Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

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.”

This comment was posted on the blog. Please forward to Governor Andrew Cuomo. “governorcuomo@exec.ny.gov”

 

 

 

Though I have loved teaching and have always felt it was what I was destined to do, I no longer wake up motivated, excited, and eager to start a
new day. I cannot begin to tell you how the “Race to the Top”
and “No Child Left Behind” has undermined our profession
and has taken away our professional autonomy. I am sick and tired of
educational elitists like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, John King, and
our own elected officials, pointing their fingers at the teachers for
what is wrong in education. We are not what is wrong. Yes, there are
exceptions in any profession, even in politics, but most of us are
hard-working, dedicated, intelligent professionals.
Here I am, yet again, unable to sleep because I know I have today’s
responsibilities on my mind. I’m at the tail end of my career, but I
still care enough to be up at 2 am. to prepare for my teaching day.
One only needs to look at Finland to find out how to better improve
education. They have it right. High stakes testing and targeting
teachers is not what they do. They value and respect their teachers.
How about taking a look at how all of the externals affect students’
performance, like the poverty level and students’ behaviors? How
about improving discipline in school? How about making the students
accountable for their learning? Students are more than aware
that if they don’t do well, the teacher will be held accountable for
their lack of progress. The teacher will have to get more
training, not them. How about encouraging more parental involvement
outside of school? I am the teacher from 8-3. The parents are the
teachers the rest of the time. I cannot do it all. My parents spent a
great deal of time with me after school hours helping me learn what I
might have not learned well enough in school and felt it was their
responsibility to do so. I am lucky enough to work in a district
where there is a high level of parental involvement, but I have heard
story after story from colleagues in other districts who do not have
that level support and are treated very disrespectfully.
I just finished my formal observation lesson plan whose format was the
equivalent of a college term paper, as I tried to make sure I linked,
and cross-referenced, the NYS Core Curriculum Standards and the
Danielson rubrics to each part of it. It took me seven hours to
write one lesson plan. Is this really necessary? I have letter after
letter from parents appreciating my teaching abilities. Yet I have
to prove day after day to others that I am good at what I do.
I have a partial solution to the observation expectations. Do you want
to see if I’m doing a good job? Just put a camera in my classroom,
and watch me all day long. Watch me as I differentiate instruction
for the multiple levels of academic needs in my inclusion classroom.
Watch me as I dance, sing, smile, and try to inject humor into my
lessons so the children are not leaving school as defeated and
demoralized as we teachers are. Watch me as I hug the children who
are on the verge of tears because they are overwhelmed, tired, and
frustrated because what we are teaching is not developmentally
appropriate for most of our seven and eight year olds. Watch me as I
try to hold it together, mentally and physically, when I am
functioning on interrupted sleep, often waking up at two and three
am. thinking about how my day can unfold seamlessly, and perfectly,
in case I have an unannounced, evaluated walk-through.
In what other profession does one have to be perfectly “ON” all
day long? We are not automatons. We are human beings. But then, I
remind myself that these evaluations make no difference, really.
After all, our own governor has told us that we have far too many
effective and highly effective teachers, and we just cannot have that
happen again this year. Can you imagine that? Yes. Governor Cuomo
has made it abundantly clear to us that this CANNOT and WILL NOT
happen this year. So, I remind myself not to worry. After all, I’m
just one of the bunch. I’m ORDINARY or, perhaps worse, developing or even inept. Imagine if I started my school year telling my students that? “Boys and girls, we had too many top students last year.” “That doesn’t make sense.”
“There shouldn’t be so many high scoring students.” “So, just
know that there cannot be as many this year.” “Do you
understand, boys and girls?” What’s the message here? Where’s the
motivation to excel?
I have two years left to go. I don’t know if I’ll make it intact. It’s
a shame that I have to leave my profession feeling this frustrated
and disappointed. Yet, I try to go in everyday with a smile. We do
because we know these 6, 7, and 8 year old youngsters deserve to have
us at our best. Speaking of deserving, I’d have to say I deserve the
teacher’s version of the Academy Award for best classroom actress. We
teachers are all actors and actresses everyday when we go in feeling
tired, defeated, and miserable while making every effort to infuse
our classrooms with the joy of learning.
Then there is the standardized testing component. Students are being
tested on material that has not been taught because what is being tested is not in our curriculum. And, if they are unable to answer those questions, we teachers may be deemed “developing” or even worse, “ineffective”. Understanding that thousands, and perhaps even millions of dollars, has been spent on purchasing these tests and the companion on-line test prep
programs, I doubt if school districts, nor the state, will be willing
to listen to the public and end this lunacy. Imagine the money that
has been wasted when it would’ve been better spent positively and
proactively on inspirational, motivational professional
development workshops, teaching materials and supplies, improving the
physical workspace, and building self-esteem. By the way, self-esteem comes from being successful. It certainly does not evolve in a punitive atmosphere in which highly experienced, hard-working teachers’ actions, decisions, lessons, and motivations are continuously questioned and dissected. Where is the trust? Do I feel valued, appreciated and protected? No, I do not.
Our cultural, governmental, economic, academic, and educational
institutions each need a miraculous rebirth and reincarnation. Who is
courageous enough to take a stand and lead us to a morally and ethically
higher ground? Oh, and before our politicians started pointing their fingers at us, they might have better served themselves by fixing their own profession. Imagine if they held themselves to the same level of rigor and performance outcomes?

 

 

A Very Frustrated, Highly Experienced NYS Teacher

In this interview with Peter Cunningham, EduShyster gains his insights into the current thinking of the billionaire reformers.

 

Peter Cunningham was Arne Duncan’s communications director during Duncan’s first term. In Washington, he was known as “Arne’s Brain.” He is smart, charming, and well-spoken. So far as I know, he was never a teacher, but that is not a qualification these days for holding strong views about fixing the public schools. Cunningham is now back in Chicago. He started a blog called “Education Post,” which was funded with $12 million from the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and an anonymous philanthropy. Its goal, proclaimed at the outset, was to introduce a more civil tone into education debates and to advance certain ideas: “K-12 academic standards, high-quality charter schools, and how best to hold teachers and schools accountable for educating students.” Translated, that means it supports Common Core standards, charter schools, and high-stakes testing for teachers, as well as school closings based on testing.

 

You might say it is on the other side of almost every issue covered in this blog, as Ed Post praises “no-excuses” charter schools, standardized testing, Teach for America, and other corporate-style reforms.

 

EduShyster asked Cunningham if he feels the blog is succeeding, and he cites Nicholas Kristof’s recent column–admitting the failure of most reform efforts and the need to focus on early childhood programs–as an example of progress. When she pressed him about his “metrics” for “betterness,” he replies:

 

Cunningham: I think that an awful lot of people on the reform side of the fence are thrilled by what we’re doing. They really feel like *thank God somebody is standing up for us when we get attacked* and *thank God somebody is willing to call out people when they say things that are obviously false or that we think are false.* When I was asked to create this organization—it wasn’t my idea; I was initially approached by Broad—it was specifically because a lot of reform leaders felt like they were being piled on and that no one would come to their defense. They said somebody just needs to help right the ship here. There was a broad feeling that the anti-reform community was very effective at piling on and that no one was organizing that on our side. There was unequivocally a call to create a community of voices that would rise to the defense of people pushing reform who felt like they were isolated and alone.

 

EduShyster: That expression you see on my face is incredulity. But please go on sir. I want to hear more about the isolation and alone-ness of people pushing reform. How they are faring today?

 

Cunningham: Take Kevin Huffman. Now you can disagree with him on policy, but he felt like people were waking up everyday and just attacking him on social media. He tried to respond, and he just felt like it didn’t matter. By 2012-2013, Team Status Quo—your label not mine—was very effectively calling a lot of reform ideas into question. I mean look around the country. Huffman’s gone, John King is gone, John Deasy is gone, Michelle Rhee is gone. I’ve created the ability to swarm, because everyone felt like they were being swarmed. We now have people who will, when asked, lean in on the debate, when people feel like they’re just under siege.

 

There is much in this interview that is fascinating, but most interesting to me is that the billionaires, who have unlimited resources were “feeling isolated and alone.” They felt they were “being piled on and that no one would come to their defense.” They needed to hire bloggers to defend them.

 

This is indicative, I think, of the fact that social media is very powerful, and those who oppose the “reformers” own social media. The pro-public education voices are in the millions–millions of teachers, principals, parents, and students. The billionaire reformers hire thousands. Whether you consider the more than 200 bloggers who are part of the Education Bloggers Network, which advocates for public education, or consider Twitter and Facebook, the critics of billionaire-backed reform and privatization are many, are outspoken, and command a huge forum. No wonder the billionaires are feeling lonely and isolated. They can create astroturf organizations like StudentsFirst, Education Reform Now, 50CAN, TeachPlus, Educators4Excellence, and dozens more groups, but it is typically the same people running a small number of organizations and issuing press releases.

 

Is it time to feel sorry for the billionaires?

 

Be sure to read the comments that follow the interview.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a curious turn of events. Just as the federal government is forcing schools across the nation to evaluate and rank teachers using dubious metrics, corporations are beginning to back away from simplistic performance measures. The change reflects the philosophy of business guru W. Edwards Deming, who staunchly opposed merit pay and rankings, on grounds that they demoralized employees and made for a less efficient workplace.

This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The Trouble With Grading Employees

Performance ratings such as ‘meets expectations’ sap workers’ morale,
but firms aren’t sure they can do without them

Can a year’s worth of work be boiled down to a stock phrase like
“meets expectations”?

As companies reinvent management by slashing layers of hierarchy or
freeing workers to set their own schedules, performance ratings—which
grade workers on a 1-5 scale or with labels like “on
target”—stubbornly hang on. Companies like Gap Inc.,Adobe Systems
Inc.and Microsoft Corp. abolished such ratings after leaders decided
they deterred collaboration and stoked staffers’ anxieties. Yet other
companies are having a harder time letting go.

Intel Corp. has long rated and ranked its approximately 105,000
workers on a four-level scale, from “outstanding” to “improvement
required.” Devra Johnson, a human-resources director at the chip
maker, observed that ratings tended to deflate morale in a good chunk
of the 70% of the company’s workforce that receives a “successful”
rating each year—the second-lowest label.

“We’d call them the walking wounded,” she said.

Human-resources managers conducted an experiment to test a new way of
managing performance, allowing 1,700 workers in the HR department to
go unrated, although not without feedback, for about two years,
according to Ms. Johnson.

Managers found they could still differentiate performance and
distribute compensation. However, when Ms. Johnson’s team presented
its findings, company executives weren’t ready to give the labels up,
concerned that forgoing ratings would suck healthy tension out of the
workplace, she said. So the HR department started rating the employees
in the experiment again….

Marc Farrugia, the vice president for human resources at Sun
Communities Inc., is going through the “exhausting” process of
revamping performance management at the owner and operator of
manufactured housing communities. He’s concerned about the accuracy of
the company’s current approach to ratings; some managers just dole out
higher scores in order to maximize bonuses for employees they’re
scared might leave; others give everyone average ratings because it is
easy. Workers complain the ratings aren’t fair and don’t paint a true
picture of their annual performance.

“I’m being more and more convinced that ratings are doing more harm
than good,” Mr. Farrugia said….

Some executives worry that figuring performance measures, such as the
time it takes for restaurant workers to take an order, into reviews
might lack context.

“I have a real love-hate relationship with data,” said Kevin Reddy,the
CEO of fast-casual restaurant chain Noodles & Co. “You can get a false
sense of security if you zero in too closely on a rating system.”

The company moved away from numeric ratings about seven years ago but
still places workers into broad categories like “meets expectations.”
Mr. Reddy said he and his leadership team continue to question whether
they’re doing feedback right and motivating employees.

Jean Martin, a director at research and advisory firm Corporate
Executive Board who works with companies on performance management
systems, said executives are “giving the numbers too much power” by
endlessly debating their worth. An analysis of 30,000 employees by her
organization shows ratings don’t have a direct impact on performance,
she said.

Others say they have evidence showing that workers contribute less
after receiving a poor rating. David Rock, the director of the
NeuroLeadership Institute, a research firm that applies neuroscience
to the workplace, said ratings conjure a “threat response” in workers,
or “a sensation of danger,” especially if they don’t get the number
they expect. And the hangover from a bad rating can last for months,
Dr. Rock said….

Companies that have gotten rid of ratings say their employees feel
better about their jobs, and actually listen to managers’ feedback
instead of obsessing over a number. John Ritchie, a Microsoft
human-resources executive who goes by “J,” said the technology
company’s practice of rating and ranking employees discouraged
risk-taking and collaboration; since discontinuing the practice in
late 2013, teamwork is up, he said.

The internal change mirrors the shift CEO Satya Nadella is working to
effect externally, charming and collaborating with startups and
venture-capital firms so that Microsoft doesn’t get left behind in the
increasingly heterogeneous world of technology.

“We needed to change and everybody knew it,” Mr. Ritchie said of the
new performance management system.

The Gap’s new approach dumps ratings in favor of monthly coaching
sessions and frequent employee-manager conversations. But HR
executives had to convince leaders that the move wasn’t
“sacrilegious,” according to Eric Severson, the company’s co-head of
human resources.

Holly Bonds, a 17-year veteran of the company, said it was strange at
first; she was used to scanning her review for her rating and bonus
number. She now talks more frequently with her manager, so she has a
better idea of where she stands, a process that she’s found less
stressful than worrying about her rating.

“I haven’t missed it,” she said.

Write to Rachel Feintzeig at rachel.feintzeig@wsj.com

New York State education officials released data showing that the top-rated teachers, based on student test scores, are less likely to work in schools enrolling black and Hispanic students.

Did State Education Department officials read the VAM reports showing that VAM is statistically flawed as a measure of individual teachers? Are they aware that less than 20% of black and Hispanic students met the absurd passing mark on the state’s Common Core test for the past two years? Are they aware that test-based accountability discourages teachers from working in high-needs schools? Interesting that the article cites the leader of Michelle Rhee’s organization, TNTP (the Néw Teacher Project), whose goal is to replace experienced teachers with new hires. At the rate these so-called reforms are accepted as credible (despite evidence to the contrary), TNTP will be able to place millions of new hires.

Andrew Cuomo can put one notch on his belt. Carol Burris is stepping down. He better have a very big belt because his hatred for teachers eill drive out many from the profession. who will replace? Does he care? The much-honored principal of South Side High School in Rockville Center decided to retire early because of Cuomo’s punitive law. Morally and ethically, she could not continue to work in the environment he has created.

She said:

“We are now turning our backs on the very experiences that build on our children’s natural strengths in order to pursue higher test scores in this era of corporate reform. We have become blind to indicators of quality that can’t be demonstrated on a scan sheet.

“The opinions of billionaires and millionaires who send their own children to private schools awash in the arts hold more sway than those of us who have dedicated our lives to teaching children. In the words of our chancellor [Merryl Tisch], we who object are “noise.”

“Much to the dismay of Albany, the noise level is on the rise since the passage of a new teacher evaluation system that elevates the role of testing. I am not sure why I was shocked when the legislature actually adopted the nonsensical evaluation plan designed by a governor who is determined to break the spirit of teachers, but I was. What is even more shocking is the legislature’s refusal to admit what they did, which was to create a system in which 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on test scores. Whether that denial comes from ignorance or willful deceit doesn’t matter. It is inexcusable.

“What will happen to our profession is not hard to predict. Since the state has generated student “growth” scores, the scores of 7 percent of all elementary and middle school principals are labeled ineffective. Likewise, 6-7 percent of Grades 4-8 teachers of English Language Arts and math received ineffective growth scores. That is because the metrics of the system produce a curve.

“Based on the law, we know before even one test is given that at least 7 percent of teachers and principals, regardless of their supervisors’ opinion, will need to be on an improvement plan. They will be labeled either developing or ineffective. We have no idea what growth scores for high school teachers and teachers of the arts will look like — that has been, in the words of Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, “punted” to a State Education Department. Yes, they [state lawmakers] have turned the football over to the folks whom they publicly berate for the botched rollout of the Common Core.

“Well, the legislature has woken a sleeping giant. Around the state today parents are saying “no more.” The robust opt-out movement, which began on Long Island, has now spread across rural and suburban areas in upstate New York as well. Over 75 percent of the students in Allendale Elementary School in West Seneca refused the Common Core tests today. In the Dolgeville district, the number is 88 percent. Over 70 percent of the students in the Icabod Crane Elementary and Middle School refused. On Long Island, 82 percent of Comsewogue students, 68 percent of Patchogue Medford students and 61 percent of Rockville Centre students opted out of the tests. And that is but a sample.

“This is happening because the bond between students and teachers is understood and valued by the parents we serve. They have no stomach for the inevitable increased pressures of testing. Through opt out, they are speaking loud and clear.”

“She is not going away. She was already a leader in the battle against corporate reform. She has written many posts for Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog at the Washington Post. She will write more. Now she is joining the fight to save children and public education from corporate raiders full-time. Hers will be an experienced, wise voice in the fight for democratic public education.

The resounding success of the opt out movement in Néw York state prompted a state senator to introduce a bill to exempt the highest-performing districts from Governor Cuomo’s test-based teacher evaluation plan.

Presumably the advocates of the plan hope to take the steam out of the opt out movement. Divide and conquer. Apparently high-stakes will be for the middle class and the poor, not the affluent high-performing districts.

Call it segregated testing. None for the rich. Only for peons.

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