Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Dr. Jim Arnold, superintendent of the Pelham City schools, explains why Georgia has a teaching shortage. The answer can be summed up in a few words: Governor Nathan Deal and ALEC, and one very long sentence:

Is it any wonder that many teachers have finally reached the point where they are fed up with scripted teaching requirements and phony evaluations that include junk science VAM and furlough days and increased testing that reduces valuable teaching time and no pay raises and constant curriculum changes and repeated attacks on their profession from people that have no teaching experience and the constant attempts to legislate excellence and cut teacher salaries and reduce teacher benefits and monkey with teacher retirement and SLO’s for non-tested subjects and state and federal policies that require more and more paperwork and less and less teaching and tighter and tighter budgets that mean doing more and more with less and less and longer school days and larger classes with higher and higher expectations and a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues and the denigration of public education and market based solutions and legislators bought and paid for by ALEC and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position and top-down management from people that wouldn’t know good teaching if it spit on their shoes and slapped them in the face? No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. No wonder more and more teachers are retiring.

Please read the rest to find out what should be done about Governor Nathan Deal’s embrace of Alec’s agenda to get rid of public education.

Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul went to the New York State Fair and encountered a large group of educators wearing T-shirts saying “Call Out Cuomo Tour.” She sat down and had a public talk with Beth Chetney, a teacher of ninth grade English for 24 years in the Baldwinsville Central School District. Chetney tried to explain why teachers were frustrated and angry. She said the teacher evaluations based on the tests were unfair, the tests themselves are “asinine,” and her own son opted out of the tests. Cuomo himself, said Chetney, was part of the problem because he has targeted teachers and disrespects them.

Hochul assured Chetney that Governor Cuomo really cares about teachers and quality education

“It’s easy to pull out these sound bites that sound the most contentious,” Hochul said. “But I’ve sat in rooms with him, and heard his real concern for teachers and the students. And I don’t think that gets covered….

“I’m here to tell that you he has a true commitment to supporting the profession and making sure that New York state regains its position as No. 1 in the nation in education,” Hochul said.

Carol Burris recently became executive director of the Network for Public Education Fund. The NPE Fund is the nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonpartisan wing of NPE, as opposed to NPE’s c(4), which endorses political candidates and is led by Robin Hiller of Tucson.

She plans to issue regular reports on important education issues. A prolific and well-informed writer, her perspective will help to inform and hopefully shape the national debate about education.

In this post, she explains the causes of the national teacher shortage. As she writes, the New York Times attributed it to an improving economy, which opened up more attractive jobs than teaching (hmmm, given the collapse of the stock market, maybe the shortage will end soon?).

Burris says the economy may have something to do with the shortage, but other factors were also important:

Earlier this year, NPR also reported on the national teacher shortage. Correspondent Eric Westervelt’s identification of the cause went beyond the usual suspect—the economy. Noting the dramatic drop in enrollment in teacher education programs (a 74% drop in less than 10 years in California), he astutely attributed at least part of the problem to the way corporate reforms have impacted the profession.

Westervelt reported that the Common Core and its battles; high-stakes testing, the erosion of tenure, and the evaluation of teachers by test scores, have all contributed to the crisis.

This comes as no surprise to those inside the profession.

David Gamberg is the superintendent of the Greenport and Southold districts on Long Island’s east end. He has long worried that the politically hostile environment for teachers is contributing to the shortage we are seeing today. “I suspect that a range of issues conspire to exacerbate the problem. Certainly the ongoing, nationwide attack on teachers and unions is near or at the very top of the list of factors driving people away.”

What Gamberg suspects has evidence. There are frequent stories about public school teachers who are leaving the profession or taking early retirement because of the toll of working in a ‘test and punish’ environment. A November NEA survey reported that nearly 50% of all teachers are considering leaving due to standardized testing. Of equal concern is how frequently educators are cautioning young adults about entering the profession.

Renowned author and teacher of literacy, Nancie Attwell, recently won the first annual $1 million Global Teacher Prize awarded by the Varkey Foundation. When she was asked by CNN whether she would advise others to become a public school teacher, her response was she would not. She said she would tell them to find a job in the private sector, or in an independent school instead. She spoke about how constricting both the Common Core and testing have made the profession. “If you’re a creative, smart young person, I don’t think this is the time to go into teaching unless an independent school would suit you.” she said.

EdWeek reported on the story, which was followed by a poll. By nearly a 5 to 1 margin, respondents said that they would not recommend teaching as a profession. Considering that EdWeek readers are by and large educational professionals, that response, combined with the NEA data, is a clear indicator of the stress felt within the profession from outside reforms.

If we are to turn this trend around, we need to act now to not only stop the attacks on teachers and tenure, but to stop evaluation systems designed to fire teachers based on metrics that no one understands. And we cannot forget that pay and working conditions matter. It should also come as no surprise that in states that pay teachers relatively well like New York State, the shortage does not yet exist. Even so, enrollment in teacher preparation programs in the Empire State dropped 22% in two years time. Many factors are contributing to the decline.

It is time for policymakers to step back and chart a different course. It makes no sense to cling to failed reforms. As school begins, students across the country are paying a hefty price.

One of the affidavits at the trial of the Lederman v. King case was filed by psychologist Brad Lindell.

His full affidavit is included in this post, which contains all the affidavits.

He sent the following note to me to explain his view of VAM in layman’s terms:

I am Dr. Brad Lindell, one of the affiants in the Sheri Lederman case who was present at the oral arguments on Wednesday. It was truly something to observe. You got the feeling that good was was going to come from the great work of Sheri and Bruce Lederman and from the experts’ opinions in so far as changing this broken VAM system. You got the sense that the judge was listening to the science about VAM and not just to the political rhetoric.

Just want to fill you in on something that was presented in my affidavit modified to give a clear and understandable example of the effects of poor reliability on a full-scale WISC intelligence test. If the same test-retest reliability from the teacher assigned yearly VAM scores (.40) was applied to the WISC full-scale to determine the 90% confidence interval, the range would be ridiculously large.


If a student scored a full-scale IQ of 100 (average) then the 90% confidence interval would be an 81 to 119. This indicates that there would be a wide range where the scores from repeated administrations of the WISC would be expected to fall for this student. One could not have confidence in the validity of a intelligence test with low reliability. Without adequate reliability, there can not be validity. This same holds true for VAM scores, whose reliabilities have been found to be notorious low.

The reliability of the WISC is generally in the .80 to .90 range. The 90% confidence intervals are generally in the +\- 6 range. So this same person with a 100 full-scale IQ would have a 90% confidence range of 94-106. Quite a smaller range.

This is why reliability is so important, which has repeatedly been shown to be low like .2 to .4 for year-to-year VAM scores. This is also why teachers year to year VAM score vary so considerably, like in the case of Sheri Lederman. Without reliability there cannot be adequate validity.

Everyone understands that the key fact about Néw York’s test scores is that they will be used to measure the “effectiveness” of teachers. The progress of children has been small over three years, and the scores align closely with demography, language, disability, and family income. Ho-hum.

Mercedes Schneider reminds us of basic facts:

“Under no conditions is it a valid use of student test scores to evaluate teachers or schools.

“The students are the test takers; these tests purportedly measure their achievement. There is no way to account for all of the possible variables that would enable the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to accurately evaluate teachers and schools using student test scores.”

The Lederman challenge to Néw York’s teacher evaluation system will be heard tomorrow morning at 10 am in the court of Judge McDonough at 16 Eagle Street in Albany. If you are within shouting distance, show up to give Sheri moral support. But mind your manners and respect the decorum of the courtroom.

If you are interested in the subject of teacher evaluation, here is a treat for you. This file contains the affidavits of the experts in the Lederman v. King case, which will be heard in New York Supreme Court in Albany on August 12 at 10 a.m. (If you have trouble with that link, try this one.)

It also contains statements from Sheri Lederman’s superintendent in Great Neck, New York, her principal, her former students, and parents, all testifying to her effectiveness as a teacher. It also includes an affidavit by an economist at AIR attempting to explain New York’s method of calculating teacher effectiveness, defending Sheri Lederman’s rating as ineffective.

Just reading all these affidavits should be enough to earn course credits at any college or university.

If Sheri Lederman should win, her victory will have statewide impact and even national impact.

If she should lose, it is the triumph of an incoherent and punitive status quo.

If you are anywhere near Albany, New York, you should try to attend the oral arguments in the Lederman v. King case on August 12 at 10 a.m. in the court of Judge McDonough, Albany County Supreme Court, 16 Eagle Street, Albany, New York.

This is a major challenge to New York’s teacher evaluation system, which could have national implications.

Sheri Lederman is an extremely successful and respected fourth grade teacher in Great Neck, New York, who was rated “ineffective” even though more than twice as many of her students passed the state tests as in the rest of the state. Her lawyer is her husband Bruce Lederman.

Here is a description of the case.

Several national experts on teacher evaluation have submitted affidavits supporting Sheri Lederman, including Linda Darling-Hammond, Aaron Pallas, Sean Corcoran, and Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, asserting that New York State’s teacher evaluation system is incoherent.

Arthur Goldstein teaches English as a Second Language students at Frances Lewis High School in Queens, New York. He blogs as NYC Educator. In his letter, Goldstein refers to a meeting that Chancellor Farina had with a local superintendent, where she recognized that highly rated teachers were likely to get lower ratings in high-poverty schools. The blogger Perdido Street School wrote: “The dirty secret of education reform is that the problems in schools and districts with high poverty/high homelessness demographics are NOT caused by “bad teachers” – they’re caused by all the effects that poverty has on the psychological, emotional, physical and social development of the children in those schools and districts.”

Arthur Goldstein writes:

Dear Chancellor Fariña:

First of all, I applaud you for acknowledging that a highly-effective rated teacher entering a troubled school may suffer a reduced rating as a result of changing schools. I very much appreciate that you’ve taken a personal interest in this teacher and plan to attach an asterisk and follow her ratings. It’s inspirational not only to me, but also to teachers nationwide, that the leader of the largest school district in the country would acknowledge that a school’s population is a major factor in teacher ratings.

This, in fact, has been a major objection many of us, including experts like Diane Ravitch and Carol Burris, have had toward value-added evaluation programs. In fact, the American Statistical Association has determined that teachers impact test scores by a factor of 1-14%. They have also determined that rating teachers by such scores may have detrimental effects on education.

I am struck by the implications of your statement. If it’s possible that a highly-rated teacher may suffer from moving to a school with low test scores, isn’t it just as likely that a poorly-rated teacher would benefit from being moved from a low-rated school to a more highly-rated one? And if, as you say, the teachers are using the same assessments in either locale, doesn’t that indicate that the test scores are determined more by students themselves as opposed to teachers?

For example, I teach beginning ESL students. Teaching these kids is one of the very best things I’ve ever done, but I now consider it a very risky business. Kids who don’t speak English tend not to achieve high scores on standardized tests. I’m sure you also know that acquiring English takes a few years, varies wildly by individual, and that it can take 5-7 years to acquire academic English. The new NYSESLAT test seems to focus on academic English rather than language acquisition. Still, it would be irresponsible of me to neglect offering basic conversation and survival skills. (In fact, NY state now requires that we offer less standalone ESL., which is neither helpful to my students nor supported by research.)

Special education children also have specific needs and disabilities that can inhibit their ability to do well on tests. It doesn’t take an expert to determine that teachers in schools with high concentrations of students with disabilities already are more likely to incur adverse ratings. Who is going to want to teach in these schools? Who will want to teach special education or ESL?

Attaching high stakes to test scores places undue pressure on high-needs kids to pass tests for which they are unsuited. For years I’ve been hearing about differentiation in instruction. I fail to see how this approach can be effectively utilized when there is no differentiation whatsoever in assessment. It’s as though we’re determined to punish both the highest needs children and their teachers.

Since the advent of high-stakes evaluations, the morale of teachers I know and represent has taken a nose dive. Teachers, regardless of ratings, are constantly asking me about their ratings, and live in fear of them, as though the Sword of Damocles were balanced over their heads. Though the Danielson rubric is heralded as objective, in practice it’s very much in the eye of the beholder. As if that were not enough, ratings are frequently altered by test score ratings. Diane Ravitch characterizes them as junk science. (I concur, and having music teachers rated by the English Regents scores of their students pushes it into the realm of the ridiculous.)

Personally, I found the older evaluation reports to be much more thorough and helpful. Supervisors used to be able to give detailed reports of what they saw, and specific suggestions on what could be improved. ThoughI can’t speak for everyone in this, I found them easier to read than the checklists we currently receive. Just like our kids, we are not widgets. We are all different, and are good or not so good on our own merits.

Of course no one wants bad teachers in front of children. The current system, though, seems to focus on student test scores rather than teacher quality. It seems to minimize teacher voice in favor of some idealized classroom that may or may not exist.

It’s a fact that test scores are directly correlated with family income and level of special needs. There is no reliable evidence that test scores are indicative of teacher quality or lack thereof. Teachers are the second-best role models for children. It’s quite difficult for us to show children that life is a thing to be treasured when we have virtual guns placed to our heads demanding higher test scores or else. Just like our kids, we are more than test scores.

On behalf of children and teachers all over New York State, I ask that you join us in demanding a research and practice-based system of evaluating not only teachers, but our students as well.


Arthur Goldstein, ESL teacher, UFT chapter leader
Francis Lewis High School

Gary Rubinstein keeps a close eye on Teach for America and watches how it shows its true colors from time to time. That happened with the votes cast on amendments to the Senate bill called “Every Child Achieves Act.”

TFA lobbyists urged Senators to support the Murphy-Booker amendments, which would have retained the worst, most punitive features of No Child Left Behind. They also publicly opposed parents’ right to opt their children out of state tests, on the flimsy claim that this would hurt poor and minority children. In fact, poor and minority children are victimized by high-stakes testing, by a greater emphasis on testing, and by closing of schools located mostly in their communities.

Rubinstein writes that the Murphy-Booker amendment:

says that the states must identify the schools most in need of intervention, which must be at least the bottom 5%. It seems that the Democrats did not learn the lessons from NCLB about the danger of putting specific numerical targets into federal law and how those numerical targets can be abused. The fact that there is always a bottom 5% no matter how good the schools are in a state. Also, schools where the graduation rate is less than 67%, a magic number for ‘failing school’ that is not grounded in any real research (not to mention one that is easy to game with different ‘credit recovery’ schemes, but that’s another issue altogether). For schools like this some of the federally mandated interventions are to inform the parents that their child is attending a failing school, to establish ‘partnerships’ with ‘private entities’ to turn around these schools, and to give the states the ability to make, and for this I’ll use a verbatim quote, “any changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for children in the school.”

So where does Murphy’s Law come in? What could possibly go wrong with this? Well for starters, there would need to be an accurate way to gauge which schools are truly in the ‘bottom 5%.’ I admit that there are some schools that are run much less efficiently than others and surely the different superintendents should have a sense of which schools they are. But as NCLB and Race To The Top (RTTT) taught us, with all the money spent on creating these metrics and the costly tests and ‘growth metrics’ that go along with those tests, it is likely to lead to way too much test prep and neglect of some of the things that make school worth going to. Then those ‘private entities’, could it be any more clear that these are charter schools taking over public schools? And as far as “changes to personnel necessary to improve educational opportunities for the children in the school”, well, firing teachers after school ‘closures’ in New York City hasn’t resulted in improved ‘educational opportunities.’ My sense is that with enough of these mass firings, it will be very difficult to get anyone to risk their careers by teaching at a so-called failing school and the new staff is likely be less effective than the old staff. So you can see why the NEA wrote a letter to the Senate urging them to vote against it. Sadly nearly all the Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders!) ignored the plea of the NEA.

TFA’s leaders gave their approval to an article sharply criticizing parents who opt their children out of standardized testing:

In The 74 [Campbell Brown’s website], disgraced former Tennessee Education Commissioner and TFA alum (not to mention ex-husband of Michelle Rhee-Johnston) Kevin Huffman wrote a completely incoherent comparison of parents opting their children out of state tests to parents opting their children out of vaccinations. The title of the article was “Why We Need to Ignore Opt-Outers Like We Do Anti-Vaxxers.” Not that we need to ‘challenge’ them, but we need to ‘ignore’ them. Don’t bother learning what motivates them to do what they do, just assume you know and ignore whatever concerns are causing them to want to do this. Huffman is also a lawyer, though his argument is quite weak. He says that wealthy opt-outers are selfish since they are doing something that somehow benefits themselves while hurting the other, less wealthy people. But does he consider that many opt-outers are doing it as a protest against the misuse of their students test scores to unfairly close schools and fire teachers? Or to protest an over emphasis on testing and testing subjects so they opt out to say “Since I’m opting out anyway, please teach my child as you would have before all this high stakes testing nonsense.” Now I can’t speak for every opt-out supporter, but I believe that opting-out helps everyone, especially the poor since the way the results of the state tests have been used has hurt them disproportionately with school closures and random teacher firings so the idea that all opt-out supporters do so knowingly at the expense of less fortunate others is something that I find offensive. Both co-CEOs of TFA, however, tweeted their approval of this article.

High-stakes testing and punitive policies widens the market for privatization, drives out experienced teachers, and clears the way for more positions for TFA.


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