Archives for category: Research

The University of Kentucky College of Education and the NAACP have agreed to establish a research center at the university to address issues of concern to African American communities. The driving force behind this project is the new Dean of the College, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, who is a nationally recognized scholar on equity policies. Heilig has written extensively about civil rights, charter schools, and Teach for America. He is a founding board member of the Network for Public Education.

Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post:

The NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States, is launching a new education initiative with the University of Kentucky that will provide a home for Black faculty to conduct and disseminate research on the community in a new way.


The enterprise marks the first time that the NAACP has joined with university-based education scholars to help address racial inequities that for decades have plagued public schools around the country.


“It’s a brand new paradigm,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, dean of the University of Kentucky’s College of Education who has served on the NAACP executive committee and as the education chair for the NAACP’s California Hawaii State Conference. “There is no playbook.”


Vasquez Heilig, who is the initiative’s mastermind, said research will be done not by finding topics in the halls of academia, as is usually done, but rather in African American communities.


The idea here is to go to communities and understand what research they think needs to be done,” he said in an interview. “Instead of going to communities in the colonial way and taking research, we are asking what research they think is important to do.”


The focus of the initiative’s work will be to advance and protect education for students from preschool through higher education — with an emphasis on race-based discrimination. Special attention will be paid to students from underserved communities in Kentucky, which reflects many around the country.


The initiative will also seek to understand the challenges of students who are marginalized in the education sector based on factors including ability, gender, ethnicity, age and sexuality — and it will explore the intersectionality of these identities.


The agreement for the new initiative — for which a director and researchers have been hired — was signed by Vasquez Heilig, NAACP president and chief executive Derrick Johnson, NAACP Chairman Leon W. Russell and David Blackwell, the provost of the University of Kentucky. It will be based in the department of educational policy studies and evaluation at the College of Education at the university, which is largely funding the initiative.


These scholars will partner with students, educators, and communities to document the experiences of those facing educational disparities and use research to shape public policy,” Johnson said in a statement. “To see change, we must focus on discipline policies, school funding structures, college and career readiness initiatives, and our own great teachers in underserved communities.”


The director of the initiative is Gregory Vincent, a renowned civil rights attorney who just joined the faculty of the University of Kentucky. He is also the outgoing Grand Sire Archon of the Boule’, the nation’s first Greek-letter fraternity founded by African American men.


Researchers hired for the initiative include Sarah LaCour, arriving from the University of Colorado at Boulder, who will serve as an assistant director of the civil rights initiative, and Cheryl Matias, a scholar who studies culturally responsive education practices.

I recently had a conversation with Julian Vasquez Heilig, the dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. Heilig discusses his own background, a trajectory that took him from Michigan to Stanford, then to Texas, California, and now Kentucky. He is a scholar and an activist who now seeks to lead a new conversation about education in a Kentucky, bringing the community into close connection with the schools.

I have known Julian since 2012, when he became a founding member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

His blog, “Cloaking Inequity,” is one of the liveliest on the web. He has a passion for equity and inclusion that shines through his scholarship, his blog, and his activism.

The National Education Policy Center issued a statement today about teaching reading.

The bottom line: There is no “science of reading.”

It’s time for the media and political distortions to end, and for the literacy community and policymakers to fully support the literacy needs of all children.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Joint Statement Regarding
“Science of Reading” Advocacy

KEY TAKEAWAY:

It’s time for the media and political distortions to end, and for the literacy community and policymakers to fully support the literacy needs of all children.

CONTACT:
William J. Mathis:
(802) 383-0058
wmathis@sover.net

Kevin Kumashiro
kevin@kevinkumashiro.com

BOULDER, CO (March 19, 2020) – The National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) today jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading.”

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

The truth is that there is no settled science of reading. The research on reading and teaching reading is abundant, but it is diverse and always in a state of change. Accordingly, the joint statement highlights the importance of “professionally prepared teachers with expertise in supporting all students with the most beneficial reading instruction, balancing systematic skills instruction with authentic texts and activities.”

This key idea of a “balanced literacy” approach stresses the importance of phonics, authentic reading, and teachers who can teach reading using a full toolbox of instructional approaches and understandings. It is strongly supported in the scholarly community and is grounded in a large research base.

The statement includes guiding principles for what any federal or state legislation should and should not do. At the very least, federal and state legislation should not continue to do the same things over and over while expecting different outcomes. The disheartening era of NCLB provides an important lesson and overarching guiding principle: Education legislation should address guiding concepts while avoiding prescriptions that will tie the hands of professional educators.

All students deserve equitable access to high-quality literacy and reading instruction and opportunities in their schools. This will only be accomplished when policymakers pay heed to an overall body of high-quality research evidence and then make available the resources as well as the teaching/learning conditions necessary for schools to provide our children with the needed supports and opportunities to learn.

The Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading” can be found on the NEPC website at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/fyi-reading-wars

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

The National Education Policy Center
School of Education, University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309

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Education Week examined the extent of state oversight of publicly funded religious schools and found that it was minimal. Betsy DeVos’s goal of public funding for religious school tuition is gaining traction.

However, there is one glaring error in the article: it cites positive poll data from Education Next, which strongly supports vouchers, yet fails to mention that voters have repeatedly rejected such programs, most recently in Arizona in 2018, where voucher expansion lost a state referendum by a margin of 65-35% despite ample funding from the Koch and DeVos families and the support of Governor Doug Ducey, a Koch mentee.

The story begins:

Montana, like many other states, helps some students pay for tuition at private schools. But the rules for the schools that participate in its tax-credit scholarship program are scant: They do not have to hire teachers with college degrees or conduct criminal background checks on all their employees. Schools do not have to publicly report graduation rates or demonstrate that they are on sound financial footing. And no entity-be it the state, the organization that awards the scholarships, or the private schools-is required to track and report basic demographic data on the students who use the program.

Montana is hardly an outlier.

Nearly 30 states that have private school choice programs that either directly pay students’ tuition at private schools or provide generous tax-credits to incentivize businesses and individuals to do so.

But few require private schools to follow standard policies used to ensure transparency and accountability in the nation’s public schools, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey of states on how private school voucher and other closely related programs are regulated.

* Just six states require that all participating private schools admit students regardless of their religion, while only three require participating private schools to admit students regardless of their sexual orientation.

* Only 11 require that all teachers in participating private schools have a bachelor’s degree.

* Fourteen mandate that schools conduct criminal background checks on all staff before accepting tuition paid with the help of state aid.

* And only six states require schools to publicly report their graduation rates.

Those and other findings demonstrate the relatively thin state oversight these programs operate under, especially when compared to the tight regulation and governance of public schools.

While proponents say that giving families the choice to use publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools-and the freedom to walk away from any school that isn’t living up to their expectations-is the ultimate form of oversight, opponents argue that vouchers and their kin are funneling taxpayer money into largely unaccountable private schools.

It’s not a new debate, but it is one that has added urgency as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a case challenging the legality of Montana’s program. The outcome of that case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (Case No. 18-1195), could remove the constitutional hurdles to establishing voucher programs in many other states.

“For school choice families, transparency is necessary if the policy goals articulated in the voucher laws are to be achieved-does the school provide sufficient information for families to make informed choices?” said Kevin Welner, a University of Colorado education professor who studies law and public policy. He is also the director of the National Education Policy Center, a group that is generally critical of vouchers. “I think more importantly, when the school accepts taxpayer dollars, it has to be transparent … around the responsible use of those dollars.”

Growing Popularity

The popularity of private school choice programs continues to grow.

More than half of Americans now support the idea of allowing government to help families pay for tuition at private schools, according to a 2019 survey on the public’s attitudes toward education by the journal Education Next.

Taken together, the number of private school choice programs, which include traditional vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts, and families using them have expanded substantially over the past decade, fueled by influential advocacy groups and strong parental demand.

While Montana’s program is at the center of the potentially pivotal Supreme Court case, it’s miniscule-around 40 students a year receive an average annual scholarship of $500-compared to private school choice programs in Arizona Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin, which serve tens of thousands of students in their respective states with average scholarship amounts in the thousands.

To better understand the governance and accountability of this small, but growing sector of the K-12 system, the EdWeek Research Center reviewed statutes in 29 states that have at least one of the three types of private school choice programs on the books. The Research Center then sent the results of its analysis to state education departments to verify, correct, or update the findings.

The analysis’ findings include:

* Five states require that all teachers in participating private schools be licensed;

* Eight states require all participating private schools to publicly report the results of state and national tests;

* Four states require public reporting of demographic data on participating students;

* Five states explicitly require all participating private schools to admit students with disabilities;

* Fourteen states mandate that participating private schools prove that they are fiscally sound through audits or other measures.

Finally, half of the states with private school choice programs-14-do not even require that the agencies or organizations overseeing them publicly list all the private schools participating.

The same is true for the third-party organizations that oversee tax-credit scholarship programs. Just 12 states require a publicly available list of scholarship-granting organizations-the groups that are approved by the state to take in tax-credit-eligible donations and award scholarships.

Oklahoma is among the states that do not require that a list of scholarship-granting organizations be publicly reported. It took Education Week dozens of emails, multiple records requests, and six months to simply obtain the names of the scholarship-granting organizations from the state.

This is only part of the article. In the remainder, there are extensive quotes from voucher zealot Robert Enslow of EdChoice, formerly known as the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, whose only purpose is to promote publicly-funded vouchers.

It would be interesting to see an article in Education Week about the long list of states that have voted against vouchers (including Florida and Arizona) but got them anyway, shoved down the throats of the public by voucher fanatics with large wallets to buy legislators’ votes. Such an article–or a different one–would review the studies of vouchers that show they have a negative effect on students’ test scores. How about an article about the “education scholarships” in D.C., which has never found any gains for voucher students, and most recently showed that voucher students lost ground? Or a review of the Thomas B. Fordham study of Ohio vouchers that showed that students lost grounds in voucher schools? Or similar results in Indiana and Louisiana?

We are hurtling back to the early 19th century, not preparing students to live in the present and the future.

As every reader of this blog knows, Mercedes Schneider is a relentless, dogged, and accurate researcher. She has the skills to dig through IRS reports and other online data that connect the dots and reveal how big money and Dark Money are controlling organizations and elections, thus endangering our democracy. In addition to teaching high school English in Louisiana, she has a doctorate in research methods and statistics. She’s good at taking a complicated subject and teaching it.

In 2018, Mercedes was invited to do a workshop at the annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Indianapolis with Andrea Gabor and Darcie Cimarusti about digging for data. The session was packed.

So many people wanted to learn more that Mercedes decided to write a book sharing her knowledge.

This is the book, published by Garn Press.

Mercedes announced the book.

My latest book, A Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon.

Garn Press will have the book available for purchase on March 03, 2020.

About the book:

In A Practical Guide to Digital Research, Schneider draws on her years of experience as an educational researcher to offer an easy-to-read, easy-to-digest, concise tutorial for equipping both novice and more experienced researchers in navigating numerous research sources. These include nonprofit tax form search engines, newspaper archives, social media sites, internet archives, campaign filings/ethics disclosures, teaching credential search engines, and legal filings. Also covered are tips on conducting both email and in-person interviews, filing public records requests, and conducting pointed, fruitful Google searches.This powerful, practical text is built upon a foundation of actual examples from Schneider’s own research in education—examples that she dissects and explains as a means of teaching her readers how to effectively make these valuable lessons their own. Though Schneider’s own research is chiefly in the education reform arena, the resources, skills and techniques offered in A Practical Guide to Digital Research transcend any single research field and are indispensable for confronting a variety of research queries. Useful as a classroom text or for independent research study, the book provides foundational learning for those new to research investigation as well as surprising, valuable lessons for more experienced researchers challenging themselves to learn even more.

For those interested, Amazon allows readers to view the book, including its table of contents.

The the idea for this book stems from a presentation I participated in with colleagues Andres Gabor and Darcie Cimarusti on tracking the funding related to the promotion of market-based education reform titled, “Where Did All This Money Come From??: Locating and Following the Dark Money Trail” at the 2018 Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis.

I know you will love this book. I predict that Bill Gates, John Arnold, Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch will not.

And a reminder: there are still a few openings at the 2020 annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia on March 28-29. It will be at the Doubletree Hilton.It is a great opportunity to meet your allies from a rossthe nation. Please register now!

John Thompson, historian and retired teacher in Oklahoma, reviews SLAYING GOLIATH in two-parts.

This is part one. 

He begins:

Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools is the history of the rise and fall of corporate school reform, but it is much more. It isn’t that surprising that a scholar like Ravitch, like so many researchers and practitioners, predicted over a decade ago how data-driven, competition-driven “reform” would fail. Technocratic “reformers,” who Ravitch calls “Goliath,” started with a dubious hunch, that socio-engineering a “better teacher” could overcome poverty and inequality, and then ignored the science that explained why evaluating teachers based on test score growth would backfire.

It may be surprising that Ravitch, an academic who had once worked in the Education Department of President George H. W. Bush, and served on the board of the conservative Fordham Foundation, become the leader of the grass roots uprising of parents, students, and educators which she dubs the “Resistance.” But it soon became clear why Ravitch inspired and guided the Resistance. In contrast to Goliath, who “ignored decades of research” and assumed the worst of their opponents, Ravitch respected and listened to practitioners and patrons.

One big surprise, which is explained in Slaying Goliath, is how Ravitch presciently understood why output-driven, charter-driven reform devolved into “privatization.”  She had firsthand experience with the hubris of the Billionaires Boys Club, understanding the danger of their desire to hurriedly “scale up” transformational change. And being an accomplished scholar, she had insights into how top-down technocrats’ embrace of behaviorism in the tradition of Edward Thorndike and B.F. Skinner, led to their commitment to “rigidly prescribed conditioning via punishments and rewards.”

Ravitch was among the first experts to fully grasp how, “Behaviorists, and the Disrupters who mimic them today, lack appreciation for the value of divergent thinking, and the creative potential of variety. And they emphatically discount mere ‘feelings.’”

Ravitch witnessed how corporate reformers “admire disruptive innovation, because high-tech businesses do it, so it must be good.” Rather than take the time to heed the wisdom of those who had no choice but to become Resisters, Goliath’s contempt for those in the classroom drove an evolution from “creative destruction” to “Corporate Disruption.”

Disrupters were in such a rush that they used children as “guinea pigs in experiments whose negative results are clear.” But they “never admit failure,” and remain oblivious to the fact that “The outcome of disruption was disruption, not better education.”  And these billionaires not only continue to “fund a hobby injurious to the common good.” They’ve ramped up their assault on public education and its defenders, perpetuating a “direct assault on democracy.”

Ravitch predicts, “Historians will look back and wonder why so many wealthy people spent so much money in a vain attempt to disrupt and privatize public education and why they ignored income inequality and wealth inequality that were eating away at the vitals of American society.”

Thompson goes on to tell some of the important events in which I was a participant. Such as the decision within the first Bush administration to trash the infamous Sandia Report, which disputed the desperate findings of “A Nation at Risk.” And my discussions with Albert Shanker about what charter schools should be in the American system. He saw them as part of a school district, operating with the approval of their peers as collaborators, as R&D labs, not as competitors for funding and students. And my 2011 meeting at the Obama White House, when the top officials asked what I thought of  Common Core and I urged them to launch field trials; they rejected the idea out of hand.

And Thompson quickly understood that, unlike the Disrupters, who wanted to reinvent and disrupt the public schools, I listened to practitioners. I assumed they knew far more than I, and I was right about that. I understood the negative effects of NCLB and the Race to the Top because I saw them through the eyes of those who had to implement shoddy ideas.

Thompson concludes:

Ravitch observes that in contrast to the Resistance, “So as long as billionaires, hedge fund managers, and their allies are handing out money, there will be people lined up to take it. But their transactions cannot be confused with a social movement.” Moreover, “The most important lesson of the past few decades is that “Reform doesn’t mean reform. It means mass demoralization, chaos, and turmoil. Disruption does not produce better education.”

I’ll conclude this post with Ravitch’s words on the two dogmas that the Disruption movement relied on:

First, the benefits of standardization, and second, the power of markets. Their blind adherence to these principles has been disastrous in education.    These principles don’t work in schools for the same reasons they don’t work for families, churches, and other institutions that function primarily on the basis of human interactions, not profits and losses.

The two most distinguished education researchers in the nation are Gene V. Glass and David C. Berliner, both of whom have held the highest positions in their profession and are universally admired for their careful research and long history of defending the highest standards in the research community.

Together they wrote an essay-review of my book SLAYING GOLIATH.

The review can also be accessed here.

They found the book to be fair-minded and unbiased. And they liked it a lot!

They did some genealogical research about me and my family.

They refer to this blog as “the most influential communications medium in the history of public education.”

They describe the book “as the efforts of a historian to find the facts and follow where they lead.”

They write “We sincerely thank Ravitch for her careful documentation of the greed, anti-democratic actions, and just plain stupidity displayed by so many of our nation’s leading political and business leaders who attempted to fix education….

“In the following, we provide a flavor of the book by brief examples from each chapter. We hope that this whets the appetite for a full reading by anyone concerned with the attacks on public education by those whom Ravitch calls the Goliaths. With her slingshot and stone, she joins a noble battle to preserve this uniquely American invention, which Horace Mann called the greatest invention of mankind….”

I think you will enjoy their insights, as when they indict Common Core as Bill Gates’ biggest folly, concluding that his love for standardization causes him to confuse schooling with DOS, the Microsoft operating system. They say that the “philanthro-capitalists” believe that schools should be run like businesses, like their own businesses. “They ignore the fact that the vast majority of businesses fail. They are incredulous when their schools fail.”

Glass and Berliner have written a valuable review (they are not entirely uncritical, as they still call me to account for the sins of my years on the other side).

I hope you will read it in its entirety.

I am immensely gratified to receive this careful and thoughtful review by two of the nation’s most respected scholars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gary Rubinstein has a deep aversion to hypocrisy, hypes, and propaganda.

He read a widely publicized report saying “research shows” that graduates of KIPP have higher college completion rates than their peers.

But then he discovered that the research shows no significant difference between KIPP students and their peers in college completion rates. 

His post debunks Richard Whitmire’s erroneous claim that KIPP students finish college at a rate three to five times greater than students who went to public schools. It is also a valuable lesson in reading and interpreting research findings or claims that “research shows.”

He begins:

The way reformers misuse data follows a very simple and predictable plan:  First they get some skewed data, then pick a ‘researcher’ to interpret the skewed data.  The ‘researcher’ then writes a report which gets touted in The74, EduPost, and eventually even makes it into more mainstream publications like USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.  Since the report is filled with nonsense and half-truths, within a few weeks the truth comes out and the report is discredited, but not before the damage was done and the spin has made it into folklore.  When this happens, the reformers will then ‘move the goalposts’ and get some more skewed data and start the process over again.

An example of this is the July 2017 report by Richard Whitmire called ‘The Alumni‘.  Whitmire has written books about both KIPP and about Michelle Rhee so I think you get the idea of what his point of view is.  In this poorly researched project he concludes that “Data Show Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average“.

This was probably the easiest report I ever debunked.  The biggest flaw was that for most of the charter schools, they were only counting the percent of graduating seniors who persisted in college and then comparing that percent to the overall percent of all low-income students — an apples to oranges comparison.  Whitmire acknowledges this in another post about the methodology in which he says that only KIPP counts students who leave the school before they graduate and that their numbers are much lower, but still at 38% which is at least triple the expected graduation rate for low income students.

A second flaw, and this one is very difficult to compensate for, is that charter school students are not a random sampling of all students since many families choose no to apply to them.  So you get a biased sampling even if you do count all the students who get into the charter school and not just the ones who make it to graduate from the charter school.  And even though I and others have discredited his report, it is something that still gets quoted in the main stream media.

Just recently, however, I learned of a report generated by Mathematica and funded by the John Arnold Foundation.  I think that Mathematica is a very reputable company and even though reformers often hire them to produce reports, sometimes those reports reach conclusions that reformers were not expecting.

In this case, the report called “Long-Term Impacts of KIPP Middle Schools on College Enrollment and Early College Persistence” , reached a result that completely contradicts Whitmire’s claim that “Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average”.

Read on to see just how overblown is the KIPP myth about the college success of their students

Here’s the relevant summary of what they found:

Screen Shot 2020-01-04 at 5.07.25 PM

 

 

 

A group of scholars collaborated to write a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that studies how teachers affect student height. It is a wonderful and humorous takedown of the Raj Chetty et al thesis that the effects of a single teacher in the early grades may determine a student’s future lifetime earnings, her likelihood graduating from college, live in higher SES neighborhoods, as well as avoid teen pregnancy.

When the Chetty study was announced in 2011, a front-page article in the New York Times said:

WASHINGTON — Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.

The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.

“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people,” said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. “This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”

The study, which the economics professors have presented to colleagues in more than a dozen seminars over the past year and plan to submit to a journal, is the largest look yet at the controversial “value-added ratings,” which measure the impact individual teachers have on student test scores. It is likely to influence the roiling national debates about the importance of quality teachers and how best to measure that quality.

Many school districts, including those in Washington and Houston, have begun to use value-added metrics to influence decisions on hiring, pay and even firing….

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.

“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors…

The authors argue that school districts should use value-added measures in evaluations, and to remove the lowest performers, despite the disruption and uncertainty involved.

“The message is to fire people sooner rather than later,” Professor Friedman said.

Professor Chetty acknowledged, “Of course there are going to be mistakes — teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.” But he said that using value-added scores would lead to fewer mistakes, not more.

President Obama hailed the  Chetty study in his 2012 State of the Union address.

Value-added teacher evaluation, that is, basing the evaluation of teachers on the rise or fall of their students’ test scores, was a central feature of Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top when it was unveiled in 2010. States had to agree to adopt it if they wanted to be eligible for Race to the Top funding.

When the Los Angeles Times published a value-added ranking of thousands of teachers, teachers said the rankings were filled with error, but Duncan said those who complained were afraid to learn the truth. In Florida, teacher evaluations may be based on the rise or fall of the scores of students that the teachers had never taught, in subjects they had never taught. (About 70% of teachers do not teach subjects that are tested annually to provide fodder for these ratings.) When this nutty process was challenged inn court by Florida teachers, the judge ruled that the practice might be unfair but it was not unconstitutional.

The fundamental claim of VAM (value-added modeling or measurement) has been repeatedly challenged, most notably by economist Moshe Adler. When put into law, as it was in most states, it was found to be useless, because only tiny percentages of teachers were identified as ineffective, and even the validity of the ratings of that 1-3% was dubious. The use of VAM was frozen by a judge in New Mexico, then tossed out earlier this year by a new Democratic governor. It was banned by a judge in Houston.  A large experiment funded by the Gates Foundation intended to demonstrate the value of VAM produced negative results.

Now comes economic research to test the validity of linking teacher evaluation and student height.

 

Marianne Bitler, Sean  Corcoran, Thurston Domina, and Emily Penner wrote:

NBER Working Paper No. 26480
Issued in November 2019
NBER Program(s):Program on Children, Economics of Education Program

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

 

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