process.” Delisle’s letter: http://politico.pro/1yHOZpf.

“- Even as debate unfolds in Congress about repealing NCLB, Maine officials say they’re determined to renew their waiver to ensure stability for schools. “It puts departments like ours in a frustrating position when we know what the feds expect and spend months and even years putting aligned systems in place, only to have our legislature – often under great pressure from the teachers union – insist on watering those down in the 11th hour,” department spokeswoman Samantha Warren said.”

Steve Cohen, superintendent of schools in Shoreham-Wading River (NY), wrote a column in Ling Island newspapers criticizing the state’s heavy-handed method of mandating change.

For his courage in speaking truth to power, I add Superintendent Steve Cohen to the blig’s honor roll.

Cohen points to a letter from Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Néw York State Board of Regents, to Governor Cuomo’s representative, outlining her goals.

He writes:

“What’s striking in Ms. Tisch’s recommendations to the governor is the unstated proposition that there is a big difference between public education and state education, and that state education is far superior. From the chancellor’s point of view, public education hasn’t just failed poor, black and Hispanic children the most, but has somehow even failed kids in Great Neck, Jericho, Scarsdale and Garden City — even though many of them go on to the best universities in the nation.

“The remedy? State education.

“Public education is an old and very familiar institution. To be sure, school districts get their authority from New York State. But despite state guidance, school boards, and the administrators and teachers who work for these boards, have broad latitude to define curriculum and instruction.

“These boards and the superintendents they hire have authority over hiring and evaluating teachers and principals. The boards have a duty to propose a spending plan every year to district voters. Public education, in short, means “local control.”

“Public education is democracy in action. It has all the virtues and vices of our form of self-government. This democratic system has worked well in many districts, especially in those whose residents are relatively wealthy and thus able to afford the resources commonly found in thriving schools.

“But in poorer districts, and especially in large cities, democratic “local” control of education has not worked as well as we would all wish. The state Legislature has wrestled with this problem for generations and, in fact, is now under a Court of Appeals order to address fiscal inequities among districts.

“Public education is a complex, immense, difficult institution. Poverty and wealth more than anything tend to determine the outcome of its efforts.

“But it’s also among our most democratic institutions.

“Ms. Tisch, most of her non-elected colleagues and our current governor, however, seem to have arrived at the conclusion that local control of education does not, and cannot, work.”

“Now comes the chancellor’s suggestions that locally elected school boards should no longer have control over determining whether teachers and principals do a good job and that all teachers and principals who do not meet the state’s standard of successful teaching or supervising two years in a row must lose their jobs.

“Chancellor Tisch suggests that the content all children must learn and the methods teachers must use to teach that content will be determined by the state, not local residents in accord with professional educators, acting through democratically elected school board members. She suggests that charter schools, over which local residents have little if any control, would be completely free to flourish (or not!) and to replace democratically run local schools….

“So the non-elected chancellor and the current governor believe local control of education has failed. The great experiment is dead. What will take its place is a technocratic process so complex that it is almost impossible for parents, residents and educators to understand — much less embrace.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his State of the State message today that he wants teacher evaluations to be based 50% test scores, 50% observation. Any teacher “ineffective” in raising test scores will be found no better than “developing” regardless of observation scores. Any teacher rated ineffective two years in a row may be fired.

“According to a book outlining Cuomo’s policy and budget speech on Wednesday, the governor will propose a “simplified and standardized” evaluation system that rates teachers 50 percent on state test scores (or a comparable measure of student growth for teachers in subjects that are not tested) and 50 percent on observations.

“Rather than being locally negotiated, the “scoring bands” for both components would be set at the state level under the proposal, and if a teacher is rated “ineffective” on either portion, he or she may not get a score higher than “developing” overall. (The ratings are assigned on a scale of “ineffective,” “developing,” “effective” and “highly effective.” Two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could be grounds for termination.)

“Cuomo’s plan calls for at least two observations, one of which would be conducted by an “independent observer,” which could be a principal or administrator from within or outside the school district, a SUNY or CUNY professor or “trained independent evaluator” from a list to be provided by the State Education Department.”

Cuomo’s staff evidently did not read the American Statistical Association statement on value-added models. It says:

As I wrote in an earlier post,

“Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.” The ASA points out: “This is not saying that teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum, and unmeasured influences.”

“As many education researchers have explained–including a joint statement by the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education– the VAM ratings of those who teach children with disabilities and English language learners will be low, because these children have greater learning challenges than their peers, as will the ratings of those who teach gifted students, because the latter group has already reached a ceiling. Those two groups, like the ASA agreed that test scores are affected by many factors besides the teacher, not only the family, but the school’s leadership, its resources, class size, curriculum, as well as the student’s motivation, attendance, and health. Yet the Obama administration and most of our states are holding teachers alone accountable for student test scores.

“The ASA warns that the current heavy reliance on VAMs for high-stakes testing and their simplistic interpretation may have negative effects on the quality of education. There will surely be unintended consequences, such as a diminishment in the number of people willing to become teachers in an environment where “quality” is so crudely measured. There will assuredly be more teaching to the test.. With the Obama administration’s demand for VAM, “more classroom time might be spent on test preparation and on specific content from the test at the exclusion of content that may lead to better long-term learning gains or motivation for students. Certain schools may be hard to staff if there is a perception that it is harder for teachers to achieve good VAM scores when working in them. Over-reliance on VAM scores may foster a competitive environment, discouraging collaboration and efforts to improve the educational system as a whole.”

.

The Los Angeles Times reports a new survey of 26 school districts showing that many of them are not complying with state law that requires them to evaluate teachers in part by student test scores. Apparently, the district leadership knows this is a flawed and invalid means of judging teacher quality.

 

Teresa Watanabe writes:

 

The review of 26 school districts serving more than 1.2 million students found that only Clovis Unified near Fresno and Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista fully complied with the law. Two others, Upland Unified in the Inland Empire and San Ramon Valley Unified in Contra Costa County, were “blatantly in violation” of the law by expressly prohibiting the use of state standardized test scores in their teacher evaluations, the study said. The findings were disputed by both districts.

 

The other school systems surveyed — which included Long Beach, San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco — offered mixed findings, according to the study conducted by the EdVoice Institute for Research and Education, an educational advocacy organization in Sacramento.

 

Los Angeles Unified School District is still writing its method for evaluating teachers, in response to a court order telling the district to do it (even though most researchers have said it is invalid).

 

This is a big problem for “reformers,” constantly having to litigate against states and districts to force them to comply with invalid measures and policies that have negative consequences for students and teachers alike.

Stephanie Jones of the Univetsity of Georgia wonders what would happen if the federal government mandated that doctors be evaluated by the longevity of their patients. Those who choose to practice in low-income communities would get lower scores than those who practice in affluent communities. (So would oncologists and heart surgeons, as compared to dermatologists.)

What if evaluations got even more far-fetched by rating medical schools by the longevity of the patients of the doctors they prepared?

Yet this is the absurd mandate that the U.S. Department of Education is planning for colleges of education.

Jones writes:

“The era of testing has failed miserably, but we can only begin undoing the damage and rebuilding our K-12 students’ and families’ trust in and value from public education when we call it quits on high-stakes testing.

“If teachers don’t impact standardized test scores very much, what do they impact? Lives, motivation, understanding of content and concepts, non-standardized tests, grades, students’ willingness to learn, creativity, critical thinking, crucial skills for communication in the 21st century, and the ability for children and young people to see themselves as powerful actors in the world around them.

“So why would policymakers want to keep high-stakes testing in place – and furthermore – to embed it in the very fabric of the entire education system from kindergarten through university teacher education?

“Perhaps pride is getting in the way. It must be terribly difficult to admit that billions of dollars have been given to corporations, millions of children have been retained and put at further risk of dropping out of high school, high school students have been denied diplomas, teachers have been punished, schools have been taken over, others have been closed, communities have been ripped apart, education has narrowed to test preparation, and parents and children have been absolutely tormented because a small group of people insist – against all evidence – that high-stakes testing is valuable.

“Please, policymakers, don’t make the mistake of pinning Colleges of Education against the wall with test scores, and release the pressure from K-12 schools so they can implement the learning-focused instructional approaches they have learned in their teacher preparation programs.
Just take a deep breath and whisper “mea culpa” so we can join together as allies in the disaster relief effort.”

Veteran educator Arnold Dodge warns that the corporate reform movement, led by the U.S. Department of Education, threatens democracy and creativity. In its quest for data and standardization, the DOE will crush imagination and innovation. Standardized tests reward right answers, not original thought.

Not content to standardize children and their teachers, the DOE now wants to control teacher education by collecting test scores of students and linking them to the institutions that prepared their teachers. Test scores above all!

Dodge quotes John Dewey, who wrote:

“”Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked.”

“Lack of the free and equitable intercourse which springs from a variety of shared interests makes intellectual stimulation unbalanced. Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought.””

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, one of the nation’s leading researchers of VAM, says Néw York is going from bad to idiotic in doubling the importance of test scores in teacher and principal evaluations.

The chair of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, and Governor Cuomo are “pushing for a system in which these scores would “trump all,” and in which a teacher rated as ineffective in the growth score portion would be rated ineffective overall. A teacher with two ineffective ratings would “not return to the classroom.”

This is not only “going from bad to worse,” says Amrein-Beardsley, but going from bad to idiotic.

All of this is happending despite the research studies that, by this point, should have literally buried such policy initiatives. Many of these research studies are highlighted on this blog here, here, here, and here, and are also summarized in two position statements on value-added models (VAMs) released by the American Statistical Association last April (to read about their top 10 concerns/warnings, click here) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) last month (to read about their top 6 concerns/warnings, click here).

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