Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

The Néw York Times says Hillary Clinton will be forced to choose between the Wall Street big donors and the teachers’ unions.

The real choice is between Wall Street money on one hand and millions of parents and teachers who are fed up with high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools, on the other.

Then it refers to the Democrats for Education Reform as a “left of center group,” even though its program is indistinguishable from that of Republican governors and it was denounced by the California Democratic Party as a front for corporate interests.

Audrey Beardsley, one of the nation’s leading experts on teacher evaluation, recently visited Néw Mexico and there found an unhappy, test-obsessed school system.

She says Néw Mexico has gone “high stakes silly.” She attributes this to state commissioner Hanna Skandera, who was deputy commissioner in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor. Hanna never taught. She believes in the Bush gospel of testing.

What’s more, teachers in NM must sign a contract promising never to disparage the tests in school or in public. Beardsley tried to make sense of the state’s VAM program but couldn’t. Then she learned that a group of rocket scientists at Los Alamos tried to understand it, and they couldn’t either.

Can you imagine the legislators of  your state inventing a new way to evaluate their profession, without inviting any members of the profession to have a say?

 

Can you imagine the legislators telling the medical profession how to evaluate doctors, but not asking the advice of any doctors?

 

Let’s not talk about lawyers, because most of them are lawyers, and they wouldn’t dream of evaluating themselves.

 

Here it is: a new plan to evaluate teachers, but no one knows what it means. Of course, the writer of the article assumes that the teachers’ union is the main opposition to legislated evaluation. They forget that parents don’t want test scores to be the most important way to judge the quality of their child, their school and their teachers. They don’t want the school to give up the arts so there is more time for test prep. They don’t want Albany telling their principal how to decide which teachers are best. Legislators don’t credit them with caring about their children.

 

Newsflash to Albany: Parents love their children more than you do.

The New York Times has a front-page story today about the widespread opposition to Governor Cuomo’s absurd teacher evaluation plan, which would base 50% of the evaluation on student test scores, 35% on the snap evaluation of an independent observer, and only 15% on the school’s principal. The story focuses on Southold, New York, whose superintendent David Gamberg (as reported this morning in the first post) sent a letter to parents explaining their right to opt out of the state testing. The story also shows that parents are opposed to the increased emphasis on high-stakes testing, which will steal time from instruction and cause many schools to drop the arts and other subjects that matter to students.

 

Unfortunately, the only research cited in the story (though not by name) is the controversial Raj Chetty study that made the astounding discovery that students with high scores are likelier to go to college and likelier to make slightly more money than those with lower scores. The story does not mention the warning by the American Statistical Association that student test scores should not be used to rate individual teachers, and that doing so might undermine the quality of education. Nor does it mention the joint statement of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, offering a similar caution about the inaccuracy, instability, and invalidity of ratings derived from test scores.

 

Junk science is not good science, even when it is endorsed by such eminences as Arne Duncan, President Obama, Scott Walker (Governor of Wisconsin), Rick Snyder (Governor of Michigan), Rick Scott (Governor of Florida), Jeb Bush (former Governor of Florida), and Andrew Cuomo.

This letter was sent to the blog as part of a comment:

 

 

Dear Governor Cuomo,

 

I have a problem and I hope you can help. Last week, my child decided to stay up all night and binge watch Gossip Girls on Netflix instead of studying. As a result, she failed a test she had the next day. I’m struggling with exactly how to word the letter of complaint to her teacher, because clearly, this is his fault. Were he an “effective” educator, she would have made a different choice. Where did he go wrong? How can I make him understand that he needs to do a little better if he wants to keep his job?

 

The above might be funny if it weren’t so close to the absolutely appalling plan you have proposed for evaluating teachers. You can’t be serious. I have to believe you know it’s a terrible plan as well, or you wouldn’t feel like you had to hold school districts’ funding hostage in order to get it passed.

 

I am a parent, a school board member, a taxpayer, and a registered Democrat. (I’m ashamed to say I even voted for you, twice.) I’m also a product of NYC Public Schools, and even without standardized testing, the Common Core and APPR, I managed to be the first person in my family to attend college.

 

You’re missing an important part about kids in your plan: they are not widgets. You can’t standardize them. I have three children, and they’re all different. They all make different choices. I don’t care how they perform on your tests. I care that they remain intellectually curious, that they are confident problem solvers and that they spend their days with teachers who have the freedom to academically challenge them while honoring their differences. Is it possible that you and Regent Tisch really don’t see how you’re ruining that for them and for all the children of New York State? Our teachers need more freedom, not less. Our districts need more flexibility, and more funding – not less.

 

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session with our local legislators and was asked what alternative I would propose to the APPR if I disliked it so much. Here’s my answer: LEAVE US ALONE. Our district, like many others across the state, is the best judge of our teachers, our students, and the education we provide. If you feel like you want to help, let me suggest you appropriately fund our districts and put an end to the Gap Elimination Adjustment. You might want to take a look at the real issue impacting education in this state: educational inequality. My son has 18 children in his 5th grade class. In a similar classroom less than 3 miles away, there are 32. Do something about that. Maybe then I could feel proud to have voted for you.

 

Today, I’m rating you ineffective.

 

Sincerely,

 

Elizabeth Soggs
New Hartford School Board Member, Parent, Voter and Taxpayer
New Hartford Central School District

Laura H. Chapman offered the following comments about Ohio’s shell game of assessment. Among other troublesome issues, Ohio will encourage “shared attribution” for evaluating teachers; that means that teachers who do not teach tested subjects will be assigned a rating based on the scores of students they do not teach.

 

 

Chapman writes:

 

In Ohio, the State Superintendent of Public instruction, Dr Ross, has a request in to Governor and the legislators to lighten the testing load. The “Testing Report and Recommendations” ( January 15, 2015) includes some cockamamie statements about the purposes of tests, along with some revealing stats.

 

Among these highlights are there. Ohio students in grades K-12 spend about 19.8 hours a year taking tests on average. Ohio students spend approximately 15 additional hours practicing for tests each year.

 

A chart on page 5 shows that Kindergarten students are tested for 11.3 hours on average, and grade 1 students 11.6 hours on average. These are the lowest times. Add the test prep for a total of 26.3 hours and 26. 6 hours respectively for testing. That is slightly more than the time allocation for elementary school instruction in the visual arts in the era before test-driven policies determined everything about K-12 education.

 

The highest testing times are in grade 3–28 hours, and at grade 10–28.4 hours, not counting the test prep. The spike at grade 3 is from Kasich’s guarantee–“read by grade three” or repeat the whole grade. Dr. Ross wants to cut out some of the current test time for reading (about four hours) by letting grade three teachers do those super high stakes at will, more than once if necessary, with a summer grade three test being decisive for students who have not passed muster earlier. This strikes me as a shell game, not really a reduction but an increase for students who are still learning to read.

 

This report also recommends that testing time be reduced by cutting tests for SLOs. “Eliminate the use of student learning objective (SLO) tests as part of the teacher evaluation system for grades pre-K to 3 and for teachers teaching in non-core subject areas in grades 4-12. The core areas are English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies.”

 

“Teachers teaching in grades and subject areas in which student learning objectives are no longer permitted will demonstrate student growth through the expanded use of shared attribution, although at a reduced level overall. In cases where shared attribution isn’t possible, the department will provide guidance on alternative ways of measuring growth” (p.10).”

 

This obscure language about the expansion of “shared attribution” as a way to measure student learning is not clarified by the following statement (pp. 10-11).

 

”…when no Value-Added or approved vendor assessment data is available, the department gives teachers and administrators the following advice.

 

First, educators should not test solely to collect evidence for a student learning objective. The purpose of all tests, including tests administered for purposes of complying with teacher evaluation requirements, should be to measure what the educator is teaching and what students are learning.

 

Second, to the extent possible, eliminate the use of student learning objective pre-tests. When other, pre-existing data points are available, teachers and schools should use those instead of giving a pre-test.” (pp. 10-11).

 

The convoluted reasoning and ignorance about testing is amazing. “The purpose of all tests, including tests administered for purposes of complying with teacher evaluation requirements, should be to measure what the educator is teaching and what students are learning.” Student tests are not direct measures of what teachers are teaching. Many tests document what students have or have not learned beyond school. Compliance with legislative mandates means you can ignore undisputed facts and sound reasoning about testing.

 

In the proposed policy, teachers who do not receive a VAM based on scores from PARCC tests (ELA and math) and/or tests from AIR (science and social studies) or from some other VAM-friendly standardized test from an “approved vendor” are asked to get used to the idea of “sharing scores” produced by students and teachers of subjects they do not teach and state-wide scores processed through the VAM calculations. There is no evidence these tests are instructionally sensitive, meaning suitable for teacher evaluation. The state approved tests seriously misrepresent student achievement, especially those from PARCC, because those tests assume learning of the CCSS have been in place, fully implemented, with cumulative learning from prior years.

 

SLOs and the district-approved tests for these appear to be dead (or dying) in Ohio, not because they were seriously flawed concepts from the get-go, but because those tests took longer to administer on average than others. The “loud and clear” demands for less testing are most easily met by cutting the SLO tests (those usually designed by teacher collaboration) in favor scores allocated to teachers under the banner of “shared attribution.”

 

Like many other states where governors and legislators are trying to micromanage teachers, there is an unconscionable insistence that any data point is as good as another, that tests are “objective,” and that junk science marketed as VAM is not a problem.

 

Unfortunately, all of the talk about “high quality” this and that does not extend to expectations for fair, ample, and ethical portrayals of student and teacher achievement.

A few weeks ago, I heard from Alex Suarez, a medical student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a B.S. in Bioengineering from Rice University. Alex read my book “Reign of Error” and asked if he could propose an new approach to accountability. He put his ideas on paper, and I am glad to share them with you. What do you think of Alex’s ideas?

 

Alex writes:

 

 

 

 

Anyone who has watched “Waiting for Superman” or listened to the endless educational debates will be quick to hear how our public school system is failing. Who’s the culprit in their opinion? The teachers. Contrast that with my own experience of seeing countless dreamers poised with incredible capabilities to inspire and teach, get put into incredibly challenging situations.

 

Teachers can start in a classroom of 22 students; they don’t fare too well. With the current system based on standardized testing, poor performance strips resources. There goes the budget.

 

What does that mean? That same teacher struggling with 22 students is now being asked to teach classes of 30. It doesn’t make sense. Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error sums it up best: Let’s say the national goal is to be 100% crime free. Depending on the severity of the failure, you lose resources. Imagine the inner city of Chicago versus the upper middle class suburbs. After one year, the inner city of Chicago fails miserably at the goal compared to suburbia so the government heavily restricts the resources allocated to their local police. How do you think the crime rate is going to be next year?

 

We operate on the assumption that any teacher can help any students reach the best score despite anything. No excuses, right?

 

Let’s take a quick look at the metric of how standardized testing affects motivation of teachers and students. Teachers come in with the idealistic dream of inspiring the next generation to love learning the way they have. Once they enter the school, there’s one goal: high standardized test scores. They get pushed to try to meet test standards that ruin the beauty of learning. You suck out their motivation to teach. It isn’t much better from the students’ perspective. Students enter a classroom and are told, “It’s important to learn.” They then quickly lay witness to why they “need” to learn: to get a high test score. Educators try to plead with their students that learning is more than this.

 

Educators are right, there should be more. Why is our current education system’s assessment so focused on these standardized tests?

 

​I would like the opportunity set a few items straight. Many Americans have heard the statistic that public school is broken, that internationally we are fourteenth in reading, seventeenth in science, and twenty-fifth in mathematics. It’s time to sound the alarms and kick our butts into gear.

 

What if, however, I were to tell you that further analysis of these international test scores sheds a different light on the conclusions that can be drawn? If you took the scores of American kids who were in schools with less than 10% poverty, they would be identical to Shanghai, the number one scorer on the exam.

 

Further, Martin Carnoy and Richard Rothstein believed there to be a sampling error in the test where a higher proportion of American schools in poverty were evaluated. Adjusting for this, the United States public education system ranked fourth in reading and tenth in math.

 

Let’s take one-step back, why are these international tests all that important? Reformers say if our students are scoring poorly on international assessments, these future business leaders and our economy will not be able to compete. It makes sense. Right? The data does not seem to corroborate this. Keith Baker, an analyst at the Department of Education, looked at the relationship between how well countries did on international testing and its future GDP. He found that “ the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth.” We have put all our belief behind a relationship that does not exist.

 

Now, the one thing that American students have that no country can compete with is our level of creativity and innovation. As we push more and more resources to attaining higher scores on standardized testing, we are sacrificing what makes America great. Look at the many schools that are dropping critical components of a liberal arts curriculum to pour more time and energy towards standardized tested math and reading classes.

 

​Legislators attempting to change education have this contrived notion that teachers are machines. Representatives argue that better teachers=better results. They treat teachers much like production lines of old. They argue that streamlining the production line for the purpose of increasing test scores is the way.

 

They say it’s the corporate way, the American way. They are right, kind of. That was the corporate America… of the mid to later twentieth century. They don’t acknowledge the industrial/organizational psychologists research that is driving the best global companies. Workers are not machines. Workers are human. Motivation is critical. Take these two for example: Google and Apple. Look at their campus. Look at their work schedules. Look at what their culture promotes. It promotes health, inspires creativity, and most importantly sparks motivation.

 

They understand that workers are humans and are driven by psychological needs.

Now what are these specific “psychological needs”?​
​In his TED Talk, Tony Robbins best highlighted what he feels to be the six universal needs.

 

The first four are of the body: certainty, uncertainty, significance, and love/connection. The final two are of the spirit: growth and living for something greater than yourself. I believe that if we are able to create an environment that better facilitates public K-12 educators meeting these six needs, we will revolutionize education. How do we go about this?

 

Change the metric, change the country.

 

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg recalls Paul O’Neill’s reign as CEO of the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). During his first meet and greet with share holders, where CEOs typically declare their vision for boosting profits by lowering costs, he shocked the audience. He set out his vision: making Alcoa the safest company in America. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing the habits across the entire institution. All the stockholders were caught aback. They thought the company was going to crumble. Within a year, Alcoa’s profits would hit a record high. Thirteen years later, the net income was five times its original size; its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion. What shareholders didn’t fully understand was that in order to have the safest environment, the company had to establish several procedures. These safety procedures demanded a streamlined corporate structure and a production line that avoided injuries that would slow production. The important thing here to realize is that people operate within a system defined by its metric.

 

Turning to education, we have seen administrators’ decisions to cut classes of the liberal arts education to solely focus on areas that would be tested by the standardized test. Our metrics are out of whack.

 

I move for a change in the strived-for metric from high stakes standardized testing to teacher satisfaction.

 

Teacher satisfaction will be obtained by asking each teacher the following questions. Each of these will be rated on a 1-10 score, with 10 being the highest.

 

How much pressure do you feel that you could lose your job?

 

How comfortable do you feel asking for help?

 

How much autonomy do you feel in the classroom?

 

Do you feel like you are making a significant impact on your students?

 

How supported do you feel by your fellow teachers?

 

How supported do you feel by your administrators?

 

Do you feel like you have the resources you need to do your best work?

 

How collaborative of an environment do you have?

 

Do you feel that you’re becoming a better teacher?

 

Do you feel that you’re becoming a better role model?

 

These scores will be tallied and will be the primary determinant of how schools will be evaluated. The school’s score will be made public. Schools that perform poorly will have leading educators come to the school and help the school get back on track.

 

We will no longer strip resources from the schools that are most in need. If the teacher’s answers to these questions are yes, they will feel fulfilled by their career and intrinsically motivated, the most powerful driving force. Teachers dream about intellectually stimulating the future generation. They want to develop meaningful relationships with children. They want their kids to escape poverty’s grasp. We must create an environment that helps,not hinders, teachers.

 

Evaluation of teachers will consist of a student questionnaire and student testing. The student questionnaire will read as follows (Note: language will be geared to that grade level; it will be completely anonymous, with the option of the student to right their name if he or she wishes)

 

​Do you feel safe?

 

​Do you feel comfortable with your teacher?

 

​Can you be honest with your teacher?

 

​Do you feel cared for by your teacher?

 

​Do you feel understood by your teacher?

 

Do you look up to your teacher?

 

​Do you enjoy school?

 

​Do you feel like you’re learning?

 

​How much do you think about things learned in school at your home?

 

​Do you feel that your hard work is noticed and rewarded?

 

​Do you feel like your hard work is paying off?

 

​Do you feel if you have an error it is caught?

 

When it is corrected, do you understand why?

 

Do you understand how to fix it/ prevent it from happening again?


​​
The questionnaire results will be shared with the school’s principal and the student’s teacher.

 

The second component will be student’s scores on the exams that are a part of the school’s curriculum. The student’s scores on these will be compared to their standardized testing at the end of the year (in a diagnostic fashion) to ensure the teacher’s curriculum is up to par with national standards. This check is intended to prevent a situation where curriculum exams become super easy and everyone gets As, but at the end of the year all the kids fail to be proficient. In that case, the local school curriculum and tests will need to be made more rigorous.

 

Low scores on any of these metrics will not be immediate grounds for firing. The teacher will collaborate with other teachers and the principal on ways to improve his or her score much in a similar way as the Peer Assistance and Review program in Montgomery County, Maryland. New teachers with no experience and teachers who receive low ratings on these are assigned a “consulting teacher” to help them improve. The consulting teachers help teachers plan their lessons and review student work; they model lessons and identify research-based instructional strategies. The obvious follow up question is what if this teacher doesn’t or can’t improve?

 

That question brings up the idea of tenure and how to remove a teacher. Now, I believe K-12 “tenure” plays an important role in meeting the teacher’s psychological need of certainty. Much in the same way that you wouldn’t be able to focus on reading this article if the ceiling above you could cave in at anytime, the teacher struggles to take innovative risks with the thought that he or she could get fired at the end of the year based on high-stakes standardized tests. However valuable I believe tenure to be, I do believe that some districts make it a near impossibility to remove a poor performing teacher. In those districts, it should change.

 

I support the PAR model for removing poorly performing teachers. A panel of teachers and administrators at that school reviews the performance of the new and experienced teachers who have received one year of PAR support. The panel decides whether to offer another year of PAR, to confirm their success, or to terminate their employment. This method of teacher evaluation has the support of teachers and principals in schools that have adopted this model. In Montgomery with PAR, they have fired over 200 teachers with this new model; in the prior decade to PAR’s implementation, only five teachers had been removed.

 

A few additional principles will get us back on track and help us achieve this new metric of teacher satisfaction.

 

• I call for classroom sizes to be 12 students. Low socioeconomic students need attention. In Daniel Coyle’s Talent Code, he explores why some environments keep producing unbelievably successful talents. He breaks it down to three key characteristics that are needed: deep practice, ignition, and coaching. Deep practice is the process with which people focus intently on trying to achieve something and every time they fail, they acknowledge why they failed, how to correct it, and go about it another time. Classrooms need to be small to allow for the teacher to execute this oversight. The coaching relationship is key, and I think it’s pretty evident in the questions that are on the kid’s questionnaire above. Having a mentor who you trust and can provide a meaningful relationship is also something that I believe can only be fostered on this scale. I want to take a quick moment to expand on how important a role model can be.

 

According to Paul Vitz’s discussion on “The Importance of Fatherhood” in Eric Metaxas’s “Socrates in the City,” there are plenty of poor environments where the fathers are present and there is no criminality: “We think of criminal behavior as somehow related to ghettos or the inner city or something like that. When the social scientists take out whether the father is present and whole issue of the stability of the family, there are no ethnic, racial, linguistic, or cultural factors related to criminal behavior. There have been examples of people who have been step-in fathers that have achieved the goals a father should for their kid.”

 

I think the heart of education for lower socioeconomic children is providing meaningful and trusting relationships with teachers so that they can guide them out of their troubles. Additionally, the classroom of size of twelve students can be broken into pairs or groups of 3, 4, or 6 to compete in challenges and activities.

 

• As for Coyle’s ignition, students need to be surrounded by triggers that further their drive to learn. They need to be exposed to what can happen if they work hard in the classroom. As one example, I recommend after school programs where students have the ability to paint murals in their hallways of prominent historical figures. Even hanging up pictures of people nominated for Time’s People of the Year with a short descriptor below could do the trick. One of the telltale signs of a great school is its relationship with its community. I also wish to support bringing in prominent community members who can serve as role models for these kids and further ignition.

 

• Getting a higher percentage of teachers trained for a year or two before starting in the classroom.

 

• All schools should be staffed with a child psychologist, health care worker, social worker, and school counselors as recommended by the teaching staffs.

 

• Education should include physical education, health, literature, history, music, etc. (all the strong pillars of a liberal arts education).

 

• Teachers should be well paid. Payment should follow a curve similar to an enzymatic curve of saturation. Payment should be a function of three things: overall years of experience, how many years you have been at that one school, and performance. Let’s say a teacher has been at a school for 10 years, and wants to change schools. There should be some deterrent for having the teacher leave schools. Potentially, her pay will be lowered (to 8 years of experience [subtract 2]) with the aim to keep teachers at a particular school over the course of career. Low turnover is an important factor for students.

 

Now, there may be many contentions to what I have offered. One of the main ones against smaller classroom sizes is the cost. Administrators know teachers are the highest cost to education, yet they are the most valuable. People say we can’t spend this amount of money on education. This argument hits at one of the human rules of thumbs that tend to make us err as stated in the book Nudge. “According to economic theory, money is “fungible” meaning that it doesn’t come with labels. Twenty dollars in the rent jar can buy just as much food as the same amount in the food jar. But households adopt mental accounting schemes that violate fungibility for the same reasons that organizations do: to control spending.”

 

Now, as I respect any public official’s attempt to have a balanced budget, it’s important we realize the impact on our budget if we don’t do anything. We will continue to spend over $30,000 per inmate per year, yet $10,000 per student per year. Why do we continue to invest our money and efforts to far downstream of someone’s life?

 

​To meet the class size, we will need more teachers. Economically speaking, we know one thing: a strong middle class yields a strong economy. Increasing the strong middle class jobs (number of teachers) with reliable income will only be good for the economy. They will purchase goods and spend their money, thereby keeping the money in the economy.
​In general, it is my belief we need to spend more money on human capital that will be present in kid’s lives at the school. People and relationships make the differences in kids’ lives.

 

​Overall, the recommendations presented will create a profession that will be respected and desired. This will promote high caliber individuals entering the field. Right now, 40% of teachers leave the profession sometime in the first five years. I am confident that changing our metric would decrease high teacher turnover and burnout, which are highly problematic for struggling schools and more importantly struggling students. It will drive highly motivated individuals towards teaching. The metric will finally allow instructors to inspire curiosity and the love of learning in all their students. Instead of castigating teachers, let’s help them. Crazy idea?

Peter Greene recently read a blog debate in the “Néw York Times” on the topic of how to improve teaching. He reacted strongly to the contribution by Eric Hanushek, an economist at the Hoover Institution. Hanushek is well known for his belief that the best way to tell which teachers are best is to see which ones get the highest test score gains; that raising scores will eventually produce trillions of dollars in economic growth; and that teachers who can’t produce higher scores should be “deselected.” That is, fired.

Here is the beginning of Greene’s critique of the economists’ contribution to education policy;

“When you want a bunch of legit-sounding baloney about education, call up an economist. I can’t think of a single card-carrying economist who has produced useful insights about education, schools and teaching, but from Brookings to the Hoover Institute, economists can be counted on to provide a regular stream of fecund fertilizer about schools.

“So here comes Eric Hanushek in the New York Times (staging one of their op-ed debates, which tend to resemble a soccer game played on the side of a mountain) to offer yet another rehash of his ideas about teaching. The Room for Debate pieces are always brief, but Hansuhek impressively gets a whole ton of wrong squeezed into a tiny space. Here’s his opening paragaph:

“Despite decades of study and enormous effort, we know little about how to train or select high quality teachers. We do know, however, that there are huge differences in the effectiveness of classroom teachers and that these differences can be observed.”

“This is a research puzzler of epic proportions. Hansuhek is saying, “We do not know how to tell the difference between a green apple and a red apple, but we have conclusive proof that a red apple tastes better.” Exactly what would that experimental design look like? Exactly how do you compare the red and green apples if you can’t tell them apart?

“The research gets around this issue by using a circular design. We first define high quality teachers as those whose students get high test scores. Then we study these high quality teachers and discover that they get students to score well on tests. It’s amazing!

“Economists have been at the front of the parade declaring that teachers cannot be judged on qualifications or anything else except results. Here’s a typical quote, this time from a Rand economist: “The best way to assess teachers’ effectiveness is to look at their on-the-job performance, including what they do in the classroom and how much progress their students make on achievement tests.”

“It’s economists who have given us the widely debunked shell game that is Valued Added Measuring of teachers, and they’ve been peddling that snake oil for a while (here’s a research summary from 2005). It captures all the wrong thinking of economists in one destructive ball– all that matters about teachers is the test scores they produce, and every other factor that affects a student’s test score can be worked out in a fancy equation.”

A few years ago, I engaged in an Internet debate with Rick Hanushek on the Eduwonk website. Here is the exchange:
Hanushek
My Response
Hanushek
My response

I agree with Peter Greene that economists have had far too much influence on educational policy. The attempt to quantify teaching and learning is ruinous to education and buries any consideration of the purpose of education. Children are not widgets. Learning is far too complex to be measured by standardized multiple-choice tests. Education includes many goals other than test scores. Teachers are professionals and should not be treated as interchangeable low-wage workers.

There is this really cool feature about democracy. From time to time, people who have to win election to their seats in the Legislature or Congress actually pay attention to their constituents. That is happening in New York state right now. Governor Cuomo presented some truly bad ideas about how to evaluate teachers (as if he knows how to evaluate teachers), introducing tax credits for private and religious schools (aka vouchers), and expanding charters. He told parents and educators that he would not increase education aid unless his boneheaded plan was endorsed. But fortunately, we still live in a democracy, and the Legislature has made clear in recent days that they will not tie state aid to Andrew’s bad ideas. The gossip is that they will increase charters (too much money behind them to be ignored), but they will not tie state aid to acceptance of the Governor’s agenda.

 

See here and here. 

It is hard to laugh about Governor Cuomo’s nonsensical proposal to demoralize teachers and destabilize public schools. He wants to change teacher evaluation so that 50% of their rating is based on their students’ test scores (he doesn’t realize that most teachers don’t teach reading and math in elementary schools); he wants 35% of their evaluation to be based on the drive-by evaluation of an independent person who doesn’t work in the school; and he wants the judgment of the principal, who sees the teachers regularly, to count for only 15%. He wants more charter schools and vouchers (he calls them “tax credits”) even though neither produces better results than public schools. It makes no sense but he won’t release funds due to public schools unless the Legislature passes his harmful proposals.

 

Cynthia Wachtell, a scholar at Yeshiva University, is a public school parent. She has written a hilarious analysis of Governor Cuomo’s plan. Among his other ill-informed ideas is a proposal to close down the schools whose test scores place them in the bottom 5% so their students don’t have to go to failing schools anymore. She gently offers a math lesson. Sorry, Governor, there will always be a 5%.

 

Therein lies the math problem. If a “school is designated as ‘falling’ if it’s in the bottom 5% of schools across the state,” then, by definition, Cuomo’s goal of “no longer … condemning our children to failing schools” is impossible. The children in the bottom 5% of NYS schools will always be in ‘failing’ schools. Math will be math. And that’s just how percentages work.

 

She tells Governor Cuomo what his state’s public schools and students really need:

 

Clearly we need to improve the education received by all of “our” children. And unlike the Governor, I actually have two children in NYS public schools. The way to help my sons and other NYS students is to reduce class size; shift away from high stakes testing; offer a well-rounded curriculum rich in the sciences, technology, physical education, and the arts; and evaluate teachers in a way that takes into consideration the unique challenges of each of their classrooms. I once sat as a parent visitor in a classroom of thirty-plus sixth graders working through an ELA test prep workbook. And, sorry Andrew, it did not make me happy.

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