Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

In a remarkable reversal, the member of the New York State Board of Regents from Long Island switched his position on the state’s teacher evaluation plan. Roger Tilles told teachers in Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York, that he will no longer support the test-based evaluation system rammed through the legislature during budget deliberations last spring.

Tilles said to the crowd:

Roger Tilles of Great Neck, now in his 11th year on the state Board of Regents, told a teachers conference in Port Jefferson that Albany faces the risk of growing opposition to the job evaluation system unless it reverses course.
“I oppose the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and principals,” Tilles said, drawing applause from about 400 teachers and school administrators at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School in Port Jefferson. “Not admitting a mistake is making a bigger mistake.”

Last June, Tilles voted to endorse the hastily passed educator evaluation plan cobbled together by the Cuomo administration and passed into law by the legislature.

His change of vote means that seven of the 17 Regents oppose the plan. If two more Regents change their votes, a majority will vote down the plan, sending it back to the legislature for a different approach, one that has research and evidence to support it.

The current wave of parental opt outs, most recently 20% of all eligible test-takers in the state, was spurred by the coupling of test scores and educator evaluations. Parents understood that making the tests so consequential would mean more test prep and less time for the studies and activities that children enjoy in school. Parent leaders from groups like Long Island Opt Out and New York State Allies for Public Education have said clearly that they want test scores separated from teacher evaluations.

Last spring, the Néw York legislature passed a budget that included a harsh and punitive teacher evaluation plan. This was done at Governor Cuomo’s insistence because he was angry that the state teachers’ union did not support his re-election in 2014. There were no hearings, discussions, or debates on the governor’s plan. It was passed because he wanted it.

The following comment was sent by Lisa Eggert, a specialist in education law who lives in Néw York. She wrote in response to this post.

“Thank you Diane for posting this! And here’s more to say about whether “this is the law”–

“1. The law (Education Transformation Act) required that the Regents pass rules on the evaluation plan by June 30, 2015, which they did, so they will not be in violation by voting no. The legislature surely realized that the tight time constraint meant that only temporary 90-day emergency rules could be passed, and it did not require a subsequent rule to be passed when the emergency one expires.

“2. It’s the job of the Regents and Ed Dept to set the plan’s cut scores that determine who is effective and who’s not. The plan of now sets an effective rating at a whopping 75% of students meeting targets. The School Administrators Assn. suggests 55%. What science or research supports 75%?

“3. The law actually requires that the public be told all the specifics regarding research and studies on which the plan is based, when the Ed Dept publishes a Notice of Rulemaking (the Notice is also required by law). But when the Ed Dept published the Notice, it gave a non responsive answer, identifying no study or research and just acknowledging that it had to work with experts. This is a legal violation of NY’s State Administrative Procedure Act, which protects the public’s right to have input into rules that have the force of law.

“4. The law is also being violated because the Admin Pro Act requires that any member of the public who asks be allowed access to any underlying studies. The Notice says to contact Kirti Goswami at the Ed Dept. I’ve emailed and spoken with her several times to find out how to access any underlying studies supporting the plan or, alternatively, to confirm that in fact no studies or research were relied on in creating the plan. She has been unable to provide anything or confirm anything, all in violation of the Admin Pro Act. (It feels like an awful run-around.)

“5. So, in talking to the Regents, feel free to point out that yes, the law is being broken –the law that protects the public’s right to understand and assess proposed rules and give input. I don’t mean to sound hoaky but this is the law that protects the democratic process, giving the public a voice when unelected officials, like the Commissioner Elia and the Regents, make rules. The Regents need to stand up for these laws that protect our basic rights.

“6. And also, from the state’s inability to point to any underlying science, it strongly appears that these rules, including the harsh cut scores, are entirely unfounded. They should be voted down so that a researched-based plancan be created by experts.”

The Board of Regents will vote at their Sept. 16-17 meeting on making the new teacher-principal evaluation rules permanent. The current rules were adopted on a temporary “emergency” basis.

The current rules maintain a heavy emphasis on testing. Teachers, principals, and schools will be evaluated by the rise or fall of test scores, a practice that promotes teaching to the test, narrowing of the curriculum to only what is tested (math and reading), cheating, gaming the system.

Email or call your Regent and urge him or her to vote NO.

If they say that the bad system, which has no research behind it, is “law,” tell them that good people have a civic duty to resist unjust laws.

The tests have an absurdly high passing mark; they are no valid or reliable. Their purpose is to make your school look bad, so that the state can swoop in and turn it over to a private charter entrepreneur.

Protect your children and public education.

Call or email your Regent. Here is a guide to their emails and the regions they represent.

Here are the Regents who voted to continue the misuse of high-stakes testing a few months ago. Please urge them to vote NO this time:

Charles Bendit
Anthony Bottar
Andrew Brown
Christine Cea
James Cottrell
Josephine Finn
Wade Norwood
James Tallon
Merryl Tisch
Roger Tilles
Lester Young

Here are the Regents who voted NO last time. Please thank them for standing up for common sense, good education, the rights of children, and the dignity of the teaching profession:

Kathleen Cashin
Judith Chin
Catherine Collins
Judith Johnson
Beverly Ouderkirk
Betty Rosa

If the votes of three Regents were to change, the whole absurd system would come tumbling down, and our Board of Regents could get to work on research-based, evidence-based school reforms, instead of punishments based on invalid standardized tests.

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.


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