Jonathan Pelto here reports on a great new piece by civil rights lawyer Wendy Lecker.


He writes:

“In her latest MUST READ commentary piece, fellow public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, lays out the facts about Governor Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and fatally flawed teacher evaluation system. Like the junk bonds that helped take down Wall Street, Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system is based on junk science and false assumptions.


The question is not whether the state should have a comprehensive teacher evaluation system, but whether the corporate education reform industry will continue to stand in the way of developing one.


Lecker says that Governor Dannell Malloy’s teacher evaluation system is fundamentally flawed.


Lecker writes that the solution to failed tests is not more tests.


From her article:


Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”


Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation.


The commissioner’s “solution” is to add interim tests to a teacher’s rating. Determining what tests will be used, how they will be aligned to the standardized tests, and how all the test scores will be rolled into one “score” for teachers, will likely render this change completely unworkable.


She adds:


A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than 2 percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under 10 percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

Increases in non-cognitive abilities are also strongly correlated with other adult outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of arrest, a higher rate of employment and higher earnings. Increased test scores are not.

In short, focusing on non-cognitive abilities, those not measured by test scores, are more important in predicting success in high school and beyond.


Why are the corporate reformers so wedded to standardized tests that they themselves probably could not pass? They love data. They want Big Data. They believe that every problem can be solved by measurement and manipulation of Big Data. They also believe that they can create the appearance of “failing public schools” by generating data showing how many kids are not meeting an artificial benchmark. This enables them to argue for more charter schools that are free to exclude the children who did not meet the artificial bench mark. Big Data is now part of the tool kit of privatization. It is not about helping kids or improving education, but finding a rationale for turning public dollars over to private managers. If we really wanted to help kids and improve education, we would take the billions now going into testing and use it to reduce class sizes, to increase the arts, and to provide every child the medical care they need.