Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Peter Greene sees signs that educators are fed up with the top-down mandates from non-educator Arne Duncan, fed up with the failed punitive policies of NCLB and Race to the Top. Now we know that Washington cares about one thing only: test scores, and now we know that the beneficiaries of Washington’s obsession are the testing companies. We have now had nearly 15 years of test-based incentives and sanctions and ample evidence that this approach has driven joy out of learning and failed to achieve anything that benefits students or society.

As the school year begins, let’s hope that there will be more states following Vermont’s lead by rejecting federal mandates and setting forth their own vision of what good education looks like. Let’s hope that there will be more teachers like those in Chicago and at Garfield High in Seattle who insist on doing what’s right for their students. Let’s hope that there will be more superintendents like those in Washington State who were compelled by NCLB to send home a letter saying “we are a failing school,” but added a cover letter saying that it was not true. Let’s hope that integrity, courage, and candor break out everywhere.

Paul Horton here attempts to understand why the Obama administration is waging war on teachers. He reminds us of Central Falls, when the Obama administration supported firing the entire staff of the high school. He remembers when the administration was neutral during the Chicago teachers’ strike, and Arne Duncan’s support for the noxious Vergara decision. He could have mentioned many other instances of the administration’s hostility to teachers, such as Duncan’s support for the L.A. Times story releasing the names and ratings of teachers. Or the administration’s silence during the large demonstrations against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, or its silence as vouchers spread.

He writes:

“In sum, the war on teachers and due process for teachers is presented by many Democrats as a new war on poverty, and, somewhat obscenely, “the Civil Rights Movement of our time.” Last year Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of Washington D.C. Schools, made speeches at southern civil rights museums that proclaimed that supporting charter schools and making teachers accountable was the key to creating a more equitable America. Closing the achievement gap and not the excuse of poverty was the new focus of the new Civil Rights movement. The National Civil Rights Museum—Lorraine Motel in Memphis recently recognized Geoffery Canada, a Harlem charter school operator and the star of the anti-pubic school documentary, “Waiting for Superman” as a “Civil Rights Hero.”

It was cheaper to wage war on teachers than to wage war on poverty. But that leaves so much unexplained. Why did President Obama embrace the Republican agenda of testing, accountability, and choice? Why did President Obama turn against one of the most reliable members of his party’s base? Horton doesn’t explain.

Remember that Arne Duncan said that there was too much testing, that testing was sucking the oxygen and joy out of classrooms? New York didn’t get the message. In that state, state tests count for 20% of educator evaluations, and local assessments count for another 20%. That is the agreement negotiated with the unions when the state won Race to the Top funding.

That was then, this is now.

The Néw York Board of Regents want state test scores to count for 40% of the evaluations of teachers and principals. This report was was confirmed to me by someone in Albany.

It matters not to the Regents that test-based evaluation is not working anywhere else. It matters not that the AERA and the National Academy of Education warned against it, warned that it would incentivize teachers to avoid high-needs students. It matters not that the American Statistical Association warned against using test scores to rate individual teachers since they affect only 1-14% of variation in student scores.

The ASA said: “Attaching too much importance to a single item of quantitative information is counter-
productive—in fact, it can be detrimental to the goal of improving quality. In particular, making changes in response to aspects of quantitative information that are actually random variation can increase the overall variability of the system.”

Unlike the state of Vermont, which refuses to rate teachers and principals by test scores, Néw York’s Regents will plunge ahead, regardless of the damage they do to teachers, principals, students, and communities.

This editorial from the Tampa Bay Times was published in March, but I just discovered it and wanted to share it. Unlike the editorial writers in many other cities, the Tampa Bay Times went beyond the press releases and self-serving statements of public officials.

They pointed out that the ratings had a margin of error of 50%. “That means it is useless. Still, the state intends to base half of a teacher’s performance evaluation, and future pay, on this absurdity.

“As Tampa Bay Times staff writers Lisa Gartner and Cara Fitzpatrick reported, the state’s flawed system rates some of the region’s most honored teachers as low performers. Hillsborough County teacher of the year Patrick Boyko, a social studies teacher at Jefferson High School, scored a minus 10.23 percent, with a margin of error above 50 percent. Translation? His students scored 10 percent worse on the FCAT than typical children across the state even though the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test measures students in reading, writing, mathematics and science, but not social studies. Of course, it mattered little since the margin of error larger than Boyko’s actual VAM score invalidated the whole process.”

“Even lawmakers had to acknowledge it wasn’t fair to judge teachers based on students’ performance in academic areas they do not teach. But how do you assign a numeral measurement to teachers who inspire and challenge children to read classic literature, explore scientific principles, create a piece of art, write a song, or run a 5K for the first time? In Florida, you would check to see how the kids did on their math FCAT. The system is so convoluted that one Hernando School District administrator correctly observed the highest rated teachers are likely the physical education staffers at A-rated schools.

“Like Florida’s controversial school grading system, these teacher evaluations, relying on the value-added model, are not credible and conflict with the school districts’ own performance standards. House Speaker Will Weatherford has said he wants to restore trust and integrity to the school grades, but he also champions a value-added concept for rating teachers — a model, he acknowledges, that is so complex he can’t explain it. Neither district administrators nor classroom teachers have confidence in this evaluation system. The Department of Education should toss its modeling and let districts devise an evaluation system for teachers that more accurately reflects the daily occurrences inside individual classrooms.”

If only other editorialists took the time to look at the VAM ratings, they too would conclude that this multimillion dollar exercise in number-crunching is Junk Science.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley reports that highly rated teachers are leaving the Houston public schools because of the erratic EVAAS measure. Seven teachers are suing the district based on its erratic measure.

In this post, she tells the story of a teacher with 15 years experience who prefers teaching in high-needs schools.

“The one teacher highlighted in this piece, “holds a mathematics degree from the University of Houston, has taught all levels of high school mathematics for 15 years…and has repeatedly pursued assignments in high-needs schools with large Latino populations. While administrators, parents and peers have consistently rated him as a highly effective teacher, his EVAAS scores have varied wildly. While at [one district high school], he earned one of the highest EVAAS scores and year-end bonuses possible. Two years ago, teaching the same subject at [another high school] he received a below-average EVAAS score.” This teacher decided to leave the high-needs school in which his students’ performance apparently “biased” his results. He explained, “I can’t afford to be heroic. I want to be in the toughest schools, but the EVAAS model interprets my students’ challenges as my personal [and professional] failure.”

Teachers in training, she reports, are shunning Houston because of the flawed EVAAS.

Don’t forget: the purpose of EVAAS was to ensure that HISD had only “great teachers.” When will district leaders recognize it is driving away its best teachers?

Sarah Garland, writing for the HECHINGER Report, says that the Reagan-era report “A Nation at Risk” (1983) laid the groundwork for today’s regime of high-takes testing, longer school hours, and tougher accountability measures. The conservative Republicans he quotes express satisfaction with the Obama administration’s embrace of their agenda. The enduring puzzle: who stole the Democratic agenda of equity and teacher professionalism?

The Vermont State Board of Education adopted a resolution on assessment and accountability with a message: We will not let the federal government bully our children. We read research and incorporate it into our policy decisions. This set of principles and resolutions could serve as a guide for every state and school district about the appropriate uses of assessment and the true goals of education in our society.

Vermont State Board of Education

Statement and Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Adopted August 19, 2014

The Vermont State Board of Education is committed to ensuring that all students develop the knowledge, capabilities and dispositions they need to thrive as citizens in their communities, higher education and their careers in the 21st century. The Board of Education’s Education Quality Standards (EQS) rules aim to ensure that all students in Vermont public schools are afforded educational opportunities that are substantially equal in quality, and enable them to achieve or exceed the standards approved by the State Board of Education.

These rules were designed to ensure continuous improvement in student performance, instruction and leadership, so that all students are able to develop high levels of skill and capability across seven essential domains: literacy, mathematics, scientific inquiry and knowledge, global citizenship, physical and health education and wellness, artistic expression, and transferable 21st century skills.

To achieve these goals, educators need to make use of diverse indicators of student learning and strengths, in order to comprehensively assess student progress and adjust their practice to continuously improve learning. They also need to document the opportunities schools provide to further the goals of equity and growth.

Uniform standardized tests, administered across all schools, are a critical tool for schools’ improvement efforts. Without some stable and valid external measure, we cannot evaluate how effective we are in our efforts to improve schools and learning. Standardized tests – along with teacher-developed assessments and student work samples — can give educators and citizens insight into the skills, knowledge and capabilities our students have developed.

What standardized tests can do that teacher developed tests cannot do is give us reliable, comparative data. We can use test scores to tell whether we are doing better over time. Of particular note, standardized tests help monitor how well we serve students with different life circumstances and challenges. When used appropriately, standardized tests are a sound and objective way to evaluate student progress.

Despite their value, there are many things tests cannot tell us. Standardized tests like the NECAP and soon, the SBAC, can tell us something about how students are doing in a limited set of narrowly defined subjects overall, as measured at a given time. However, they cannot tell us how to help students do even better. Nor can they adequately capture the strengths of all children, nor the growth that can be ascribed to individual teachers. And under high-stakes conditions, when schools feel extraordinary pressure to raise scores, even rising scores may not be a signal that students are actually learning more. At best, a standardized test is an incomplete picture of learning: without additional measures, a single test is inadequate to capture a years’ worth of learning and growth.

Along a related dimension, the American Psychological Association wrote:

“(N)o test is valid for all purposes. Indeed, tests vary in their intended uses and in their ability to provide meaningful assessments of student learning. Therefore, while the goal of using large-scale testing to measure and improve student and school system performance is laudable, it is also critical that such tests are sound, are scored properly, and are used appropriately.”

Unfortunately, the way in which standardized tests have been used under federal law as almost the single measure of school quality has resulted in the frequent misuse of these instruments across the nation.

Because of the risk of inappropriate uses of testing, the Vermont State Board of Education herewith adopts a series of guiding principles for the appropriate use of standardized tests to support continuous improvements of learning.

1. The Proper Role of Standardized Testing – The purpose of any large scale assessment must be clearly stated and the assessments must be demonstrated as scientifically and empirically valid for that purpose(s) prior to their use. This includes research and verification as to whether a student’s performance on tests is actually predictive of performance on other indicators we care about, including post-secondary success, graduation rates and future employment.

In addition, standardized test results should be used only in concert with a diverse set of measures that capture evidence of student growth and school impact across all important outcomes outlined in the Education Quality Standards.

2. Public Reporting Requirement – It is a state and local obligation to report on the quality of the schools to the citizenry. Standardized testing is part of this reporting obligation. The state board encourages local public reporting of a diverse and comprehensive set of school quality indicators in local school, faculty and community communications.

3. Judicious and Proportionate Testing – The State Board of Education advocates for reducing the amount of time spent on summative, standardized testing and encourages the federal government to reduce the current requirements for annual testing in multiple subjects in every grade, 3-8, and then again in high school. Excessive testing diverts resources and time away from learning while providing little additional value for accountability purposes.

4. Test Development Criteria – Any broad scale standardized assessment used in the state of Vermont must be developed and used appropriately in accord with the principles adopted by the American Educational Research Association, the National Council on Measurement in Education, and the American Psychological Association.

5. Value-added scores – Although the federal government is encouraging states to use value added scores for teacher, principal and school evaluations, this policy direction is not appropriate. A strong body of recent research has found that there is no valid method of calculating “value-added” scores which compare pass rates from one year to the next, nor do current value-added models adequately account for factors outside the school that influence student performance scores. Thus, other than for research or experimental purposes, this technique will not be employed in Vermont schools for any consequential purpose.

6. Mastery level or Cut-Off scores – While the federal government continues to require the use of subjectively determined, cut-off scores; employing such metrics lacks scientific foundation. The skills needed for success in society are rich and diverse. Consequently, there is no single point on a testing scale that has proven accurate in measuring the success of a school or in measuring the talents of an individual. Claims to the contrary are technically indefensible and their application would be unethical.
The use of cut-off scores reports findings only at one point on a statistical distribution. Scale scores provide significantly more information. They allow a more valid disaggregation of scores by sub-group, provide better measures of progress and provide a more comprehensive view of achievement gaps.

7. Use of cut scores and proficiency categories for reporting purposes – Under NCLB states are required to report school level test results in terms of the Percentage of Proficient Students. The federally mandated reporting method has several well-documented negative effects that compromise our ability to meaningfully examine schools’ improvement efforts:

 Interpretations based on “percent proficient” hides the full range of scores and how they have changed. Thus, underlying trends in performance are often hidden.

 The targets established for proficiency are subjectively determined and are not based on research. Interpretations based on “percent proficient” also lack predictive validity.

 Modest changes to these subjective cut scores can dramatically affect the percent of students who meet the target. Whether a cut score is set high or low arbitrarily changes the size of the achievement gap independent of the students’ learning. Thus, the results can be misleading.

So that we can more validly and meaningfully describe school- and state-level progress, the State Board of Education endorses reporting performance in terms of scale scores and standard deviations rather than percent proficient. We will comply with federal requirements, but will emphasize defensible and useful reporting metrics.

8. The Federal, State and Local Obligation for Assuring Adequacy and Equality of Opportunity – Much as the state must insure a high quality education for all children, the school must be provided with adequate and equitable resources from the federal, state and local governments and must use these resources wisely and judiciously. Thus, any report on a school based on the state’s EQS standards must also include a report on the adequacy of resources provided by or to that school in light of the school’s unique needs. Such evaluations shall address the adequacy of resources, the judicious use of resources and identify any deficiencies.

Resolution on Assessment and Accountability Vermont State Board of Education

WHEREAS, our nation and Vermont’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s and the state’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the overreliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in the nation’s public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, a compelling body of national research shows the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in areas such as narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education requests that the Secretary of Education reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which has at its center qualitative assessments, does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, decreases the role of compliance monitoring, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on the United States Congress and Administration to accordingly amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act”) to reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality, eschew the use of student test scores in evaluating educators, and allow flexibility that reflects the unique circumstances of all states; and

RESOLVED that the Vermont State Board of Education calls on other state and national organizations to act in concert with these goals to improve and broaden educational goals, provide adequate resources, and ensure a high quality education for all children of the state and the nation.

In the New York Times, Motoko Rich reported Arne Duncan’s scathing criticism of Arne Duncan’s policy of test-based evaluation for teachers. The story shows that Duncan dreamed up this policy, that he promoted it in Race to the Top, and in the waivers he offered states to avoid the onerous conditions of No Child Left Behind. Rich points out that Duncan borrowed the rhetoric of his most scathing critics in offering states a delay. The story includes an excellent quote from Anthony Cody, recommending that the federal government butt out and leave decisions about teacher evaluation to states and districts.

Kevin Huffman said that Tennessee will continue with Duncan’s policy, even though Duncan has denounced it. “In Vermont, by contrast, the state board of education recently adopted a resolution saying formulas based on test scores would not be included in teacher evaluations.”

It is a good story about the politics of the issue.

The only point missing from the story is that the policy has failed to make a difference wherever it has been tried, that teachers in states like Florida are rated on the performance of students they never taught, and that the American Statistical Association warned that teachers affect only 1-14% of test score variance. In short, the policy doesn’t work. It demoralizes teachers to be judged by a false metric. It has failed. But its advocates can’t bring themselves to admit failure.

Arthur Goldstein teaches English to immigrant students in high school in New York City. He has taught for many years. He has written about the importance of tenure, which enables him to advocate for his students without fear of losing his job. He can be a whistle blower without fear of losing his job. He has academic freedom because he has tenure.

Frank Bruni of the New York Times doesn’t like tenure. He also doesn’t like public schools or teacher unions as he was possibly the only columnist in America to write a positive review of the movie flop “Won’t Back Down,” which was underwritten by the far-right billionaire Philip Anschutz.

In this post, Arthur Goldstein dissects Frank Bruni’s opinion column, in which he cites Whoopi Goldberg as an authority and State Senator Michael Johnston of Colorado, who wrote one of the most punitive teacher evaluation bills in the nation. Four years later, does Colorado have the great schools and great teachers Johnston promised when he pushed the bill through? Of course not. Smoke and mirrors. Another DFER triumph built on demoralizing teachers.

Give it up, reformers. The scores on the ACT are flat from 2010-2014, despite the billions wasted on testing, test-based teacher evaluation, and merit pay. Your reforms have reformed nothing. They have failed. Pay attention.

Improve the lives of children and families. Improve working conditions in the school. Demand equitable resources for schools. Reduce class sizes for needy children. Do what works. Throw your punishments and sanctions into the ash-heap of history. It will happen sooner or later.

Start now to build the structures that work for students and teachers.

FairTest_______________________
National Center for Fair & Open Testing
for further information:
Bob Schaeffer (239) 395-6773
cell (239) 699-0468
for use with annual ACT scores on or after Wednesday, August 20, 2014

STAGNANT ACT SCORES SHOW TEST-DRIVEN U.S. SCHOOL POLICIES
HAVE NOT IMPROVED COLLEGE READINESS,
EVEN WHEN MEASURED BY OTHER TESTS

Another year of flat scores on the ACT, the nation’s most widely administered college admissions exam, provides further evidence that a decade of test-driven public school policies has not improved educational quality.
Reacting to ACT scores released today, Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) said, “Proponents of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ ‘Race to the Top,’ ‘waivers,’ and similar state-level programs promised that focusing on testing would boost college readiness while narrowing score gaps between racial groups. The data show a total failure according to their own measures. Doubling down on unsuccessful policies with more high-stakes,
K-12 testing, as Common Core exam proponents propose, is an exercise in stubbornness, not meaningful school improvement.” (see http://fairtest.org/common-core-assessments-factsheet)

Stagnant scores and racial gaps have also been reported on the federal government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the SAT college admissions test.

Schaeffer continued, “The lack of progress toward excellence and equity will provide further ammunition for the country’s growing testing resistance and reform movement. Ending the counter-productive fixation on standardized exams is necessary to create the space for better assessments that actually enhance learning and teaching.” FairTest actively supported this past spring’s opt-out campaigns and other protests that focused attention on testing overuse and misuse.

FairTest is also a national leader for test-optional higher education admissions. More than 830 accredited, bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities now do not require all or many applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores (see http://fairtest.org/university/optional). Eight more schools – Wesleyan University, Old Dominion University, Hofstra University, Temple University, Montclair State University, Beloit College, Bryn Mawr College and Emmanuel College — dropped test-score requirements already this summer. In addition, Hampshire College, which long was test-optional, is now “test-blind.”
– – 3 0 – -

2014 COLLEGE-BOUND SENIORS AVERAGE ACT SCORES
1,845,787 million test takers

COMPOSITE SCORE FIVE-YEAR SCORE TREND
(2010 – 2014)
ALL TEST-TAKERS 21.0 0.0

African-American 17.0 + 0.1
American Indian 18.0 – 1.0
Asian 23.5 + 0.1
Hispanic 18.8 + 0.2
White 22.3 0.0

Source: ACT, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014

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