Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Master teacher Sheri Lederman is suing the State of New York after having received a low rating on the state’s “growth” measure. Her husband Bruce is her lawyer. She has been teaching for 18 years and has earned her doctorate. While only 31% of the students in the state “passed” the Common Core tests as proficient, 66% of the students in Dr. Lederman’s class were proficient. But the state gave her a low rating because, by the state’s convoluted formula, the students did not “grow” enough in their test scores.

The New York State Education Department tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, but their effort was rejected and the case is moving forward.

One of the strengths of the Lederman’s case is the excellent affidavits submitted by experts, as well as by parents and students. You can read the affidavits here. You will be informed by the expert statements of Linda Darling-Hammond, Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, Carol Burris, Aaron Pallas, and Brad Lindell.

Darling-Hammond says that Lederman’s rating is “utterly irrational.”

Amrein-Beardsley says that no VAM rating–given the current state of knowledge or lack thereof– is sufficient valid or fair to rate individual teachers.

You will find the testimony of parents and former students enlightening.

Mercedes Schneider reports that the National Council on Teacher Quality received a formal evaluation for the first time in its 15-year history, and, the results are “not pretty.”

Created by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Foundation/Institute to encourage alternative routes into teaching, NCTQ labored in obscurity for several years. Then, with the rise of the corporate reform movement, NCTQ became the go-to source for journalists looking for comments about how terrible teachers and teacher education are. It also became a recipient of Gates’ funding. See its 2011 report on teacher evaluation in Los Angeles here.)

Now NCTQ issues an annual report published by U.S. News & World Report, rating the nation’s colleges of education and finding almost all of them to be substandard. Among its standards is whether the institution teaches the Common Core. It bases its ratings on course catalogues and reading lists, not on site visits. Some institutions, skeptical of NCTQ’s qualifications and motivation, have refused to cooperate or send materials.

NCTQ recently agreed to collaborate with professors at Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina to assess the quality and validity of NCTQ’s ratings of colleges of education. The bottom line: the ratings do not gauge or predict teacher quality.

The full study opens with these conclusions:

“In our analysis of NCTQ’s overall TPP ratings, we find that in one out of 42 comparisons the graduates of TPPs with higher NCTQ ratings have higher value-added scores than graduates of TPPs with lower ratings; in eight out of 30 comparisons graduates of TPPs with higher NCTQ ratings receive higher evaluation ratings than graduates of TPPs with lower NCTQ ratings. There are no significant negative associations between NCTQ’s overall TPP ratings and teacher performance. In our analysis of NCTQ’s TPP standards, out of 124 value-added comparisons, 15 of the associations are positive and significant and five are negative and significant; out of 140 teacher evaluation rating comparisons, 31 associations are positive and significant and 23 are negative and significant.

“With our data and analyses, we do not find strong relationships between the performance of TPP (teacher prep program) graduates and NCTQ’s overall program ratings or meeting NCTQ’s standards.”

What does it mean?

Gary Henry of Vanderbilt Universoty was quoted here:

“The study also examined teacher evaluations but failed to establish a strong relationship between good teacher evaluations and NCTQ standards, according to Henry.

“The conclusion was the same,” Henry said. “Higher NCTQ ratings don’t appear to lead to higher performing teachers.”

I think that means the NCTQ ratings have no value in rating institutions or their graduates.

Can you believe how many millions, hundreds of millions, or billions of dollars have been diverted from America’s classrooms in the search for the elusive “bad teacher”? Lest we forget, this was imposed on the nation’s public schools by Race to the Top, and it is a central narrative of the reformster ideology. Find and fire those “bad teachers” and America’s economy will grow by trillions of dollars (so said Hoover Institution economist Eric Hanushek).

Except it turns out that no one has been able to find those hordes of “bad teachers.” They must be hiding. Or they must be good at test prep. In state after state, the hugely expensive teacher evaluation systems–burdened with statistically dubious methods–have been unable to unmask them.

Politico reports that 97% of teachers in New Jersey were found to be either effective or highly effective:

MOST NEW JERSEY TEACHERS RATED EFFECTIVE OR BETTER: Three percent of New Jersey teachers earned a rating of “partially effective” or “ineffective” under the state’s new teacher evaluation system, according to a report [ ] out Monday. That’s up from the 0.8 percent of teachers rated “not acceptable” under the state’s old acceptable/not acceptable system. The 2,900 teachers rated poorly under the new system taught about 13 percent of the state’s students, or 180,000 kids. “Those educators are now on a path to improvement with individualized support, or will face charges of inefficiency if unable or unwilling to better serve students over time,” the report says. The vast majority of teachers earned high ratings, with nearly three-quarters rated “effective” and nearly a quarter “highly effective.” State officials stressed that teachers are now receiving more detailed and personalized feedback than ever before. “While one year of this new data is insufficient for identifying sustained trends or making sweeping conclusions about the state’s teaching staff, we are proud of this significant improvement and the personalized support all educators are now receiving,” said Peter Shulman, assistant commissioner of education and chief talent officer.

-The New Jersey Education Association said it still has “deep concerns” about the implementation of the evaluation system and the data used in decision-making, but “these results show that teachers are working very hard to meet and exceed expectations.” NJEA is calling for “disaggregated data for teachers with challenging assignments. It is important to know whether the evaluation system is biased against teachers who work in special education, teach English-language learners, or who work in economically challenged communities,” NJEA said. And the union pledged to represent any member who believes his or her evaluation is flawed:

– The results come just days after Gov. Chris Christie denounced [] the Common Core. In remarks [ ], Christie also stressed that the state must continue its push on teacher evaluations. “On this we will be unyielding,” he said. “No one should stand for anything less than an excellent teacher in every classroom – not parents, other teachers, administrators or our students. Accountability in every classroom must be one of the pillars of our New Jersey based higher standards.”

It is puzzling to see that 3% of the state’s teachers taught 13% of the state’s students. How is that possible? Maybe the teachers would do better with smaller classes.

The hunt goes on, even though the hunters left empty-handed.

Bruce Lederman, an attorney acting on behalf of his wife, experienced elementary school teacher Sheri Lederman, filed suit to challenge the state’s teacher evaluation system. The New York State Education Department sought to have the case thrown out. Today, the New York Supreme Court ruled that the lawsuit can go forward. Good for the Ledermans!

From Bruce Lederman:

The NY Supreme Court has denied a motion by the NY Education Department to dismiss the Lederman v. King lawsuit, in which an 18 year veteran Great Neck teacher has challenged a rating of “ineffective” based upon a growth score of 1 out of 20 points, even though her students performed exceptionally well on standardized tests.

This means that the NY Education Department must now answer to a Judge and explain why a rating which is irrational by any reasonable standard should be permitted to remain. The NY Education Department argued that Sheri Lederman lacked standing to challenge an “ineffective” rating on her growth score since her overall rating was still effective and she was not fired. A judge disagreed and determined that an ineffective rating on a growth score is an injury which she is entitled to challenge in Court.

Now, Sheri will have her day in Court. A hearing will likely be scheduled in August.

In this brilliant article, Marc Tucker explains why the civil rights community is making an error by supporting annual testing as a “civil right.” He knows their leaders believe that poor and minority children will be overlooked in the absence of annual testing. But he demonstrates persuasively that annual testing has done nothing to improve the academic outcomes of poor and minority children and that they have actually been harmed by the pressure to raise scores every year.


Tucker writes:


First of all, the data show that, although the performance of poor and minority students improved after passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, it was actually improving at a faster rate before the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act. Over the 15-year history of the No Child Left Behind Act, there is no data to show that it contributed to improved student performance for poor and minority students at the high school level, which is where it counts.



Those who argue that annual accountability testing of every child is essential for the advancement of poor and minority children ought to be able to show that poor and minority children perform better in education systems that have such requirements and worse in systems that don’t have them. But that is simply not the case. Many nations that have no annual accountability testing requirements have higher average performance for poor and minority students and smaller gaps between their performance and the performance of majority students than we do here in the United States. How can annual testing be a civil right if that is so?



Nonetheless, on the face of it, I agree that it is better to have data on the performance of poor children and the children in other particularly vulnerable groups than not to have that data. But annual accountability testing of every child is not the only way to get that data. We could have tests that are given not to every student but only to a sample of students in each school every couple of years and find out everything we need to know about how our poor and minority students are doing, school by school.



But the situation is worse than I have thus far portrayed it. It is not just that annual accountability testing with separate scores for poor and minority students does not help those students. The reality is that it actually hurts them.



All that testing forces schools to buy cheap tests, because they have to administer so many of them. Cheap tests measure low-level basic skills, not the kind of high-level, complex skills most employers are looking for these days. Though students in wealthy communities are forced to take these tests, no one in those communities pays much attention to them. They expect much more from their students. It is the schools serving poor and minority students that feed the students an endless diet of drill and practice keyed to these low-level tests. The teachers are feeding these kids a dumbed down curriculum to match the dumbed down tests, a dumbed down curriculum the kids in the wealthier communities do not get….



It turns out that there is one big interest that is well served by annual accountability testing. It is the interest of those who hold that the way to improve our schools is to fire the teachers whose students do not perform well on the tests. This is the mantra of the U.S. Department of Education under the Obama Administration. It is not possible to gather the data needed to fire teachers on the basis of their students’ performance unless that data is gathered every year.



The Obama Administration has managed to pit the teachers against the civil rights community on this issue and to put the teachers on the defensive. It is now said that the reason the teachers are opposing the civil rights community on annual testing is because they are seeking to evade responsibility for the performance of poor and minority students. The liberal press has bought this argument hook, line and sinker.



This is disingenuous and outrageous. Not only is it true that annual accountability testing does not improve the performance of poor and minority students, as I just explained, but it is also true that annual accountability testing is making a major contribution to the destruction of the quality of our teaching force….


The evaluation systems recently created has serious flaws. Their goal is to fire teachers, and those likeliest to be fired are teachers in minority communities. Meanwhile applications to professional education programs are plummeting. This is a very bad scenario for children and teachers alike; it harms teachers by putting the fear of failure in their minds, and it harms the children by giving them a stripped-down schooling and a revolving door of teachers.


Time to think again, says Tucker. I agree.












A group of education leaders in New York have drafted an appeal to suspend implementation of the “Education Transformation Act of 2015″ and to convene a panel of educators and educational experts to design a research-based teacher evaluation system.


They hope to get 10,000 signatures. They have gathered nearly half that number. If you are a New Yorker, please sign so the Legislature and the Regents will begin the process of revising a truly terrible program that is guaranteed to demoralize teachers, discourage students, and produce more teaching to the test.

A group of 40 district superintendents in Néw York banded together to denounce Cuomo’s teacher evaluation system. They said that the law should be suspended as it would be bad for education.

Every superintendent should speak up. Cuomo’s plan is not research-based. It is harmful to teachers and harmful to students as well.

MaryEllen Elia, who was fired as Superintendent of Hillsborough County a few months ago, was unanimously endorsed by the Néw York State Board of Regents yesterday.


Valerie Strauss wrote about her selection here. She has the support of the Republican establishment in Florida (she was a member of far-right Governor Rick Scott’s transition team), as well as the support of teachers’ unions in Florida and Néw York.


Parent activists are wary of Elia because of her past support for high-stakes testing. To win their confidence, she must clarify her views about testing, about the Opt Out movement, about detaching test scores from teacher evaluations, about merit pay, and about Common Core.


In this interview, she reiterates her support for high-stakes testing, the Common Core, and using test scores to evaluate teachers. When asked her reaction to parent resistance to testing, she emphasizesd the need for better communications with parents. I don’t think that “better communications” will pacify parents who are fed up with the overuse of testing. At some point, hopefully soon, Commissioner Elia must recognize that parents know what they are doing, and they disagree with the Regents’ policy of plunging into the Common Core, high-stakes testing, and test-based accountability.


Commissioner Elia must understand that the problem is not a failure to communicate, but a genuine difference of opinion about how to educate children. The leaders of the Opt Out movement are not misinformed; they are very well informed indeed. Will she punish children who refuse the tests next year? Will she collaborate with parent leaders? Will she listen to parents and hear them? Will she use her influence to persuade the Regents and the Governor to reduce the importance of standardized tests? If she doubles down on Governor Cuomo’s testing agenda, she will energize the Opt Out movement. Parent leaders are disappointed by the lack of transparency in the selection process as well as the implicit message that the Regents did not listen to them. They will continue to speak out in the only way they can be heard, by refusing to submit their children to the tests.

A group of courageous teachers burned their evaluations in a trash can in front of the Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters a few days ago. They are heroes of public education for standing up and saying that these evaluations are junk.

More than three dozen Albuquerque school teachers, including many who have just been rated “highly effective” by the New Mexico Public Education Department, burned their teacher evaluations in front of the Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters Wednesday to protest what many called the inherent “unfairness” of the process.

Courtney Hinman ignited the blaze by taking a lighter to his “effective” evaluation. He was quickly followed by a “minimally effective” special education teacher from Albuquerque High School, then by a “highly effective” teacher from Monte Vista Elementary School.

Wally Walstrom, also of Monte Vista Elementary, told the crowd of 60 or 70 people that his “highly effective” rating was “meaningless,” before tossing it into the fire.

One after another, teachers used the words “meaningless” and “unfair” to describe the evaluations and the process used to arrive at those judgments.

One teacher said she was judged “highly effective,” but a colleague who uses many of the same teaching techniques was found to be “minimally effective.”

Another teacher said the majority of his autistic, special-needs students failed the SBA – a mandatory assessment test – yet he was judged “highly effective.”

To see one of these hero teachers in action, read David Wilson’s account of his exchange with the local newspaper, which is in the unfortunate habit of printing press releases from the state education department, headed by Jeb Bush acolyte Hanna Skandera. She is now chairperson of Bush’s shrinking “Chiefs for Change.” Her appointment as state commissioner was held up for years by the State Senate because she had never taught (a requirement in the state law).

Here is how his forthright letter to the editor begins:

I am writing to ask you to issue a retraction or correction to the article Ms. Westphal wrote recently about the middle school teacher who received an evaluation of minimally effective after receiving highly effective last year. I have written to Ms. Westphal regarding this matter. Unfortunately, I received an automated response explaining that she was out of town.

In your retraction or correction, please state that, contrary to what Ms. Westphal stated in her article, Ms. Hur, chief of staff of Ed Sect’y Skandera, is not a teacher. If you state that she was once a teacher, be sure to include the fact that she taught for only three years, from 2001-2004. In the state of NM, a teacher with only 3 years experience is considered a beginning, relatively inexperienced teacher, still in her probationary period.

Please also include the fact that her three years of teaching experience were in a private school, not a public school, and that she was therefore never subject to the high teaching standards historically applied to public school teachers. Include the fact that she has never been evaluated by NMTeach and has never taught under the requirements of NCLB and RTTT.

It would also be forthright of you to point out that Ms. Hur has never been certified to teach in the state of New Mexico and may also no longer be certified to teach in Colorado.

Finally, you might consider mentioning that Ms. Hur worked for Michelle Rhee’s The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and for David Coleman’s McKinsey & Co., two private organizations that continue to work feverishly to undermine America’s public schools by discrediting and demonizing public school teachers, privatizing our public institutions, and turning our students into perpetual test takers.

Catalyst reports that the teacher evaluation ratings for the public schools contained errors.

“Citing a computer coding error, district officials have acknowledged that they miscalculated last year’s REACH performance task scores for one out of every five educators.

“Only a tiny fraction of the 4,574 errors were significant enough to result in ratings changes, however. A total of 166 teachers were given corrected ratings earlier this year, and most moved up a category, CPS officials say. Teachers whose ratings dropped won’t be penalized.

“The coding error involved matching student rosters with scores on performance tasks, the subject- and grade-specific assessments that were developed by committees of CPS teachers.

“Though the problem was not extensive, the number of mistakes – and the possibility that there are still others – has renewed criticisms about the use of such a complex system to evaluate educators and put jobs on the line.”


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