Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Colorado has one of the most punitive teacher evaluation systems in the nation, passed in 2010. It was written by State Senator Michael Johnston, ex-TFA. Contrary to the conclusions of the American Statistical Association, the American Educational Research Association, and eminent researchers such as Linda Darling-Hammond and Edward Haertel of Stanford, Colorado’s SB 191 bases 50% of teachers’ evaluation on student test scores. This creates tremendous pressure to narrow the curriculum only to what is tested and to teach to the test. Senator Johnston vainly insisted that his legislation would produce “great teachers” and “great schools.”

Pauline Hawkins, a teacher in Colorado, explains here why she is resigning as a teacher in Colorado. The environment she leaves with regret was created by George W. Bush, Arne Duncan, and Michael Johnston.

Hawkins writes:

Dear Administrators, Superintendent, et al.:

This is my official resignation letter from my English teaching position.

I’m sad to be leaving a place that has meant so much to me. This was my first teaching job. For eleven years I taught in these classrooms, I walked these halls, and I befriended colleagues, students, and parents alike. This school became part of my family, and I will be forever connected to this community for that reason.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve my community as a teacher. I met the most incredible people here. I am forever changed by my brilliant and compassionate colleagues and the incredible students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching.

I know I have made a difference in the lives of my students, just as they have irrevocably changed mine. Teaching is the most rewarding job I have ever had. That is why I am sad to leave the profession I love.

Even though I am primarily leaving to be closer to my family, if my family were in Colorado, I would not be able to continue teaching here. As a newly single mom, I cannot live in this community on the salary I make as a teacher. With the effects of the pay freeze still lingering and Colorado having one of the lowest yearly teaching salaries in the nation, it has become financially impossible for me to teach in this state.

Along with the salary issue, ethically, I can no longer work in an educational system that is spiraling downwards while it purports to improve the education of our children.

I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.

It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement twelve years ago–and it’s only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.

I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they’ve been told they aren’t good enough by a standardized test; they’ve been told that they can’t be successful because they aren’t jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths. I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.

I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher–I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students “right” answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed are a proper education.

As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this way. Instead of weeding out the “bad” teachers, this evaluation system will continue to frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system.

Since I’ve worked here, we have always asked the question of every situation: “Is this good for kids?” My answer to this new legislation is, “No. This is absolutely not good for kids.” I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children–our future. The irony is I cannot fight for their rights while I am working in the system. Therefore, I will not apply for another teaching job anywhere in this country while our government continues to ruin public education. Instead, I will do my best to be an advocate for change. I will continue to fight for our children’s rights for a free and proper education because their very lives depend upon it.

My final plea as a district employee is that the principals and superintendent ask themselves the same questions I have asked myself: “Is this good for kids? Is the state money being spent wisely to keep and attract good teachers? Can the district do a better job of advocating for our children and become leaders in this educational system rather than followers?” With my resignation, I hope to inspire change in the district I have come to love. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “All mankind is divided into three classes: Those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” I want to be someone who moves and makes things happen. Which one do you want to be?

Sincerely,

Pauline Hawkins

Paul Thomas follows Anthony Cody’s previously cited post by describing the unrelenting attack on teachers, which has intensified with the use of statistically inappropriate measures.

He writes:

“As Cody notes above, however, simultaneously political leaders, the media, and the public claim that teachers are the most valuable part of any student’s learning (a factually untrue claim), but that high-poverty and minority students can be taught by those without any degree or experience in education (Teach for America) and that career teachers no longer deserve their profession—no tenure, no professional wages, no autonomy, no voice in what or how they teach.

And while the media and political leaders maintain these contradictory narratives and support these contradictory policies, value-added methods (VAM) of evaluating and compensating U.S. public teachers are being adopted, again simultaneously, as the research base repeatedly reveals that VAM is yet another flawed use of high-stake accountability and testing.”

Thomas cites review after review to demonstrate that VAM is inaccurate and deeply flawed. Yet the evidence is ignored and VAM is being used as a political weapon by the odd bedfellows of the Obama administration and rightwing governors as well as some Democratic governors, like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Dannell Malloy of Connecticut, to attack teachers. President Obama made a point of praising the Chetty study in his 2012 State of the Union address, not waiting for the many reviews that showed the error of measuring teacher quality by test scores.

Thomas writes:

“The rhetoric about valuing teachers rings hollow more and more as teaching continues to be dismantled and teachers continue to be devalued by misguided commitments to VAM and other efforts to reduce teaching to a service industry.

“VAM as reform policy, like NCLB, is sham-science being used to serve a corporate need for cheap and interchangeable labor. VAM, ironically, proves that evidence does not matter in education policy.”

Sara Stevenson, librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin, published an article in the Austin American-Statesman, written as a warning to Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams. The article appeared on April 11, amd it is behind a paywall is I have no link.

Stevenson did an excellent job of reviewing the research literature on value-added measurement and warned Commissioner Williams that VAM is neither accurate nor stable. Further it is very demoralizing to teachers to be publicly shamed by these ratings. She mentions the suicide of Roberto Riguelas, a teacher in Los Angeles who committed suicide only days after his rating was published by the Los Angeles Times.

She writes:

“Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams is tasked with crafting a plan to tie teacher evaluations to STAAR test scores. The Obama administration requires states receiving waivers from this year’s impossible 100 percent passing rate on Bush’s No Child Left Behind law to incorporate student test scores as part of the state teacher evaluation formula. Williams should just say no.

“First of all, value-added measurement, or VAM, is junk science. It has been debunked in multiple studies. Researchers with the RAND Corp. concluded that there were so many cases of error and bias in the formulations that they reject using VAM for high-stakes decisions. Stanford professor Edward Haertel also warns against using these unstable measures for high-stakes purposes. Furthermore, a Vanderbilt study concludes that tying teacher evaluations to VAM undermined professionalism and demoralized teachers.”

And she concludes:

“Student success in school is multi-determined. For instance, the most important factor is socioeconomic status. This is not to say poor kids can’t learn. It’s just something researchers have proven over and over again. Therefore, you could, theoretically, take the worst teacher at Hill Country Middle School in the Eanes school district, where 2 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch, and her students would score higher than students of the most dedicated, selfless teacher at Pearce Middle School in East Austin, a school made up of more than 95 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“Considering both research and common sense, it would be harmful for Texas to tie teacher evaluation to student test scores. Imposing these criteria on Texas teachers will force the best to flee and find other means of employment. Who will risk his career to teach our neediest students? This trend will not bode well for our youngest citizens, who will determine our future.

“Texas legislators need to say no to the VAM bandwagon.”

The central feature of the Obama administration’s $5 billion “Race to the Top” program was sharply deconstructed and refuted last week by the American Statistical Association, one of the nation’s leading scholarly organizations. Spurred on by the administration’s combination of federal cash and mandates, most states are now using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers. This method of evaluating teachers by test scores is called value-added measurement, or VAM. Teachers’ compensation, their tenure, bonuses, and other rewards and sanctions are tied directly to the rise or fall of their student test scores, which the Obama administration considers a good measure of teacher quality.

Secretary Arne Duncan believes so strongly in VAM that he has threatened to punish Washington state for refusing to adopt this method of evaluating teachers and principals. In New York, a state court fined New York City $150 million for failing to agree on a VAM plan.

The ASA issued a short but stinging statement that strongly warned against the misuse of VAM. The organization neither condemns nor promotes the use of VAM, but its warnings about the limitations of this methodology clearly demonstrate that the Obama administration has committed the nation’s public schools to a policy fraught with error. ASA warns that VAMs are “complex statistical models” that require “high-level statistical expertise” and awareness of their “assumptions and possible limitations,” especially when they are used for high-stakes purposes as is now common. Few, if any, state education departments have the statistical expertise to use VAM models appropriately. In some states, like Florida, teachers have been rated based on the scores of students they never taught.

The ASA points out that VAMs are based on standardized tests and “do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.” They typically measure correlation, not causation. That means that the rise or fall of student test scores attributed to the teacher might actually be caused by other factors outside the classroom, not under the teacher’s control. The VAM rating of teachers is so unstable that it may change if the same students are given a different test.

The ASA’s most damning indictment of the policy promoted so vigorously by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is:

“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.”

For five years, the Obama administration has been warned by scholars and researchers that its demand for value-added assessment is having harmful effects on teachers and students, on the morale of teachers, on the recruitment of new teachers, and on the quality of education, which has been reduced to nothing more than standardized testing. Secretary Duncan has brushed aside all objections and pushed full steam ahead with his disastrous policies, like Captain Ahab in pursuit of the great white whale, heedless to all warnings.

Based on the complementary statements of our nation’s most eminent scholarly associations, any teacher who is wrongfully terminated by Duncan’s favorite but deeply flawed methodology should sue for wrongful termination. What is not so clear is how the nation can protect our children and our public schools from this administration’s obsessive reliance on standardized tests to rank and rate students, teachers, principals, and schools.

Audrey Amrein Beardsley has been studying William Sanders’ value-added assessment system for a decade or so, and she is no fan of his methodology.

Here she explains why.

William Sanders has argued that his methodology is not volatile, but Beardsley and other critics say otherwise.

TVAAS or EVAAS is highly controversial, yet Arne Duncan praised it and claimed that Tennessee made great strides because it uses Sanders’ methods.

Beardsley makes the following observations (she has many more links, and I can’t copy them all, so I urge you to read her article and follow the links to understand the evidence she cites):

 

Sanders and others (including state leaders and even U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan) have lauded Tennessee’s use of accountability instruments, like the TVAAS, for Tennessee’s large gains on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) outcomes. Others, however, have cautioned against this celebration because 1) the results mask the expanding achievement gap in Tennessee; 2) the state’s lowest socioeconomic students continue to perform poorly on the test; 3) Tennessee didn’t make gains significantly different than many other states; and 4) other states with similar accountability instruments and policies (e.g., Colorado, Louisiana) did not make similar gains, while states without such instruments and policies (e.g., Kentucky, Iowa, Washington) did make similar gains (I should add that Kentucky’s achievement gap is also narrowing and their lowest socioeconomic students have made significant gains). Claiming that NAEP scores increased because of TVAAS-use and other stringent accountability policies is completely unwarranted (see also this article in Education Week).

 

John Thompson, teacher and historian, here reviews the testimony in the Vergara trial of economists Raj Chetty and Tom Kane. They are believers in economic models for judging teacher quality. Thompson concludes they are seriously out of touch with the real world of teachers.

Thompson reviews their testimony and writes:

“Chetty, Kane, and other expert witnesses are assisting in an all-out assault on teachers’ most basic rights. I disagree with them, but I can see why they would believe that their research is relevant to 3rd through 8th graders in math and, to a lesser degree, elementary reading classes. But, even though they have not studied high schools, they are participating in an effort to also destroy the rights of high school teachers.

“And, nothing in their research could possibly support the opinion that once current laws are stricken that data-driven evaluations in non-tested subjects would likely benefit students in those classes. Up to 80% of students are in classes that remain virtually unstudied by value-added researchers. Yet, they are so confident in their opinions – based on their goal of addressing the bottom 5% of teachers – that they are helping a legal campaign (based almost completely on the opinions of some like-minded persons) to strike down duly enacted laws.

“Of course, I would also like to understand why a few corporate reformers are so convinced in the righteous of their opinions that they have initiated this assault on teachers. But, I’ve already gone too far down the path of trying to speculate on why they engage in such overreach. I just hope the Vergara judge has the inclination to look deeply into both the testimony of expert witnesses and how it is very different than the evidence and logic they have presented in written documents.”

Arne Duncan, Raj Chetty, Eric Hanushek, John King, Kevin Huffman, John White, and Michael Johnston, and the other evaluation hawks did not think about this teacher when they said full steam ahead on evaluating teachers by student scores:

Beth writes:

“As Diane points out, teachers are already, and always have been, evaluated. Here is the problem: I am a special education teacher in an alternative high school. I teach students with severe psychological and behavioral disorders. These students are not exempt, and must take all the same state tests (including Regents) that other students take. My evaluation is based upon what percentage of my students improve their test scores by an amount estimated at the beginning of the year. Because I teach what are called 8-1-1 classes (8 students, 1 teacher, 1 teacher’s aide), my evaluation will be based upon, at most, 16 students. However, at this point in the year, it looks like only 6 of the students I began the year with will still be in our school at the end. This isn’t unusual–students move, get put in residential facilities, drop out, or become chronically truant at a high rate in my school. Of the 6 students left, one has become pregnant and has gone off her meds. Most days she can’t even make it into class because of her emotional breakdowns. One student has been hospitalized for months, not receiving instruction from me. One comes to school about once a week. Two swear at me whenever I try to get them to do work, and tell me they don’t care, they’re dropping out as soon as they’re 16. Their parents tell me they can’t help, they can’t make their sons do anything, either. One is facing incarceration, and may not be here at the end of the year. If 4 of these 6 don’t reach their goals on the end of the year test, that will “prove” I’m a bad teacher.

“I wanted to work with students who really needed me, to help students who are struggling the most. But because I work with students who are impoverished, disabled, homeless, incarcerated, and mentally unstable, I may very well be labeled as “ineffective.” Does this really mean I’m a bad teacher?”

I asked Audrey Amrein-Beardsley to compile a list of the most important VAM research.

 

Here are her recommendations for the top 13 research articles about Value-Added Measurement:

 
Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2008). Methodological concerns about the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS). Educational Researcher, 37(2), 65-75. doi: 10.3102/0013189X08316420.

Amrein-Beardsley, A., & Collins, C. (2012). The SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System (SAS® EVAAS®) in the Houston Independent School District (HISD): Intended and Unintended Consequences. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 20(12), 1-36. Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1096

Berliner, D. C. (2014). Exogenous variables and value-added assessments: A fatal flaw. Teachers College Record, 116(1). Retrieved from http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=17293

Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., Ravitch, D., Rothstein, R., Shavelson, R. J., & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/bp278

Darling-Hammond, L., Amrein-Beardsley, A., Haertel, E., & Rothstein, J. (2012). Evaluating teacher evaluation. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(6), 8-15. Retrieved from http://www.kappanmagazine.org/content/93/6/8.full.pdf+html

Haertel, E. H. (2013). Reliability and validity of inferences about teachers based on student test scores. Princeton, NJ: Education Testing Service. Retrieved from http://www.ets.org/Media/Research/pdf/PICANG14.pdf

Haut, M. & Elliott, S. W (Eds.). (2011). Incentives and test-based accountability in education. Committee on Incentives and Test-based Accountability in Public Education, National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://nfpcar.org/Archive/Education_Evaluation_12521.pdf

Hill, H. C., Kapitula, L, & Umlan, K. (2011, June). A validity argument approach to evaluating teacher value-added scores. American Educational Research Journal, 48(3), 794-831. doi:10.3102/0002831210387916

Newton, X., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., & Thomas, E. (2010) Value-Added Modeling of Teacher Effectiveness: An exploration of stability across models and contexts. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 18(23), 1-27. Retrieved from http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/810

Papay, J. P. (2010). Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal. doi: 10.3102/0002831210362589

Paufler, N. A. & Amrein-Beardsley, A. (2013, October). The random assignment of students into elementary classrooms: Implications for value-added analyses and interpretations. American Educational Research Journal. doi: 10.3102/0002831213508299

Rothstein, J. (2009). Student sorting and bias in value-added estimation: Selection on observables and unobservables. Education Finance and Policy, 4(4), 537-571. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/edfp.2009.4.4.537

Schochet, P. Z. & Chiang, H. S. (2010, July). Error rates in measuring teacher and school performance based on student test score gains. U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104004/

 

When asked for the top 25 (including the above), here is her list.

 

If your curiosity is not sated, here is an even longer list, thanks to Professor Amrein-Beardsley.

 

You too can be an expert.

 

 

This superintendent posted a request for help. I will be posting a summary of research on value-added-measurement later today. I think it is fair to say that while economists like VAM (they measure productivity), education researchers overwhelmingly oppose VAM because they know that most of the factors affecting test scores are beyond the control of the teacher.

 

 

I am a Superintendent in Texas and I’m looking for some insight into a connection I just became aware of. The state of Texas has begun the process of revamping principal and teacher evaluations. Recently (in the last few months) the Commissioner of Education reached a compromise with the USDE about NCLB requirements. Part of the compromise required Texas to include test scores in the teacher evaluation tool.

Now I see, taken from the SEDL website ( http://txcc.sedl.org/our_work/), that the states’ work on both the Principal and Teacher Evaluation systems are based on the priorities of the USDE. Unless I’m mistaken, the USDE priorities have been in place for several years. That would make the Commissioner’s “compromise” essentially a lie. He planned all along to implement a system like this. The best remedy to this kind of “in the dark” activity is sunlight.

Can anyone help explain these connections? I realize my explanation is short on details, best I believe the answers could be very enlightening when you consider the following points:
-Texas, especially our governor, has made a point of opposing EVERYTHING Washington
-Texas filed a waiver from NCLB and then pretended the result was the best it could do
– Educators are about to have an evaluation system imposed on them that will for all practical purposes, reestablish High Stakes Testing as a priority in this state by requiring student test scores be a SIGNIFICANT (emphasis TEA) portion of their evaluation

This stuff is not a coincidence, just look at the pattern of reform initiatives in other states. Its only just begun here in Texas.

My email is bendeancarson@gmail.com

THE BELOW INFORMATION IS FROM THE SEDL WEBSITE REFERENCED ABOVE

This project relates to the following USDE Priorities:

Identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining highly effective teachers and leaders
Identifying and scaling up innovative approaches to teaching and learning that significantly improve student outcomes

 

I came across an article in the Washington Post by Michelle Rhee, in which she chastised parents who opted their children out of state tests. This article made me happy, because it shows that the Queen Bee of high-stakes testing is worried. She is worried that the opt out movement is gaining traction. She is worried that parents are sick of the Status Quo of the past dozen years. If parents opt out, there won’t be enough data to fire teachers, to give bonuses, and to close schools. The Status Quo might collapse. How will we know how students are doing if we don’t test them? How will we know if their teachers are any good without standardized tests? How will we know if their school should be closed?

I must say that I was brought to a sharp halt in my reading of this article when Rhee spoke of what happened when her daughter came home from public school, relieved that the last test was over. This puzzled me because Rhee lives in Sacramento, and her daughters live in Nashville. I wondered, was she visiting Nashville that day? Then I remembered that one of her daughters goes to a public school, and the other goes to an elite private school that does not give standardized tests. How does she know how the daughter in the private school is doing? How can she judge her teachers? How will the principals in that school know if the teachers are doing a good job if the kids don’t take standardized tests? It is very puzzling.

And I wondered about one other thing: Michelle Rhee is a fierce advocate for charters and vouchers because she believes in choice. Why doesn’t she believe that parents should be able to choose to say no to state testing? Many voucher schools are exempt from state testing but I haven’t heard her demand that legislators include them. How will they know how their children are doing?

I wasn’t going to write about Rhee, because she seems so yesterday, but then Peter Greene sent me this hilarious post, and I realized I had to write too. But he is so funny! he calls it: “The WaPo Wastes Space on That Woman.”

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