Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Before the elections, Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York offered legislation to defer high-stakes for teachers based on the new Common Core tests. However, he never pushed his own legislation, and it was never passed. Now, he says that he wants a new system because he is disappointed that so few teachers were found to be “ineffective.” Some of Cuomo’s campaign supporters–like the hedge-fund managers’ “Democrats for Education Reform”– want to see teacher evaluation toughened and more teachers fired. Cuomo also appears to believe that if students don’t get high and higher test scores, their teachers are to blame and must be held “accountable.” Most research on teacher evaluation shows that the largest impact on test scores is students’ home life–poverty, nutrition, health, and other factors that affect their motivation and opportunity to learn.


He focused on the relatively few teachers who earned the lowest ratings in the 2013-14 school year, calling out New York City in particular, where 7 percent earned a “developing” rating and 1.2 percent earned an “ineffective” rating. (Just 2.4 percent of teachers in the rest of the state earned one of those low ratings.)
“It is incredible to believe that is an accurate reflection of the state of education in New York,” Cuomo said. “I think everybody knows it doesn’t reflect reality,” he added.
Cuomo did not say what he would consider a more realistic distribution of the four ratings, though he said his vision is to “reward the high performers and give the low performers the help they need.” His comments were the latest indication that he will mount an aggressive charge to change the teacher evaluation law for a fourth consecutive year, this time to make it more difficult for districts to ensure teachers earn top ratings.
The state only determines 20 percent of a teacher’s final rating, leading to a patchwork of plans across the state’s roughly 700 school districts. Cuomo said the current law gave a “disproportionate amount of power” to teachers unions, whose approval is required on all district plans.

Leonie Haimson, leader of Class Size Matters and Student Privacy Matters, maintains a terrific, informative blog for Néw York City and state issues called Here she comments on the release of NYC teacher ratings based on state test scores. The bottom line in some of the reports shown below is that low test scores are caused by bad teachers, who are obviously ineffective. If every school had only “great” teachers, every student would have high scores. If only.

Leonie writes:

“8.2% of NYC teachers rated ineffective or developing, compared to 2.4% in the rest of state; meanwhile only 9.2% rated highly effective in NYC compared to 58.2% statewide.

“Tisch [chair of state Board of Regents] etc. say rest of state figures should be more like NYC, and call for re-design of system.

“Meanwhile Daily News editors — as dumb as ever — say NYC’s results don’t find enough ineffective teachers, considering “The results are absurd when roughly a third of city students pass state English and math tests.”

“They want the state to take away power of districts to design their own systems, fire teachers who are rated ineffective for 2 years in a row, and take more power away from principals to rate teachers highly whose students don’t score well on tests.

The New York Daily News editorial recommends:

One: Empower state, not local, officials to set the grades that will label teachers ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective.

Two: Get local districts out of the business of rating teachers using measures that are designed to boost subpar performers.

Three: Put teachers who are rated ineffective for two consecutive years in fire-at-will probationary status, rather than giving them access to hopelessly bureaucratic hearings.

Four: Ensure that a teacher whose students bomb tests cannot vault into a top rating because, for example, a principal gives a high mark for lesson planning.

Speaking of tests, improving education in New York will be one of the biggest Cuomo faces.

[My note:] What the Daily News wants is to eliminate due process (“hopelessly bureaucratic hearings”) so that teachers can be swiftly fired if scores don’t go up.

More reporting on the evaluations:

New York Post,
New York Times,
New York Daily News,
Capital New York (Pro),
Wall Street Journal,

Summary here:

by Jessica Bakeman, Eliza Shapiro and Conor Skelding

EVALS AS EVIDENCE—Education leaders use NYC scores as grist for statewide changes—Capital’s Jessica Bakeman and Eliza Shapiro: New York City’s evaluation of its teachers’ performance, which resulted in only 9 percent earning the highest scores under the state-mandated rating system, is more reliable than other districts’ and underscores the need for changes to ensure results aren’t artificially high, education leaders argued on Tuesday. In the rest of the state, 58 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective,” according to preliminary data released on Tuesday. That statistic is considered suspect, especially given students’ low scores on state exams, according to Board of Regents chancellor Merryl Tisch, outgoing education commissioner John King and education groups that have supported strict accountability measures for teachers and schools.

“There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated,” Tisch said in a statement. “The ratings from districts aren’t differentiating performance. We look forward to working with the Governor, Legislature, NYSUT, and other education stakeholders to strengthen the evaluation law in the coming legislative session.”

The education department report includes recommendations for how to improve the system. For example, if more than 75 percent of teachers or principals are rated “highly effective” or fewer than 5 percent are rated “ineffective” on the component of the evaluation system that is based on observations, the lead evaluators in that district should be retrained and an independent audit might be appropriate, the department recommended. [PRO]

—Despite the overall high scores, New York State United Teachers is calling into question the validity of the results. “On the whole, they may be spot on,” NYSUT president Karen Magee told Gannett’s Jon Campbell. “But for individual teachers, they can be spectacularly wrong—and that undermines confidence in the whole system.”

—At least 100 educators in Buffalo were erroneously rated “effective” or “highly effective” when their scores should have been lower, prompting a state probe. Buffalo News’ Sandra Tan:



Carol Burris, fearless leader of educators and parents opposed to test-based accountability in Néw York, here appraises the record of John King as state commissioner of education in Néw York.

King was appointed last week to be an “advisor” to Arne Duncan. He and Arne are on the same page in their zealous belief in standardized testing, Common Core, and evaluating educators by student scores.

King came to the job with three years of experience in a “no excuses” charter school. He listed his ambitious goals at the outset of his reign. Higher test scores, higher graduation rates, an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Burris demonstrates that he achieved none of his goals and alienated parents and educators with his top-down, tone-deaf approach.

Thanks to King, students in the class of 2022 will have a 30% graduation rate unless his successors reverse King’s policies.

On December 3, I engaged in conversation with Errol Louis of Néw York 1 and Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg Professor of Journalism at Baruch College.

The subject was “the uses and misuses of data in education.” If you have nothing better to do, you might enjoy watching.

New York State Commissioner of Education John King is stepping down to take a position with the U.S. Department of Education.

King encountered strong opposition from parents and educators for his strong advocacy of Common Core, high-stakes testing, and test-based evaluations of teachers and principals.

King’s own children attend a private Montessori school which does not believe in standardized testing.

Although news reports say he will take the #2 job at the U.S. Department of Education, that position is already filled by Ted Mitchell, Undersecretary of Education, who was recently confirmed.

This post was written by a lawyer who also earned an MAT in secondary education. Writing as a lawyer, informed by her Ed school experience, she says that Arne’s plan to punish education colleges if the students of their graduates don’t get high test scores is “asinine.”


She explains:


“Now, please bear with me. Out here in lawyer-land, there’s a slippery concept that every first year law student must wrap her head around: it’s the idea of distinguishing between actual (or “but for”) causation and proximate (or “legal”) causation. Actual causation is any one of a vast link in the chain of events from the world was created to Harold injured me by hitting me, that, at some level, whether direct or attenuated, “caused” my injury. For instance, Harold couldn’t have hit me if the world hadn’t been created, because if the world hadn’t been created, Harold wouldn’t exist (nor would I), and therefore I never would have been hit by Harold. So, if actual or “but for” causation was legally sufficient to hold someone responsible for an injury, I could try suing “the Creator,” as if the Creator is somehow at fault for Harold’s decision to hit me.


Well, that’s preposterous, even by lawyer standards, right?


The law agrees with you: the Creator is too far removed from the injury, and therefore cannot be held legally responsible for it.


So to commit a tort (legal wrong) against someone else, it isn’t sufficient that the wrong allegedly committed actually — at some attenuated level — caused the injured’s injury (i.e., that the injury would not have happened “but for” some cause). Instead, the wrong must also be proximally related to that injury: that is, there must be a close enough tie between the allegedly negligent or otherwise wrongful act and the injury that results. So while it would be silly to hold “the Creator” legally responsible for Harold hitting me, it would not be similarly silly to hold Harold responsible for hitting me. Harold’s act was not only an actual or “but for” cause of my injury, it was also an act closely enough related to my injury to confer legally liability onto Harold. This is what we lawyers call proximate (or legal) causation: that is, proximate causation is an act that is a close enough cause of the injury that it’s fair — at a basic, fundamental level — to hold the person who committed that injurious act legally responsible (i.e., liable to pay damages or otherwise make reparations) for his act. [As an aside to my aside, if this sort of reasoning makes your head explode, law school probably isn’t a great option for you.]


Well, it appears that Arne Duncan would have failed his torts class. You see, Arne didn’t get the memo regarding the distinction between actual causation and proximate causation. Instead, what Arne proposes is to hold teacher prep programs responsible for the performance of their alumni’s K-12 students (and to punish them if their alumni’s students don’t measure up). Never mind the myriad chains in the causation link between the program’s coursework and the performance of its graduates’ students (presumably on standardized tests). Arne Duncan somehow thinks that he can proximally — fairly — link these kids’ performance not just to their teachers (a dicey proposition on its own), but to their teachers’ prep programs. Apparently Arne can magically tease out all other factors, such as where an alumna teaches, what her students’ home lives are like, how her students’ socio-economic status affects their academic performance, the level of her students’ intrinsic motivation, as well as any issues in the new alumna’s personal life that might affect her performance in the classroom, and, of course, the level of support provided to the new alumna as a new teacher by her department and administration, and so forth. As any first year law student can tell you, Arne’s proposal is asinine, as the alumna’s student’s test results will be so far removed from her teaching program’s performance that ascribing proximate causation from the program to the children’s performance offends a reasonable person’s sense of justice. [Not to mention the perverse incentives this would create for teaching programs’ career advising centers — what teaching program would ever encourage a new teacher to take on a challenging teaching assignment?]”


But that isn’t all. She compares her experience in her education school to her experience in law school and says that the education courses were far more practical than the law school and did a better job preparing her for the real world.

Hah! This is what we have been waiting for! Economists are now borrowing from the education research literature to develop value-added metrics for physicians. Next, I hope, will be the development of VAMs for lawyers and soon you will hear the screams of outrage not only from the American Medical Association but the American Bar Association. With the economists figuring out metrics to measure these politically powerful professions, teachers won’t be alone in their battle against obsessive compulsive metrical disorder. If only someone would come up with VAM for elected officials! Better yet, how about a VAM for economists? For example, how often do their predictions about the economy come true?


Here is how you measure the value-added of physicians according to the link above from the National Bureau of Economic Research:


“Despite increasing calls for value-based payments, existing methodologies for determining physicians’ “value added” to patient health outcomes have important limitations. We incorporate methods from the value added literature in education research into a health care setting to present the first value added estimates of health care providers in the literature. Like teacher value added measures that calculate student test score gains, we estimate physician value added based on changes in health status during the course of a hospitalization. We then tie our measures of physician value added to patient outcomes, including length of hospital stay, total charges, health status at discharge, and readmission. The estimated value added varied substantially across physicians and was highly stable for individual physicians. Patients of physicians in the 75th versus 25th percentile of value added had, on average, shorter length of stay (4.76 vs 5.08 days), lower total costs ($17,811 vs $19,822) and higher discharge health status (8% of a standard deviation). Our findings provide evidence to support a new method of determining physician value added in the context of inpatient care that could have wide applicability across health care setting and in estimating value added of other health care providers (nurses, staff, etc).”

Peter Greene, high school English teacher in Pennsylvania, prolific blogger and humorist, decided to create “the big picture” of education reform. What’s it all about?

Peter writes:

“Why do we have these policies that don’t make sense? Why does it seem like this system is set up to make schools fail? Why do states pass these laws that discourage people from becoming teachers?

“My friends, colleagues and family ask these kinds of questions all the time. So my goal today is to step back and try to fit the pieces into the larger picture. If you have been paying attention, you already know this stuff, but perhaps this post will help someone you know who’s trying to make sense of reformsterdom. Here, then, is my attempt to show the big picture.”

Peter sees a convergence of two big ideas: one, the longing for centralized efficiency, with everyone from teachers to students doing the same things at the same time, orchestrated from above.

“To do that, we’d need to get every possible data source plugged in, and for the data to mean anything, we’d have to have all schools doing basically the exact same thing. Standards could be used to tag and organize every piece of data collected about every student. This suited people who see US education as a slapdash, sloppy, disorganized mess of many different schools doing many different things (this bothered them as much as your pictures hanging cockeyed in the den drive your OCD aunt crazy). But all of that would require massive planning and infrastructure far beyond what government could politically or financially manage.”

So in our day comes educational privatization, the chance to make money from the many billions spent on schools. What a serendipitous combination of socialism (government always knows best) and capitalism (people are motivated by money).

Common Core was key to merging these two big ideas:

“Well, yes, kind of, and Common Core was key. Get everybody on the same page, and everybody needs to buy the same books. Common Core was envisioned as a way to get everyone teaching the same stuff at the same time, and therefor content providers need only align themselves to one set of expectations. Instead of trying to sell to thousands of different markets, they could now sell to a thousand versions of the same basic standardized school district.

“The less obvious effect of the Core was to change the locus of educational expertise. Previously teachers were the educational experts, the people who were consulted and often made the final call on what materials to buy. But one message of the Core was that teachers were not the experts, both because they had failed so much before and because Common Core was such a piece of “high standards” jargon-encrusted mumbo jumbo that you needed an expert to explain it.

“Educational experts were no longer found in the classroom. Now they are in corporate offices. They are in government offices. Textbook creators now include “training” because your teachers won’t be able to figure out how to use teaching materials on their own. More importantly, teachers can no longer be trusted to create their own teaching materials (at least not unless their district has hired consultants to put them through extensive training).

“Meanwhile, testing programs, which would also double as curriculum outlines, were also corporate products (which require such expertise that teachers are not allowed to see or discuss their contents), and every school must test as part of an accountability system that will both force schools to follow the centralized efficiency program and label them as failures when their test scores are too low, as well as feeding data into the cradle-to-career pipeline.”

All that and more.

Since the announcement of Race to the Top, schools have become even more obsessed with test scores than they were under No Child Left Behind (which still exists in law). To be eligible to get a portion of Race to the Top’s $4.35 billion, states had to agree to evaluate their teachers to a significant degree by the test scores of their students. Later, when states needed waivers from NCLB’s mandate that every child must be proficient by 2014 or their schools would be labeled “failing,” Secretary Duncan made the waivers conditional on states’ agreement to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students. Unfortunately at the time the U.S. Department of Education insisted on what was known as “value-added-modeling” (VAM), testing experts did not agree that it was fair or reliable as a measure of teacher effectiveness. On October 5, 2009, the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council wrote a letter to Secretary Duncan warning him of the pitfalls and limitations of VAM. Secretary Duncan ignored their advice and their caution. So now the entire nation is ensnared in an unscientific, unproven method to evaluate teachers.



John Ogozolek, who teaches in upstate New York, developed an analogy to try to make sense of VAM evaluations:




The analogy I was using this past week involves home repairs. Imagine your house needs a new roof or a new bathroom or even a new foundation. But then some big multi-national construction corporation shows up with a scheme of its own -not only to fix what your house might need but to renovate the entire place, top to bottom. Plus, they’re here to “fix” every other home in town, too -with the EXACT SAME “PLAN”.


So, you’re trying to have a rational discussion with the foreman of this alleged construction crew then you hear a chainsaw kick on down the hallway. You run down there just as some guy starts ripping apart your kid’s bedroom furniture, splinters flying. You can barely hear what the smiling worker is saying over the din but you get the idea when he hands you your own chainsaw and motions for YOU to join in, too. What the hell is the plan, you scream. “We…don’t….have….one”, he yells back, “We’re building the plane as we’re flying it”




They are destroying your entire house. But, of course, it doesn’t really matter to them. If they burn down the town from one end to another, they’d only be happier. They don’t want you, they don’t want your house.


Their plan to renovate the world reminds me of the wacky “modern” architecture that leveled entire neighborhoods in cities 50 years ago and left us with mammoth housing projects….the urban “renewal” that ended up being worse than the tragic problems it sought to cure. It was all so much about science and “progress” back then, too, you know. I reread Tom Wolfe’s critique of modern architecture (“From Bauhaus to Our House”) a few years ago, when the Race to the Top crap first really hit the fan. How could such madness grip an entire culture and come to shape our world? I just had to shake my head…..yup, here we go again.


The statistical argument about VAM is great….it’s powerful……I’ve used it myself since reading about it on this blog. We should shout it from the rooftops. But I don’t think some of the people who are attacking public schools and destroying what goes on in our classrooms really care.


It’s like a good carpenter thinking about how to use a specific tool…..meanwhile a giant, smoke-belching excavator is sidling up on its greasy tracks, crushing whatever is in its way and swinging the good ole wrecking ball……

Peter Greene reports that the National Association of Secondary School Principals is reviewing and likely to endorse a statement rejecting VAM. The NASSP recognizes a growing body of research that shows the inaccuracy of VAM.

They cite the research, then offer recommendations:

“NASSP recommends that teacher eval include multiple measure, and that Peer Assistance and Review programs are the way to go. Teacher-constructed portfolios of student learning are also cool.

“VAMs should be used to fine tune programs and instructional methods as well as professional development on a building level, but they should not be “used to make key personnel decisions about individual teachers.” Principals should be trained in how to properly interpret and use VAMmy data.”

This is an important step forward, toward professional responsibilty and common sense.


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