Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

When the Gates Foundation issued a press release calling for a two-year moratorium on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, its position met a mixed reception. Some saw it as a victory for the critics of high-stakes testing; others as an attempt to weaken the critics by deferring the high stakes.

Anthony Cody says, don’t be fooled. The Gates Foundation gives no indication that it understands that its path is wrong, it is simply buying time.

The question we should all be asking is how this one very rich foundation took charge of American education and is in a position to issue policy statements that should be the domain of state and local school boards. What we have lost is democratic control of public education; while no one was looking, it got outsourced to the Gates Foundation.

Cody writes:

“As a thought experiment, what would it look like if the Gates Foundation truly was attending to the research and evidence that is showing how damaging the new Common Core tests and high stakes accountability systems are? Would they simply be calling to defer the worst effects of this system for two years?

A real appraisal of the evidence would reveal:

“VAM systems are unreliable and destructive when used for teacher evaluations, even as one of several measurements.

“School closures based on test scores result in no real gains for the students, and tremendous community disruption.

“Charter schools are not providing systemic improvements, and are expanding inequity and segregation.

“Attacks on teacher seniority and due process are destabilizing a fragile profession, increasing turnover.

“Tech-based solutions are often wildly oversold, and deliver disappointing results. Witness K12 Inc’s rapidly expanded virtual charter school chain, described here earlier this year.

“Our public education system is not broken, but is burdened with growing levels of poverty, inequity and racial isolation. Genuine reform means supporting schools, not abandoning them.

“The fundamental problem with the Gates Foundation is that it is driving education down a path towards more and more reliance on tests as the feedback mechanism for a market-driven system. This is indeed a full-blown ideology, reinforced by Gates’ own experience as a successful technocrat. The most likely hypothesis regarding the recent suggestion that high stakes be delayed by two years is that this is a tactical maneuver intended to diffuse opposition and preserve the Common Core project – rather than a recognition that these consequences do more harm than good.”

Moratorium or no, he notes, we are locked into a failed paradigm of testing and accountability. Standards and tests are not vehicles to advance equity and civil rights. If anything, they have become a way to undermine democracy and standardize education.

Gary Rubinstein wondered how the “reform” sector reacted to the two big events of the past two weeks: the Vergara decision and the Gates Foundation’s advice to suspend test-based evaluations for teachers for two years. Reformers like Arne Duncan, StudentsFirst, and The New Teacher Project were delighted by the Vergara decision, which strikes at job protections for veteran teachers (more openings for newbies). Teach for America was unusually silent.

But what about the Gates moratorium? He found some confusion among the usual cheerleaders for high-stakes testing. Again, Teach for America stayed out of the fray. Reformers split into two camps.

Gary writes:

“You’ve got Bill Gates, who is essentially the Secretary of Education in this country, saying to slow down on this. And you have StudentsFirstNY, though not yet StudentsFirst, saying that slowing down is a mistake. And maybe this is all for show, some good cops and some bad cops — as long as things continue to move in the ‘reform’ direction.

“But I do think that the fact that any ‘reformers’ support a slow down is a big deal. You see, if I were a ‘reformer’ and I had confidence in the golden calf known as value-added, I would be against the slow down. Since the concept of value-added is that if it was already accurate enough to be 35% or 50% (in Denver) for teacher evaluations, then the harder (more ‘rigorous’) Common Core exams would not make it any less accurate. This is the whole point of value-added. It shouldn’t matter, to a value-added believer, if the new tests are more difficult. Everyone is working under the same handicap so the value-added formulas should, in theory, account for that.”

Two years is about all the time left to Duncan. What happens next? Maybe by then even the politicians will realize that VAM is a failed idea.

The District of Columbia has suspended the use of test scores as part of teacher evaluations, a practice which was the hallmark of Michelle Rhee’s tenure as chancellor of that district and which led to the firing of hundreds of teachers.

Chancellor Kaya Henderson said the district needs time to phase in new Common Core tests.

“Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced the decision, saying officials are concerned it wouldn’t be fair to use the new tests until a baseline is established and any complications are worked out.

“The District has fired hundreds of teachers under the system, which was put in place by Henderson’s predecessor, Michelle Rhee. Test scores make up 35 percent of evaluations for those who teach students in the tested grades and subjects.

“Last week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation joined the two largest teachers’ unions in calling for a temporary halt to evaluating teachers based on Common Core tests. The foundation has spent more than $200 million implementing the Common Core standards nationwide.

“The U.S. Education Department has not backed the idea of a moratorium, which is also being considered in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill on Thursday that would remove test scores from teacher evaluations for two years, and a handful of states have delayed using test scores to make personnel decisions. But no state that already includes test scores in evaluations has committed to pausing the practice.”

Alan Singer of Hostra University in New York wrote a critique of edTPA, a new assessment of student teachers, which was posted here. He called it “The Big Lie Behind High Stakes Testing of Student Teachers.”

A group of faculty at the City University of New York wrote to explain why they support edTPA, and it was posted here.

In a new article, Alan Singer writes that “edTPA is currently being implemented in a number of states through a partnership of SCALE (the Stanford University Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity), the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), and the publishing and testing mega-giant Pearson Education. About the same time, SCALE released “edTPA MYTHS and FACTS,” which responded to critics of edTPA and purports to set the “record straight.”

In his comments here, Singer points out that the supporters of edTPA are a small fraction of the CUNY faculty, and he challenges their defense of edTPA.

Governor Cuomo reached a compromise with teachers’ unions and legislators to protect teachers who received the lowest ratings on the Common Core tests. Such teachers will not be evaluated by the tests. Only 1% of the state’s teachers were rated ineffective. What this deal really means is that a meaningless and deeply flawed teacher evaluation system, cobbled together to get Race to the Top funding, is now rendered utterly meaningless.

Unfortunately for students, there is no relief from the many hours required for Common Core testing. Kids will continue to sit for three hours for each exam, plus dozens of hours of interim testing. Perhaps this is early preparation for the SAT or bar exams, starting in third grade.

Peter Greene says that corporate reformers have discovered the secret to generating an endless supply of “ineffective” teachers: just keep proclaiming that teachers are ineffective if their students get low scores.

“In the wake of Vergara, we’ve repeatedly heard an old piece of reformster wisdom: Poor students are nearly twice as likely as their wealthier peers to have ineffective, or low-performing, teachers. This new interpretation of “ineffective” or “low-performing” guarantees that there will always be an endless supply of ineffective teachers.

“The new definition of “ineffective teacher” is “teacher whose students score poorly on test.”

“Add to that the assumption that a student only scores low on a test because of the student had an ineffective teacher.

“You have now created a perfect circular definition. And the beauty of this is that in order to generate the statistics tossed around in the poster above, you don’t even have to evaluate teachers!”

And he adds:

“You can have people trade places all day — you will always find roughly the same distribution of slow/fast, wet/dry. good/bad vision. Because what you are fixing is not the source of your problem. It’s like getting a bad meal in a restaurant and demanding that a different waiter bring it to you.”

When Arne Duncan went to South Carolina, he probably expected to meet the usual compliant, uninformed business crowd. But Patrick Hayes of EdFirstSC was waiting to meet him, hear him, and ask questions. And Hayes is neither compliant nor uninformed.

Hayes writes:

Ever seen a weasel tap dance? Would you like to?

Well, here it is: me vs. Arne Duncan.

My first thought when I left was that I should’ve boxed him in more during the preamble. ( I was worried about losing the mic as it was).

Looking this over, I don’t think it would have done a bit of good.

The man is animatronic. Push the button and out come the talking points.

For context, here’s the setup (video cuts in midway):

“Your Dept found a 36% error rate for value-added.

Your Dept’s merit pay brief says:

TX, Nashville, and Chicago programs all showed no effect on student achievement.’

We can add NY, Denver and (more than likely) DC to that list.

Why are you spending our money on a policy that is unfair to teachers and has an extensive record of failure?”

Later in the session, Duncan’s talking points misfired. Asked about our move away from Common Core, he went on at length about how upsetting it was seeing SC go back to low standards and lying to parents.

Apparently, nobody told him that our standards were among the most rigorous in the nation, according to Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank that pushes rigor.

Like Duncan, they’re big believers in the fallacy that if we make school harder, we’ve made school better.

Patrick Hayes


Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School in Seattle, here describes the decision by the Gates Foundation to delay the high-stakes consequences of the tests promoted by—-the Gates Foundation.

Hagopian writes:

“How do you know the United States is currently experiencing the largest revolt against high-stakes standardized testing in history?

“Because even the alchemists responsible for concocting the horrific education policies designed to turn teaching and learning into a test score have been shaken hard enough to awaken from the nightmare scenario of fast-tracking high-stakes Common Core testing across the nation. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation issued a stunning announcement on Tuesday, saying that it supports a two-year moratorium on attaching high-stakes to teacher evaluations or student promotion on tests associated with the new Common Core State Standards.

“Labor journalist Lee Sustar put it perfectly when he said of the Gates Foundation’s statement, “Dr. Frankenstein thought things got out of hand, too.”

“The mad-pseudoscientists at the Gates Foundation have been the primary perpetrators of bizarre high-stakes test experiments in teacher evaluations, even as a growing body of research—including a report from the American Statistical Association—has debunked the validity of “value added method” testing models. The Gates Foundation has used its immense wealth to circumvent the democratic process to create the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) with very little input from educators.”

After dissecting this surprising and welcome retreat, Hagopian calls on resisters to join a demonstration on June 26 and continue the mass civil resistance to the Gates Foundation’s undemocratic takeover of American education:

“This latest backtrack by the Gates Foundation shows they are vulnerable to pressure. But the question remains, will the Gates Foundation pursue its call for constraining the testing creature it created with the same zeal as it showed in creating the Common Core? Will the Foundation use its undue influence and wealth to pressure states to drop the use of high stakes testing attached to Common Core tests? On June 26th, public education advocates from around the country will arrive in Seattle to protest at the global headquarters of the Gates Foundation. You should join them and find out if the Gates Foundation is brave enough to answer these questions.

“While the Gates Foundation may be bending to the will of a popular revolt, it will take nothing short of mass civil rights movement to defeat its grotesque monster of high-stakes testing that is menacing our schools.”

Mark Henry, superintendent of the Cypress-Fairbanks district in Texas, stood up and spoke out for common sense and education ethics. In this article, he explains why his district–the third largest in Texas–will not participate in a pilot test to evaluate teachers by student test scores.

He writes:

“This latest movement to “teacher-proof” education places additional fear, anxiety and pressure on professionals who are stressed enough already. I have seen this first-hand with principals and teachers who fret over the STAAR test, a once-per-year high-stakes assessment that measures how a child performed on one test on one day. Is that really learning? I don’t think so. Testing is a key diagnostic tool, and results should be used to assess the progress of students so plans can be developed to address the gaps and deficiencies of each student.
Learning is not a business; it’s a process. Use of a teacher evaluation system tied to standardized test scores alienates educators by trying to transform classrooms into cubicles. There are many more elements that go into teaching and learning than a high-stakes, pressurized test. Tying student test scores to a teacher’s evaluation may improve test scores, but does it improve a child’s educational outcome?”

Henry says there are three reasons that schools fail: mismanagement by school boards and superintendents; ineffective principals; lack of community support.

He does not blame teachers for poor leadership or systemic failure.

He writes:

“Let’s quit trying to “teacher-proof” education and stop the overreliance on data from one high-stakes test. The answers for improvement are recruiting, training and supporting our teaching professionals. Attention to these will deepen the effectiveness of what we do in the classroom and the biggest winners will be our children. “

Mark Henry is a hero of public education for his willingness to stand against a misinformed and harmful status quo.

I earlier reported that the latest data show that 97% of teachers in Pittsburgh received ratings of either “distinguished” or “advanced.” Similar findings have emerged elsewhere, which makes me wonder why it was necessary to spend billions of dollars to create these new evaluation systems, which are often incomprehensible. But Kipp Dawson, a Pittsburgh teacher wrote a comment warning that the evaluation system is flawed and riddled with unreliable elements, like VAM. Don’t be fooled, Dawson says. The Pittsburgh evaluation system was created with the lure of Gates money. It attempts to quantify the unmeasurable.

Dawson writes:

I am a Pittsburgh teacher and an activist in the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (AFT). Let’s not let ourselves get pulled into the trap of applauding the results of a wholly flawed system. OK, so this round the numbers look better than the “reformers” thought they would. BUT the “multiple measures” on which they are based are bogus. And it was a trap, not a step forward, that our union let ourselves get pulled in (via Gates money) to becoming apologists for an “evaluation” system made up of elements which this column has helped to expose as NOT ok for “evaluating” teachers, and deciding which of us is an “effective” teacher, and which of us should have jobs and who should be terminated.

A reminder. VAM. A major one of these “multiple measures.” Now widely rejected as an “evaluating” tool by professionals in the field, and by the AFT. A major part of this “evaluation” system.

Danielson rubrics, another major one of these multiple measures: after many permutations and reincarnations in Pittsburgh, turned into the opposite of what they were in the beginning of this process — presented to us as a tool to help teachers get a window on our practice, but now a set of numbers to which our practice boils down, and which is used to judge and label us. And “objective?” In today’s world, where administrators have to justify their “findings” in a system which relies so heavily on test scores? What do you think . . .

Then there’s (in Pittsburgh) Tripod, the third big measure, where students from the ages of 5 (yes, really) through high school “rate” their teachers — which could be useful to us for insight but, really, a way to decide who is and who is not an “effective” teacher?

To say nothing of the fact that many teachers teach subjects and/or students which can’t be boiled down in these ways, so they are “evaluated” on the basis of other people’s “scores” over which they have even less control.

Really, now.

So, yes, these numbers look better than they did last year, in a “practice run.” But is this whole thing ok? Should we be celebrating that we found the answer to figuring out who is and who is not an “effective” teacher?

This is a trap. Let’s not fall into it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 105,176 other followers