Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

In this interview with Peter Cunningham, EduShyster gains his insights into the current thinking of the billionaire reformers.

 

Peter Cunningham was Arne Duncan’s communications director during Duncan’s first term. In Washington, he was known as “Arne’s Brain.” He is smart, charming, and well-spoken. So far as I know, he was never a teacher, but that is not a qualification these days for holding strong views about fixing the public schools. Cunningham is now back in Chicago. He started a blog called “Education Post,” which was funded with $12 million from the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and an anonymous philanthropy. Its goal, proclaimed at the outset, was to introduce a more civil tone into education debates and to advance certain ideas: “K-12 academic standards, high-quality charter schools, and how best to hold teachers and schools accountable for educating students.” Translated, that means it supports Common Core standards, charter schools, and high-stakes testing for teachers, as well as school closings based on testing.

 

You might say it is on the other side of almost every issue covered in this blog, as Ed Post praises “no-excuses” charter schools, standardized testing, Teach for America, and other corporate-style reforms.

 

EduShyster asked Cunningham if he feels the blog is succeeding, and he cites Nicholas Kristof’s recent column–admitting the failure of most reform efforts and the need to focus on early childhood programs–as an example of progress. When she pressed him about his “metrics” for “betterness,” he replies:

 

Cunningham: I think that an awful lot of people on the reform side of the fence are thrilled by what we’re doing. They really feel like *thank God somebody is standing up for us when we get attacked* and *thank God somebody is willing to call out people when they say things that are obviously false or that we think are false.* When I was asked to create this organization—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone.

 

EduShyster: That expression you see on my face is incredulity. But please go on sir. I want to hear more about the isolation and alone-ness of people pushing reform. How they are faring today?

 

Cunningham: Take Kevin Huffman. Now you can disagree with him on policy, but he felt like people were waking up everyday and just attacking him on social media. He tried to respond, and he just felt like it didn’t matter. By 2012-2013, Team Status Quo—your label not mine—was very effectively calling a lot of reform ideas into question. I mean look around the country. Huffman’s gone, John King is gone, John Deasy is gone, Michelle Rhee is gone. I’ve created the ability to swarm, because everyone felt like they were being swarmed. We now have people who will, when asked, lean in on the debate, when people feel like they’re just under siege.

 

There is much in this interview that is fascinating, but most interesting to me is that the billionaires, who have unlimited resources were “feeling isolated and alone.” They felt they were “being piled on and that no one would come to their defense.” They needed to hire bloggers to defend them.

 

This is indicative, I think, of the fact that social media is very powerful, and those who oppose the “reformers” own social media. The pro-public education voices are in the millions–millions of teachers, principals, parents, and students. The billionaire reformers hire thousands. Whether you consider the more than 200 bloggers who are part of the Education Bloggers Network, which advocates for public education, or consider Twitter and Facebook, the critics of billionaire-backed reform and privatization are many, are outspoken, and command a huge forum. No wonder the billionaires are feeling lonely and isolated. They can create astroturf organizations like StudentsFirst, Education Reform Now, 50CAN, TeachPlus, Educators4Excellence, and dozens more groups, but it is typically the same people running a small number of organizations and issuing press releases.

 

Is it time to feel sorry for the billionaires?

 

Be sure to read the comments that follow the interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a curious turn of events. Just as the federal government is forcing schools across the nation to evaluate and rank teachers using dubious metrics, corporations are beginning to back away from simplistic performance measures. The change reflects the philosophy of business guru W. Edwards Deming, who staunchly opposed merit pay and rankings, on grounds that they demoralized employees and made for a less efficient workplace.

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The Trouble With Grading Employees

Performance ratings such as ‘meets expectations’ sap workers’ morale,
but firms aren’t sure they can do without them

Can a year’s worth of work be boiled down to a stock phrase like
“meets expectations”?

As companies reinvent management by slashing layers of hierarchy or
freeing workers to set their own schedules, performance ratings—which
grade workers on a 1-5 scale or with labels like “on
target”—stubbornly hang on. Companies like Gap Inc.,Adobe Systems
Inc.and Microsoft Corp. abolished such ratings after leaders decided
they deterred collaboration and stoked staffers’ anxieties. Yet other
companies are having a harder time letting go.

Intel Corp. has long rated and ranked its approximately 105,000
workers on a four-level scale, from “outstanding” to “improvement
required.” Devra Johnson, a human-resources director at the chip
maker, observed that ratings tended to deflate morale in a good chunk
of the 70% of the company’s workforce that receives a “successful”
rating each year—the second-lowest label.

“We’d call them the walking wounded,” she said.

Human-resources managers conducted an experiment to test a new way of
managing performance, allowing 1,700 workers in the HR department to
go unrated, although not without feedback, for about two years,
according to Ms. Johnson.

Managers found they could still differentiate performance and
distribute compensation. However, when Ms. Johnson’s team presented
its findings, company executives weren’t ready to give the labels up,
concerned that forgoing ratings would suck healthy tension out of the
workplace, she said. So the HR department started rating the employees
in the experiment again….

Marc Farrugia, the vice president for human resources at Sun
Communities Inc., is going through the “exhausting” process of
revamping performance management at the owner and operator of
manufactured housing communities. He’s concerned about the accuracy of
the company’s current approach to ratings; some managers just dole out
higher scores in order to maximize bonuses for employees they’re
scared might leave; others give everyone average ratings because it is
easy. Workers complain the ratings aren’t fair and don’t paint a true
picture of their annual performance.

“I’m being more and more convinced that ratings are doing more harm
than good,” Mr. Farrugia said….

Some executives worry that figuring performance measures, such as the
time it takes for restaurant workers to take an order, into reviews
might lack context.

“I have a real love-hate relationship with data,” said Kevin Reddy,the
CEO of fast-casual restaurant chain Noodles & Co. “You can get a false
sense of security if you zero in too closely on a rating system.”

The company moved away from numeric ratings about seven years ago but
still places workers into broad categories like “meets expectations.”
Mr. Reddy said he and his leadership team continue to question whether
they’re doing feedback right and motivating employees.

Jean Martin, a director at research and advisory firm Corporate
Executive Board who works with companies on performance management
systems, said executives are “giving the numbers too much power” by
endlessly debating their worth. An analysis of 30,000 employees by her
organization shows ratings don’t have a direct impact on performance,
she said.

Others say they have evidence showing that workers contribute less
after receiving a poor rating. David Rock, the director of the
NeuroLeadership Institute, a research firm that applies neuroscience
to the workplace, said ratings conjure a “threat response” in workers,
or “a sensation of danger,” especially if they don’t get the number
they expect. And the hangover from a bad rating can last for months,
Dr. Rock said….

Companies that have gotten rid of ratings say their employees feel
better about their jobs, and actually listen to managers’ feedback
instead of obsessing over a number. John Ritchie, a Microsoft
human-resources executive who goes by “J,” said the technology
company’s practice of rating and ranking employees discouraged
risk-taking and collaboration; since discontinuing the practice in
late 2013, teamwork is up, he said.

The internal change mirrors the shift CEO Satya Nadella is working to
effect externally, charming and collaborating with startups and
venture-capital firms so that Microsoft doesn’t get left behind in the
increasingly heterogeneous world of technology.

“We needed to change and everybody knew it,” Mr. Ritchie said of the
new performance management system.

The Gap’s new approach dumps ratings in favor of monthly coaching
sessions and frequent employee-manager conversations. But HR
executives had to convince leaders that the move wasn’t
“sacrilegious,” according to Eric Severson, the company’s co-head of
human resources.

Holly Bonds, a 17-year veteran of the company, said it was strange at
first; she was used to scanning her review for her rating and bonus
number. She now talks more frequently with her manager, so she has a
better idea of where she stands, a process that she’s found less
stressful than worrying about her rating.

“I haven’t missed it,” she said.

Write to Rachel Feintzeig at rachel.feintzeig@wsj.com

New York State education officials released data showing that the top-rated teachers, based on student test scores, are less likely to work in schools enrolling black and Hispanic students.

Did State Education Department officials read the VAM reports showing that VAM is statistically flawed as a measure of individual teachers? Are they aware that less than 20% of black and Hispanic students met the absurd passing mark on the state’s Common Core test for the past two years? Are they aware that test-based accountability discourages teachers from working in high-needs schools? Interesting that the article cites the leader of Michelle Rhee’s organization, TNTP (the Néw Teacher Project), whose goal is to replace experienced teachers with new hires. At the rate these so-called reforms are accepted as credible (despite evidence to the contrary), TNTP will be able to place millions of new hires.

Andrew Cuomo can put one notch on his belt. Carol Burris is stepping down. He better have a very big belt because his hatred for teachers eill drive out many from the profession. who will replace? Does he care? The much-honored principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center decided to retire early because of Cuomo’s punitive law. Morally and ethically, she could not continue to work in the environment he has created.

She said:

“We are now turning our backs on the very experiences that build on our children’s natural strengths in order to pursue higher test scores in this era of corporate reform. We have become blind to indicators of quality that can’t be demonstrated on a scan sheet.

“The opinions of billionaires and millionaires who send their own children to private schools awash in the arts hold more sway than those of us who have dedicated our lives to teaching children. In the words of our chancellor [Merryl Tisch], we who object are “noise.”

“Much to the dismay of Albany, the noise level is on the rise since the passage of a new teacher evaluation system that elevates the role of testing. I am not sure why I was shocked when the legislature actually adopted the nonsensical evaluation plan designed by a governor who is determined to break the spirit of teachers, but I was. What is even more shocking is the legislature’s refusal to admit what they did, which was to create a system in which 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on test scores. Whether that denial comes from ignorance or willful deceit doesn’t matter. It is inexcusable.

“What will happen to our profession is not hard to predict. Since the state has generated student “growth” scores, the scores of 7 percent of all elementary and middle school principals are labeled ineffective. Likewise, 6-7 percent of Grades 4-8 teachers of English Language Arts and math received ineffective growth scores. That is because the metrics of the system produce a curve.

“Based on the law, we know before even one test is given that at least 7 percent of teachers and principals, regardless of their supervisors’ opinion, will need to be on an improvement plan. They will be labeled either developing or ineffective. We have no idea what growth scores for high school teachers and teachers of the arts will look like — that has been, in the words of Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, “punted” to a State Education Department. Yes, they [state lawmakers] have turned the football over to the folks whom they publicly berate for the botched rollout of the Common Core.

“Well, the legislature has woken a sleeping giant. Around the state today parents are saying “no more.” The robust opt-out movement, which began on Long Island, has now spread across rural and suburban areas in upstate New York as well. Over 75 percent of the students in Allendale Elementary School in West Seneca refused the Common Core tests today. In the Dolgeville district, the number is 88 percent. Over 70 percent of the students in the Icabod Crane Elementary and Middle School refused. On Long Island, 82 percent of Comsewogue students, 68 percent of Patchogue Medford students and 61 percent of Rockville Centre students opted out of the tests. And that is but a sample.

“This is happening because the bond between students and teachers is understood and valued by the parents we serve. They have no stomach for the inevitable increased pressures of testing. Through opt out, they are speaking loud and clear.”

“She is not going away. She was already a leader in the battle against corporate reform. She has written many posts for Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post. She will write more. Now she is joining the fight to save children and public education from corporate raiders full-time. Hers will be an experienced, wise voice in the fight for democratic public education.

The resounding success of the opt out movement in Néw York state prompted a state senator to introduce a bill to exempt the highest-performing districts from Governor Cuomo’s test-based teacher evaluation plan.

Presumably the advocates of the plan hope to take the steam out of the opt out movement. Divide and conquer. Apparently high-stakes will be for the middle class and the poor, not the affluent high-performing districts.

Call it segregated testing. None for the rich. Only for peons.

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, an attorney who represents public schools in education matters, including testing and special education—and is currently working to reform special education—posted this comment. Her website is http://www.schoollawpro.com.

 

Can we really use student tests to measure teacher effectiveness?

 

Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, M.A., J.D.

 

This is the year! Tests related to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are launching across our country. They are designed to measure how well students are learning the CCSS. Meanwhile, some states, with federal encouragement, plan to use them also to measure teacher effectiveness. Is this use valid?

 

There is no shortage of controversy about educational testing and, unfortunately, this controversy includes the opportunity to file lawsuits. The use of student achievement data to also evaluate teacher effectiveness is certainly controversial. Notably, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, gave states a year’s reprieve on implementing this practice. Across the country, teacher unions have called it unfair. My concern is far more basic. It’s about validity.

 

As an attorney who has represented public schools for more than 30 years, I am concerned about this multipurpose use. It may not get us what we need—a valid, reliable, fair, trusted, and transparent accountability system. The tests at issue include the PARCC and SBAC, two multi-state consortia that are funded by the U. S. Department of Education and private funders. They were charged with developing an assessment system aligned to the CCSS by the 2014-15 school year.

 

At last count, these consortia have 27 states and the District of Columbia signed up— affecting 42% of U.S. students according to Education Week.
The media remind us constantly that our ‘failing’ schools need fixing; that, to do so, we should assess student skills and knowledge to help teachers improve instruction; that we also need to evaluate and rate teachers and weed out poor performers. And we are told that these tests can be multipurposed to do all of the above!

 

Sounds good? Actually, it sounds too good to be true. Does this multipurpose use to evaluate teacher effectiveness clear a key psychometric hurdle: test validity?

 

What is test validity?

 

At its core, it is the basic, bedrock requirement that a test measure what it is designed to measure. Thus, if a test is designed to measure how well 3rd graders decode, we judge the test according to how well it does that. Can students decode? If it is designed to be predictive; say, to measure if students are ‘on track’ or progressing toward college or career-readiness, we judge it accordingly. Either way, we must ask if a test whose purpose is to measure what students learn or whether they are ‘on track’ can also be used to measure something else—such as how well teachers teach?

 

So what are these tests’ purposes? For answers, let’s review the PARCC and SBAC websites. First PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers:

 

PARCC is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers. These high quality, computer-based K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy give teachers, schools, students, and parents better information whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.

 

PARCC is based on the core belief that assessment should work as a tool for enhancing teaching and learning. Because the assessments are aligned with the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards, they ensure that every child is on a path to college and career readiness by measuring what students should know at each grade level. They will also provide parents and teachers with timely information to identify students who may be falling behind and need extra help. [Emphasis added]

 

Second, the SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium:

 

The [SBAC] is a state-led consortium working to develop next-generation assessments that accurately measure student progress toward college- and career-readiness. Smarter Balanced is one of two multistate consortia awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 to develop an assessment system aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)by the 2014-15 school year.

 

The work of Smarter Balanced is guided by the belief that a high-quality assessment system can provide information and tools for teachers and schools to improve instruction and help students succeed – regardless of disability, language or subgroup.

 

Smarter Balanced involves experienced educators, researchers, state and local policymakers and community groups working together in a transparent and consensus-driven process. [Emphasis added]

 

Clearly, these tests’ purpose is to (a) measure student progress on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and college or career readiness, (b) give teachers and parents better information about students, and (c) help improve instruction. No mention is made of gauging teacher effectiveness.

 

Yet, questions about the validity of using these tests in this multipurpose way seem to be missing from national discussions, even as other validity issues are raised. For example, questions are raised about score validity when tests are administered in different ways (on a computer or with paper and pencil) and at different times of the year.

 

Also discussed are questions about whether these tests are aligned to the CCSS. The media reports battles among states, unions, and others about how to measure teacher effectiveness through these tests; e.g., through value-added models, student growth percentages, or other approaches. But, questions of basic test validity from the get-go about this multipurpose use of these tests are not part of today’s public discourse.

 

They should be.

 

If we continue on this track of creating high stakes for teachers with tests designed for a different purpose, we may well end up with unintended consequences, including distrust of the system, questionable accountability, and lawsuits.

 

My suggestion? Given the reprieve for states and growing concern among the public about these tests and the CCSS themselves, test consortia and our federal and state governments should take a deep breath and do two things.

 

First, the consortia should remind the public that the purpose of these tests is to measure student achievement on the new CCSS and career and college readiness, provide better information to teachers and parents, and improve instruction.

 

Second, the states (with federal approval and encouragement) that intend to use these results also to evaluate teacher effectiveness must inform the public explicitly about how they intend to validate the tests for this new purpose. They need to provide solid proof that their proposed use, which differs from the stated purpose of these tests, is valid, reliable, and fair. The current silence is worrisome, not transparent, and unwise.

 

This test validity issue needs to be fully aired and resolved satisfactorily before we can begin to tackle the larger issues about the multiple uses of testing. Otherwise, in our litigious land of opportunity, the ensuing battles may be costly and not pretty. Let’s not go there.

Patricia Fahy, a member of the Néw York State Assembly, tries to explain her vote on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget bill. The worst part of the budget, she knew, was his demand to make 50% of teachers’ evaluations dependent on test scores. If no budget passed, Cuomo could impose his plan by fiat. Democracy, anyone?

The Assembly got the Governor to agree to allow the state Board of Regents to make the final determination on teacher evaluation, although they still must rely on an “independent evaluator” (an unfunded mandate) and test scores. Fahy refers to the Regents as “education professionals.” That is true of some, not all, of the Regents.

Readers in Néw York, how many Regents are “education professionals,” people who have had careers in education? To the credit of the Assembly, they recently elected four new members who are education professionals. In the past, that has not been a requisite. (Several years ago, my name was suggested as a candidate for the Regents. I talked to elected officials in Brooklyn, and they encouraged me to meet with the Speaker of the Assembly, whose word was determinative. Accompanied by an elected official, I was interviewed by Speaker Sheldon Silver’s top assistant. After half an hour of questions, she told me I knew too much to be a Regent. Unbelievable but true.)

From Fahy’s article:

 

“In the final few days of the budget negotiations, the most contentious part was the teacher evaluations (APPR) linked with excessive testing – an issue which has been debated for the last three out of four years in the legislature. I had and continue to have serious misgivings about this final bill language and have been actively advocating to ensure the most flexible interpretation of the language along with amendments where needed. While the language was troubling and rushed, one positive was delegating the evaluation issue away from the legislature and the Governor to the Board of Regents, who are the appointed education professionals. Despite having strongly opposed some of the previous work of the Regents with regard to testing and implementation of the common core standards, we have a slate of new Regents, who have been given parameters to work within.

 

“We need to change the conversation about education. We can no longer look at the very people who can help our children – our teachers – as the scapegoats for problems in education. We can no longer continue to value a standardized test that is so flawed parents are more concerned about their children taking it than passing it. We can no longer focus on underperforming schools and expect the teachers and staff to correct every social ill of the community and society. The solution must be multi-pronged and go beyond the school doors.

 

“I understand the frustration and the concern, I share it, and have already reached out to the Regents and more to begin work to maximize flexibility and seek changes where needed. This omnibus bill was not an easy vote and our work does not end with this vote.”

When Governor Cuomo’s budget was passed by the Néw York State Senate, it included mandates for test-score based evaluation of teachers and other provisions that teachers found insulting. Here is the State Senate’s Wall of Shame and Wall of Fame, identifying those who voted for and against this anti-teacher legislation. I previously posted a similar chart for the New York Assembly. Save this list for the next election if you live in New York.

 

 

 

 

IMG_7076

David Greene taught for many years and most recently has been mentoring new teachers. He read Pasi Sahlberg’s post this morning which said that Finnish teachers are not “the best and the brightest,” but those who are both capable and are committed to becoming career educators. Reflecting on Pasi’s article, he wrote this one of his own. 

David is upset by the suggestion of the Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents that “high-performing districts,” with high test scores and high graduation rates might be exempted from the teacher-principal test-score based evaluations. Her purpose, one suspects, is to tamp down the opt out movement, which is especially strong in suburban districts.

He asks:

So, according to [Chancellor Merryl] Tisch, those who teach our “best and brightest” (i.e. mostly wealthier and whiter) would be exempt as a result of New York’s two-tier education system that also is the most highly segregated in the nation.

Tisch makes me wonder. Was I a highly effective teacher in wealthy and white Scarsdale High School when I taught her nephew? Was I a developing or effective teacher in mostly middle class and integrated Woodlands High School? And did that make me an ineffective teacher at Adlai Stevenson High School in the Bronx, the nation’s poorest urban county, regardless of the huge number of success stories that emanated from there?

Paul Karrer teaches fifth grade in California. He writes frequently about education.

 

 

Don’t Let Hillary Do An Obama On Public Education

 

I write to the leaders of our many education organizations. The time has come for educators collectively to push back.

 

If you are honest, you must admit we have not fared well politically. In fact it would be fair to say we have been vilified, punished, and demoralized. Teachers must face the ugly fact that President Obama has done the institution of public education and educators irreparable, long-term damage with his shocking warm embrace of “Ed Reform Inc.”

 

In the previous election the many arms of education threw their weight, money, and support behind President Obama far too early. Hillary Clinton was one of the few candidates to come out against No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind was the seminal poisonous blueprint for the destruction and financial demolition of our democratic public schooling institutions.

 

We received no return on our support for President Obama. Incredibly just the opposite occurred. He made Arnie Duncan his hatchet man and Arnie started chopping. President Obama became wedded to Wall Street, hedge funders, school privatizers, technocrats, and initiated the cannibalism of our educational system. Who would have conceived that the greatest educational betrayal in contemporary history would be by a Democrat and a minority member to boot? His Race To The Top, leveraged with more charter schools, was the ugly stepchild of NCLB. Strategically we thought we had to support Obama. He could only be better than any Republican we chanted. Sadly, in retrospect this is no longer a certainty.

 

We find ourselves in a similar juncture in the political road. Hillary seems to be our candidate BUT…she has said some very disturbing things of late. Things which make many of us a little questioning of her new leanings. I say this as an ardent Hillary supporter. She claims that the most important book she has ever read was the bible. No problem with that except she’s never mentioned this previously. Also, she’s made a very sharp right turn regarding Syria and probably Iran. She is now a big proponent of invasion – to show she’s tough. Both of these moves reek of pandering to polls. And they indicate a throwing out of previous values. Scary question is…will she throw public education and teachers under the bus for votes too?

 

We need Hillary, if she is to be our candidate, to be supportive of us in deeds not platitudes. Not just because of our power, and strength but also because we are the good guys. We believe in public service. That is why we teach.

 

Hillary needs to understand she does not automatically have our support and resources unless she guarantees the death of NCLB, teachers evaluated on testing, and the end of excessive testing. We need a presidential candidate who restarts a public schooling system based on what is good for children – not what is good for: politicians, hedge funders, Pearson, or charter school corporations.

 

So you our education leaders at the top of the food chain need to have a little sit-down with Hillary. She can’t do An Obama on us. An Obama is where he meets with a few teachers, tells them how great they are. Parades them on T.V. and blathers how society needs great teachers. And adds that we shouldn’t test too much.

 

And then he promotes industries many harmful reforms. That’s An Obama.

 

Don’t let Hillary do a Hillary on us.

 

 

Paul Karrer
5th grade teacher

Castroville Elementary School
2009 North Monterey LULAC Teacher of The Year
Monterey, California
93940

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