Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

A few days ago, I posted about a proposal by powerful Republicans to “reform” public education with a grab-bag of failed policies that punish public schools and demoralize teachers while creating a flow of public dollars to the private sector.

 

In this article, the brilliant and persistent Sara Stevenson explains the details of the proposal. Stevenson, a member of the blog’s honor roll, is a librarian at O. Henry Middle School in Austin. She has had more letters published in the Wall Street Journal than anyone I know. She believes in setting the record straight, and she believes in public education. That’s why this destructive proposal made her blood boil.

 

The bill could well have been written in ALEC’s corporate offices. It has everything on the corporate free-market wish list.

 

Stevenson writes:

 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry
Taylor, R-Friendswood, delivered the terrible news last week: The
Senate education plan contains no financial help for school districts,
600 of which are already suing the state for inadequate and
inequitable funding. It offers no testing relief for students in
grades 3 through 8 who must sit for up to four hours at a stretch
taking multiple standardized tests.

 

Furthermore, their proposals are
merely warmed up, stale leftovers written by the American Legislative
Exchange Council, a corporation-funded group that emphasizes free
markets and limited government. Here’s a sample serving:

 

Giving letter grades (A-F) to individual public schools.

A “parent trigger” law, which allows the majority of parents at
individual failing schools to petition for new management.

Removing limits on full-time virtual schools and online courses.

Tying teacher performance to compensation.

Creating a “college and career readiness” course for Texas middle
school students.

Creation of a statewide district to manage failing schools.

 

The most dispiriting part of this education plan is that it proposes
absolutely nothing that will help educators with the serious charge of
preparing our young citizens for their adult lives. Our schools are
terribly underfunded. After the Texas Legislature cut $5.4 billion in
education dollars in 2011, Texas ranked 49th among the fifty states in
per pupil spending. Today we are spending less money per student than
we did ten years ago. How can the Legislature’s continued starving of
school districts help us with the very real challenges we face?

 

Less state funding for schools translates into larger class sizes,
fewer teaching assistants and painful cuts to electives, arts, PE,
libraries and clinics. Texas educators are willing to work hard in
daunting circumstances, but the more our legislators insult us with
unoriginal, ineffective schemes as they deprive us of necessary
resources, the more those of us with choices will flee our beloved
profession. The best teachers will refuse to work in an environment in
which they cannot be successful. I give this lazy, irresponsible
education plan a big, fat zero.”

 

Never mind that not one of these proposals is new or that not one of them has been successful anywhere.

 

Ideologues don’t care about evidence. The goal is to dismantle public education, a fundamental, essential institution of our democracy. In doing so, they override local control and funnel taxpayers’ dollars to entrepreneurs and religious institutions. There is not a shred of evidence that any of their proposals will improve education.

 

These men are not conservatives. Conservatives conserve. Conservatives don’t blow up community institutions. These men are radicals and anarchists, destroying heedlessly, mindlessly, zealously, without regard for the damage they do to the lives of children, families, educators, and communities.

Mercedes Schneider was invited to contribute to the Néw York Times’ blog “Room for Debate.” The subject was “What Makes a Good Teacher?” Eric Hanushek said evaluation must be tied to retention and rewards. Amanda Ripley said that teachers’ colleges must be more rigorous and selective. Jal Mehta said that teacher education must be like a medical residency. Kaya Henderson said that the key to great teachers is respect.

Mercedes said that it was time to stop punitive evaluations and let teachers focus on their students, not their scores. She was the only classroom teacher in the debate.

Carol Burris has been an outspoken critic of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s baseless attacks on New York state’s educators. He is outraged that the current evaluation system rated 99% of the state’s teachers effective or highly effective. What he forgets, Burris reminds us, is that this is not an antiquated system: the current method of evaluation was created by….Governor Andrew Cuomo!

 

“Cuomo remains obsessed with teacher measurement and firing. Unhappy with the outcome of evaluations, he called them “baloney.” He forgets that when the Boars Head delivery arrived in Albany, he was driving the truck. The evaluation system he now mocks is the very one he insisted be put in place.

 

“In 2012, Cuomo called the new evaluation system, APPR, “one of the toughest in the country.” He referred to it as “groundbreaking” and “exactly what is needed” to transform schools. New York Students First, gave Cuomo credit for the teacher evaluation system—it was “because of the governor’s leadership” that this “groundbreaking agreement” came to be.”

 

Since the loudest complaints about Cuomo’s latest bad idea are coming from educators on Long Island, Cuomo has turned his hatchet towards them. But Long Island is home to some of the state’s most successful public schools:

 

“Part of the Cuomo strategy of reform is the shaming of districts and counties where teacher evaluations indicate a high-quality teaching force. The governor’s latest target is my region, Long Island. Cuomo’s aide, Jim Malatras, has called for an investigation of Long Island teacher scores, which he implies were deliberately skewed for success. There is no acknowledgement that the flaws in the system his boss rammed through left Long Island with an unworkable system. Malatras also ignores how comparatively successful Long Island schools are. Good teacher evaluations make sense.

 

“Long Island’s 2014 four-year graduation rate is 89 percent. The New York State rate is 77 percent.

“If Long Island numbers were not included, New York’s rate would drop to 73 percent, placing New York fifth from the bottom in national ratings.

“Not only are Long Island schools doing an overall good job in getting all students to the finish line—they do a better job than the state as a whole achieving equitable outcomes. Long Island is composed of two counties, Nassau and Suffolk. Unfortunately, the state Report Card website does not provide enough data to combine the counties on these measures, so I report them separately below. Here are three examples:

“Four-year graduation rate for students who are economically disadvantaged:

Nassau County: 80 percent

Suffolk County: 77 percent

New York State: 67 percent

“Four-year graduation rates for black students:

Nassau County: 81 percent

Suffolk County: 75 percent

New York State: 62 percent

“Four-year graduation rates for students with disabilities:

Nassau County: 70 percent

Suffolk County 67 percent

New York State: 50 percent

“The black/white graduation rate gap for the state is 25 points. For Nassau County, the gap is 14 points. Keep in mind that the New York State percentages include Long Island. Every one of the above state rates would drop without Long Island schools.”

 

Cuomo’s vendetta against the teachers’ union is payback for refusing to endorse him. His vendetta against Long Island teachers and public schools lacks a shred of rationality. He is like an angry little boy, stamping his feet and throwing his weight around, knowing that he can’t be reined in by “the little people.”

The New York State Education Department released educator evaluation results on February 26, and once again, the overwhelming majority of teachers received effective or highly effective ratings. State officials were deeply disappointed by the overwhelmingly positive results. They seem to operate under the assumption that poor test results must be caused by “bad” teachers, and that their evaluation program should identify them so they may be fired.

 

The SED found that:

 

The final evaluation results show more than 95 percent of teachers statewide are rated effective (54 percent) or highly effective (42 percent); 4 percent are rated as developing; 1 percent are rated ineffective. Ninety-four percent of principals are rated effective (66 percent) or highly effective (28 percent).

 

The results were somewhat different in New York City, which used a plan imposed by then-State Commissioner John King:

 

New York City, whose evaluation plan was imposed by former Commissioner King when the New York City Department of Education could not reach agreement on the terms of the evaluation plan with the teachers union, showed greater differentiation than most districts in the State. Although New York City teachers and principals were evaluated on the same overall subcomponents as the rest of the State, the three subcomponents used different scoring ranges to determine the subcomponent rating categories (i.e., Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, Ineffective). Less than 10 percent of teachers in the city are rated Highly Effective, while 83 percent are rated Effective, 7 percent are Developing and 1 percent are Ineffective.

 

The leader of the state Board of Regents expressed disappointment at the high proportion of teachers found to be effective or highly effective:

 

“The ratings show there’s much more work to do to strengthen the evaluation system,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “There’s a real contrast between how our students are performing and how their teachers and principals are evaluated. The goal of the APPR process is to identify exceptional teachers who can serve as mentors and role models, and identify struggling teachers to make sure they get the help they need to improve. The evaluation system we have now doesn’t do that. The ratings from districts don’t reflect the struggles our students face to achieve college and career readiness. State law must be changed to build an evaluation system that supports teaching and learning in classrooms across the State. Our students deserve no less.”

 

Chancellor Tisch, like Governor Cuomo, assumes that the proportion of students getting low scores should somehow be matched by a similar proportion of low-rated teachers. It would be useful if Chancellor Tisch and Governor Cuomo reviewed two basic documents: the American Statistical Association statement on the uses and misuses of value-added measurement (VAM) and the joint statement of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association. It is unfortunate that the Board of Regents and the Governor proceed without regard to research on the effects of out-of-school and in-school factors that affect test scores. Were they to familiarize themselves with the two documents cited, they might develop a very different action plan, one that helps both students and teachers.

 

See state ratings here.

 

 

Liza Featherstone explains why her child will not take the state tests. She does not want her child subjected to endless test prep. She does not want teachers evaluated by her son’s test scores. She wants what the school offers:

“Studying ancient China, the third-graders at my son’s school made lanterns, clay plates and terra cotta masks. They learned how to write Chinese calligraphy. They wove silks.

“My son, Ivan, and his team made a papier-mâché model of the Great Wall as viewed from space. The kids displayed their works in a breathtaking “China Museum” for parents and younger children.”

I received a letter from the teachers at PS 321. I have a direct connection to the school, as a member of my family is a student there. He loves school. He is in third grade. He is working on an essay whose topc he chose. He is researching “the Silk Road.” Last year, in second grade, he wrote about bioluminescence (I had to look it up.) this obviously a wonderful public school.

References in the letter are to Liz Phillips, the principal.

Here is the link: http://ps321.org/letter-from-ps-321-teachers/

Letter from PS 321 Teachers

February 23, 2015

Dear PS 321 Families,

It is with heavy hearts that we, the teachers at 321, reach out to you to ask for your help.

Governor Cuomo has proposed major changes to teacher evaluations in New York State. We want to let you know, from a teacher’s perspective, the changes this law could bring to PS 321 – and to our profession – if it passes.

50% of a teacher’s rating would be based on state test scores. (Currently it is 20%).
35% of a teacher’s rating would be based on the findings of an outside “independent observer” who will conduct a one time visit to the classroom. (This has never been done before. Currently our principal and assistant principals’ observations count for 60%).
15% of a teacher’s rating would be based on observations by the principal or assistant principals. The very people who know our work best would have the least input into our evaluation.
50% + 35% = 85% of our evaluations would be removed from the hands of our community and placed in the hands of the state.
And then, using these numbers, any teacher who is rated ineffective two years in a row can be fired. Liz might have no say in this.

So what might that do to PS 321? Realistically, many of us could be fired. Every year. And many more of us would be pushed away from the profession we love.

Here’s something parents need to understand. Even though, when our students take the standardized tests, most of them do just fine… many PS 321 teachers do not. Teachers’ ratings are not based on their students’ raw scores for the year, but whether their students improved from one year to the next. If a student with a ‘3’ gets one fewer question correct in 4th grade than she did in 3rd, that student might not have demonstrated the “added value” their teacher is expected to have instilled. Even though the student has mastered that grade’s content. Even though it’s just one question. And that teacher might, therefore, be rated in the bottom percentile of teachers.

That may sound patently absurd. However, that has already happened here.

If Governor Cuomo’s evaluation proposals come to pass, it might start to happen more and more. And if we are rated ineffective as a result two years in a row, we might be fired.

That is why so many schools in NYC spend so much time prepping for the tests. One or two wrong answers can make or break a teacher’s rating.

Faced with these changes, we’ve already been hearing from so many of our colleagues from across the city and state who will be forced to do more test prep. Even when they know that the tests do not give an accurate picture of student learning, or of the effectiveness of teachers. Even though they know teaching to the test is bad teaching. Faced with the reality of the loss of a paycheck – the loss of the career they are building, have built, or want to build – these proposals will push them to teach in ways they know to be counterproductive.

That breaks our hearts. But the truth is, faced with the same reality, there are those of us here who would be feeling the very same pressure. Not because we’d want to. We would try to resist. But it is inevitable that if the governor’s proposals go through, all schools will narrow their curriculum to some extent.

And that’s scary. And it breaks our hearts even more. Because we know what we have here. We love what we have— in you, in our students, in all that the PS 321 community represents. The joy that is present— every day, in our school. The value that is placed on intellectual curiosity, on creativity, on the arts. The love of learning that is visible when you enter our building, when you go into classrooms, and when you talk to students and teachers.

The values present in Governor Cuomo’s proposals are antithetical to our own. And they place them at risk. The numbers are clear: 50% of our value will be six days of tests. 35% of our value will be one day with an independent observer. And 15% of our value will be in evaluation by Liz and the assistant principals, those who know us best as educators.

Those are their values.

Our joy, our love of learning, our desire to help students become deep thinkers and problem solvers, our community, our commitment to constantly improving our practice… those are ours.

PS 321 Families: don’t let them take our values away.

We need your help. And we need it now. The education law is folded into the state budget. It goes up for a vote before April 1st.

We need you to let your legislators know that you disagree with this plan:

Email Governor Cuomo right now at gov.cuomo@chamber.state.ny.us.

Visit http://www.nyteacherletter.org/ and sign the letter to let your legislator know you disapprove of the law.

Contact your assemblymember. Go to http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ to find their contact information. Don’t stop there. Go to their offices and demand attention.

Post this issue on Facebook and tell your friends. Use social media to spread the word. Go to Albany. Make whatever noise you can.

And sign up today at ps321.org to receive information and updates from the Testing Task Force about what you can do to help support us.

What we have together is rare, especially today, when so many schools have succumbed to the pressures of testing. We must not take our school’s joyful community for granted. All that we have– all that we do together–is far too important and far too valuable to be taken away. Thank you, as always, for your energy, your support, and your inspiring, creative children.

Your Devoted Teachers

Kevin G. Basmadjian, Dean of the School of Education at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, wrote a powerful article in the Hartford Courant in collaboration with other deans from across the state.

Connecticut’s students are among the highest on the NAEP, yet its policymakers insist that its schools and teachers are unsuccessful. The politicians want more charter schools and Teach for America.

He writes:

“As a nation and a state, we have clearly failed to address the inequalities that disproportionally impact many urban school districts where kids are poor and segregated. Sadly, for the first time in 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students now come from low-income families. But instead of addressing this crisis, we have demonized teachers for failing to solve problems our government cannot, or will not, solve. Poverty, homelessness and the dangerously high levels of emotional and psychological stress experienced by low-income students — these are the problems many of our nation’s public school teachers face every day.

“Our nation’s obsession with standardized test scores will not solve these problems, and they put our country at great risk intellectually as well as economically. As educational researcher Yong Zhao writes, countries with which we are often compared — such as Singapore, Japan and South Korea — are moving away from a focus on testing in their public schools. Why? Because they have learned from the history of the United States that a great education and nation is one that rewards creativity, originality, imagination and innovation….

“The most recent scapegoat for our nation’s shameful achievement gap is teacher preparation programs, for failing to produce a steady stream of what the U.S. Department of Education abstractly calls “great teachers” to work in our neediest public schools. By blaming teacher preparation programs, the department can yet again divert public attention from the most crucial barrier to achieving educational equality: poverty.

There is a need for more “great teachers” who will commit themselves to our state’s neediest public schools. But achieving this goal will take more than naive slogans or punitive measures levied against teacher preparation programs that do not successfully persuade graduates to teach in these schools. The U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations for teacher preparation — with its emphasis on standardized test scores — work against this goal because of the overly technical, anti-intellectual portrait of teaching they endorse. We in Connecticut need to make these jobs more attractive to prospective teachers through increased respect, support and autonomy rather than criticism, disdain and surveillance.”

A reader sent this excellent commentary on teacher evaluation, written by science teacher David Knuffke. It reviews the way that top-performing nations evaluate their teachers, as well as examples of how teacher evaluation is done in several states. He also briefly summarizes the views of scholarly and professional organizations. He does this to show how Governor Cuomo’s insistence that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation be based on test scores (and, though he doesn’t mention it, an additional 35% would be based on the judgment of an outside evaluator, someone who does not work in the school). He concludes:

 

Looking at the breadth of objection to the type of rating system that the Governor is proposing, and its absence from model educational systems at the national and international levels, one can only wonder why Governor Cuomo is pursuing such a policy. Attempts to make sense of these initiatives don’t lead to flattering conclusions: Either he is ignorant of the consensus that advocates against test-score centric teacher evaluation models, or he has decided that he knows better than a broad consensus of educators, researchers, and the entire educational systems of “high achieving” countries and states. We are not sure which of these possibilities is more troubling with regard to how the Governor thinks about the public education system of the state.

 

Given this analysis, it is clear that anyone who is actually concerned with the long-term health of the New York State public education system should be vocally, and stridently opposed to the education goals of its current Governor. This is not a partisan issue, or one that seeks to unfairly protect the jobs of the NYS teacher corps. There are ways to propose teacher evaluation systems that are in agreement with research and based on evidence from what is working in other places. This is not what the Governor has chosen to do. Rather than seeking to have a conversation with educators, students, parents, and all of the other stake-holders who value education in New York State, the Governor has chosen to propose an unsupported evaluation system with no track record of success in doing what he claims to want to do. And rather than attempt to build consensus on his proposals, Governor Cuomo has taken the position that he is not interested in perspectives other than his own on this issue. He is so strongly in favor of his education proposals that he is withholding state aid figures from districts until he understands just how eager the legislature is to support him in driving his education plan through without debate. It is difficult to believe that someone so vocally concerned with the future of NYS education would be willing to threaten the aid that districts need to provide for their most underserved student populations. It is similarly difficult to understand why he stands in opposition to reality itself on the matter of creating an effective teacher evaluation system. New York State residents should be very concerned about what their Governor seeks to do. We deserve better, and so do our children.

 

 

Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for an investigation of teacher ratings on Long Island.

This follows a “Newsday” report that the portion of ratings under local control were “skewed” towards effective ratings.

Cuomo wants evaluations to count student scores as 50%, instead of the present 40% (only 20% is based on state tests, the other 20% on local measures

For some reason, Cuomo is determined to find some teachers he can fire. He is certain–despite evidence to the contrary–that low scores are caused by teachers.

He must have had terrible law school professors. There have been numerous reports that he failed the bar exam four times. If this is true, I hope he sued his law school for hiring ineffective professors.

Superintendent Michael Hynes bravely spoke out against Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make test scores more important in evaluating teachers. The following story appeared in the Long Island Advance.

Pat-Med super pokes holes in governor’s reform

Story By: NICOLE ALLEGREZZA,

“My concern is that what he is doing as a governor is overstepping his rights and responsibilities,” Hynes said of Cuomo’s reforms. “It is impacting and impeding on public schools [ability] to function the way that they should.”

“One of Hynes’ biggest criticisms is the way Cuomo announced that public schools will receive $1.2 billion in state funding. While the money seems favorable, Hynes explained Cuomo did not break down exactly what each school should expect to receive during the critical time of planning for next year’s budget.

“He is not telling schools in advance. We have no idea what his thoughts are about state aid,” said Hynes. “It makes it very difficult to plan still not knowing and to me that is a major bullying tactic that he really shouldn’t be doing.”

“Additionally Hynes disagrees with Cuomo’s plans for teacher evaluation reform. He believes Cuomo is overstepping his role as the governor by designing a new teacher plan, which “is not his job.” Rather, Hynes states, the job belongs to the Commissioner of Education and the Board of Regents.

“Further, according to Cuomo’s state address, he is looking to offer $20,000 bonus incentives to those evaluated as “high performing” teachers. Cuomo stated there also would be improvement plans to those who score poorly.

“Hynes stated that incentives are inefficient and categorize teachers by putting them in boxes.

“He is looking to create a caste system of teachers and it just doesn’t work because it pits people against each other. Competition in schools doesn’t work,” explained Hynes.

“Also, in Cuomo’s reform proposal he suggests evaluating teacher’s effectiveness on both test scores and observations equally. The outcome, according to the governor, will stop the inflation of almost all teachers being rated as effective. It would also limit tenured teachers by only granting tenure to those who have achieved five consecutive years of “effective ratings,” as opposed to the original three-year requirement.

“Hynes suggests that if teachers’ evaluations are highly dependent upon test scores, they will become more anxious about testing and teach to the tests. In effect, students will be highly impacted by not only feeling the pressure to score high for their own good but also for their teacher’s well being. “That is a lot of pressure that I don’t feel our students need. In fact, I actually think that it is child abuse,” he said.

“Some changes that can be made in his opinion, include removing some old antiquated state mandates forced upon the public schools. He also believes teacher evaluation tools can benefit from following a “growth model” rather than a “deficit model” where observers are always looking for the negatives.

“The governor proposes to look for things that are wrong,” he said. “What I would like to do, and I know our principals certainly do here, is if I am observing in the classroom I am going to notice the things done well and some of things that need to be augmented and tweaked.”

“Hynes explained because the issue of “ineffective” teachers equates to such a minimal amount, a deficit model is unnecessary. “A significant amount of teachers leave the profession after the first five years because of all the stresses that go on but the number one thing that makes them leave is that they don’t feel they are doing a good enough job,” he said. The growth model in effect will create a more positive approach to teacher evaluation. He added that by also providing mentors to first- and second- year teachers, it effectively produces better quality, long term teachers.

“The real reason for underachievement, which is rarely addressed, is poverty. “Schools that have a significant amount of poverty in their school district will have low achievement,” he emphasized. Bad test scores, according to Hynes, “really comes down to schools that don’t have enough to serve the needs of the kids.”

“If and when Cuomo’s educational plans become reality, Hynes believes there will be a “seismic shift” in the way educational services are delivered to the students. With the agenda on the table, one question remains for Hynes: What will be the next step before Cuomo pushes his reform in early April? While he’s unsure whether or not local legislatures can help at this point, “I am counting on my fellow superintendents who are in support of what I am talking about, the PTAs, and the moms and dads to say `this is inappropriate,’” he said. ”Enough is enough. What you’re doing is going to destroy public schools.”

“Those who oppose the governor’s plans should attend board of education meetings and voice their concerns and write letters to the governor, the Commissioner of Education, and the Board of Regents. Additionally, if any parents from the Patchogue-Medford school district have any questions or concerns, Hynes encourages them to call or make an appointment to meet with him to discuss the issue at hand. He can be reached at (631) 687-6380 or mhynes@pmschools.org.

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