Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

This is an unusual political campaign. Matthew Fitzpatrick, an educator in Orange County, Florida, is running for a seat on the district school board on a platform opposed to the evaluation methods of Robert Marzano. Now, I have no views for or against Mr. Marzano since I am not a classroom teacher and I am not familiar with his method, but I have seen remarkable pushback on this blog from teachers. Since I too oppose the reduction of teaching to numerical measurements, I am sympathetic to his arguments.

He gives 40 reasons to oppose the Marzano method. I am posting only four of them. Read his post if you want to see the other 36.

My name is Matthew J. Fitzpatrick, and I am running for the District 7 Seat on the Orange County School Board. I am currently an Assistant Director at Orange Technical College, Westside Campus in Winter Garden. I’ve been in education for 23 years — 12 years as a teacher, and 11 years as a school and district administrator. In all my years of being involved in education, in my opinion, I have never seen a more demoralizing and destructive system than the OCPS implementation of the Marzano Teacher Evaluation system. I believe the Marzano system, more than anything else, is driving teachers out of education…and thus, OCPS has long lists of teacher vacancies. I believe this enough that I am willing to set aside my own administrative career and take a 50% pay cut in order to bring common sense back to the classroom. We must turn things around now.

Here are my first 40 Reasons to Replace the Marzano Teacher Evaluation System…splitting hairs on a system designed to split hairs on the art of teaching…

1. Dr. Marzano himself said on page 4 of his famous book, The Art and Science of Teaching, that, “It is certainly true that research provides us with guidance as to the nature of effective teaching, and yet I strongly believe that there is not (nor will there ever be) a formula for effective teaching.” If Dr. Robert J. Marzano says there is not a formula for effective instruction, who am I to argue with him? Why have we settle for a cookie-cutter approach to teaching?

2. Non-educators may not completely understand all of this “teacherese” jargon about teacher evaluations, but simply mention the name Marzano to an Orange County Public School teacher and take note of how they react…watch what happens to their face…feel the emotions of their words. Anything that causes such disdain among the very lifeblood of education–the teachers–surely is not good for education…no matter how much the sanitized research is quoted in support of it.

3. Where are the amazing results from using the “research-proven” Marzano strategies? Our District’s test scores and grades went down in many areas and schools. Why haven’t 6 years of Marzano transformed our District? If something is not delivering results, and at the same time it is driving great teachers out of the profession, we must make a data-driven decision and move in another direction…for the sake of our students and teachers.

4. Teaching should not be reduced to the numerical measurements of individual instructional strategies. Just as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams), in Dead Poets Society instructed his students to resist the armies of academics who want to reduce poetry to a passionless score that misses its true beauty and purpose, so, too, must students, parents, teachers and administrators stand against such a heartless, nitpicking view of the art of instruction. We must “Rip It Out” as an evaluation tool in our District.

A reader who works for a software company explains why it is so difficult to teach the standards effectively and so unfair to judge teachers by an impossible task: It takes 300 days to teach them, but there are only 180 days in a school year. Oops!

 

 

Here is the main problem with these tests. The FLDOE has absolutely no clue on how long it takes to teach each standard effectively. So the question is, “can a teacher teach the standards in the allotted time during the year?” As an educational software company we looked at the standards that a fifth grade teacher is required to teach effectively and stopped counting when we found it would take a minimum of at least 300 school days to teach the standards to an effective level. This does not include teaching a child how to type effectively if the state required typing on the writing portion of the test. The problem is, it’s impossible for an elementary school teacher or for that matter anybody including the testing companies to teach the standards that are on the test in a school year. In order for a teacher or school to score effectively on these tests you have to hope that the students that are coming into your classroom have at least some prior knowledge of the standards.

 

 

You have to understand that these tests are not built to test your child’s learning knowledge, they are built to evaluate the schools and teachers on their effectiveness on teaching the standards. Finally, ask yourself this question… “Who benefits if the teachers and schools FAIL teaching the standards effectively?” Teachers? Schools? Children? No benefit here!… Private Charter Schools? Testing Companies? Publishers? ED Tech Companies? Lobbyists and the list goes on and on and on…..

John Ewing, mathematician, is CEO of Math for America, an organization that supports teachers of mathematics.

In this post, he reviews some of the recent ill-considered efforts to “respect” teachers and offers advice about the minimum conditions necessary to assure that teachers have the respect, autonomy, and trust that professionals deserve.

You will also enjoy reading John Ewing’s brilliant takedown of teacher evaluation by test scores, which he called “Mathematical Intimidation.”

Melinda Gates told the National Conference of State Legislatures that the Gates Foundation has no intention of backing away from their agenda of Common Core, teacher evaluations that include test scores, charter schools, and digital learning.

No matter how controversial, no matter how much public pushback, they are determined to stay the course. For some reason, she thinks that the foundation is a “neutral broker,” when in fact it is an advocate for policies that many teachers and parents reject. She also assumes that the Gates Foundation has “the real facts,” when in fact it has a strong point of view reflecting the will of Bill & Melinda. There was no reference to evidence or research in this account of her position. Her point was that, no matter what the public or teachers may say, no matter how they damage the profession and public education, the multi-billion dollar foundation will not back down from its priorities. The only things that can stop them are informed voters and courts, such as the vote against charter schools in Nashville and the court decision in Washington State declaring that charter schools are not public schools.

The question that will be resolved over the next decade is whether the public will fight for democratic control of public schools or whether the world’s richest man can buy public education.

Melinda Gates said she and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, learned an important lesson from the fierce pushback against the Common Core State Standards in recent years. Not that they made the wrong bet when they poured hundreds of millions of dollars into supporting the education standards, but that such a massive initiative will not be successful unless teachers and parents believe in it.

“Community buy-in is huge,” Melinda Gates said in an interview here on Wednesday, adding that cultivating such support for big cultural shifts in education takes time. “It means that in some ways, you have to go more slowly.”

That does not mean the foundation has any plans to back off the Common Core or its other priorities, including its long-held belief that improving teacher quality is the key to transforming public education. “I would say stay the course. We’re not even close to finished,” Gates said.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has helped shape the nation’s education policies during the past decade with philanthropic donations that have supported digital learning and charter schools and helped accelerate shifts not only to the new, common academic standards, but to new teacher evaluations that incorporate student test scores.

The Obama administration shared and promoted many of the foundation’s priorities, arguing that they were necessary to push the nation’s schools forward and close yawning achievement gaps. Now that a new federal education law has returned authority over public education to the states, the foundation is following suit, seeking to become involved in the debates about the direction of public schools that are heating up in state capitals across the country.

Speaking here at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, Melinda Gates told lawmakers on Wednesday that the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, gives them a chance to grapple with whether “we are doing everything in our power to ensure that students are truly graduating ready to go on to meaningful work or to college.”

“I want the foundation to be the neutral broker that’s able to bring up the real data of what is working and what’s not working,” Gates said in an interview afterward.

She went on to say that the foundation would continue to pursue its priorities.

“I think we know what the big elements are in education reform. It’s how do you support the things that you know work and how do you get the whole system aligned behind it,” Gates said. “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. There are now 50 states that have to do it, and there isn’t this federal carrot or the stick, the push or pull, to help them along.”

The agenda she described is not one that everyone considers neutral. It includes supporting the Common Core standards and developing lesson-planning materials to help teachers teach to those standards; promoting personalized learning, or digital programs meant to target students’ individual needs; and, above all, improving the quality of teachers in the nation’s classrooms, from boosting teacher preparation to rethinking on-the-job professional development.

Our blog poet has not commented lately. Poet, we miss you! Come back!

“The night they drove Statricksy down” (parody of “The night they drove Old Dixie down)

Thomas Kane is my name and I drove on the VAMville train

‘Til Audrey Beardsley came and tore up the tracks again.

After the ASA* paper knife , we were hungry, just barely alive.**

By twenty-fourteen, Rich man had fell.
It’s a time I remember, oh so well.

(*American Statistical Association, **only had $ 45 million from the “Rich man”, Bill Gates)

The night they drove statricksy down

And all the bells were ringing,

The night they drove statricksy down

And all the people were singing

They went, “Na,na,na.na,

Na na na na na na na na na.”

Back with my colleague, Raj Chet-ty, when one day he called to me,
“Thomas, quick, come see, there goes the Gatesly Billee!”
Now I don’t mind I’m choppin’ stats, and I don’t care if I’m paid by the brats
You take what you need and leave the rest,
But they should never have taken the VAMmy best.

The night they drove statricksy down
And all the bells were ringing,
The night they drove statricksy down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na,na,na.na,
Na na na na na na na na na.”

Like my “Father”*** before me, I will work the VAM
And like my colleague before me, I took a junk-stat stand.
He was just 34, proud and brave,
but the ASA put him in his grave.
I swear by the mud below my feet
You can’t raise a Kane back up when he’s in defeat

(***William Sanders, Father of VAM)

The night they drove statricksy down
And all the bells were ringing,
The night they drove statricksy down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na,na,na.na,
Na na na na na na na na na.”

The night they drove statricksy down
And all the bells were ringing,
The night they drove statricksy down
And all the people were singing
They went, “Na,na,na.na,
Na na na na na na na na na.”

According to Chalkbeat Colorado, Denver is set to strip 47 teachers of their tenure because they received two consecutive ineffective ratings.

The state law passed in 2010 called S. 191 requires that teachers be evaluated annually, with student scores counting for 50% of the teachers’ ratings. The law was written by State Senator Michael Johnston, who spent two years as a Teach for America recruit. Johnston predicted that his law would cause every teacher, every principal, and every school in Colorado to be “great.” There is no evidence that it has had that effect.

DPS did not provide a list of the schools at which the 47 teachers set to lose tenure taught. But the district did provide some information about the teachers and their students:

— Twenty-eight of the 47 teachers set to lose tenure — or 60 percent — have more than 15 years of experience. Ten of those teachers — 21 percent — have 20 years or more of experience.
Overall, about 33 percent of non-probationary DPS teachers have more than 15 years experience, and about 14 percent have more than twenty years of experience.

— The majority of the 47 teachers — 26 of them — are white. Another 14 are Latino, four are African-American, two are multi-racial and one is Asian.
About three-quarters of all DPS teachers — probationary and non-probationary — are white.

— Thirty-one of the 47 teachers set to lose tenure — or 66 percent — teach in “green” or “blue” schools, the two highest ratings on Denver’s color-coded School Performance Framework. Only three — or 6 percent — teach in “red” schools, the lowest rating.

About 60 percent of all DPS schools are “green” or “blue,” while 14 percent are “red.”

— Thirty-eight of the 47 teachers — or 81 percent — teach at schools where more than half of the students qualify for federally subsidized lunches, an indicator of poverty….

Pam Shamburg, executive director of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said the union has long been concerned about this provision of Senate Bill 191 because teachers who are demoted to probationary status lose their due process rights.

She’s also worried it will lead to higher teacher turnover. Ten of the 47 DPS teachers set to lose non-probationary status have submitted notices of resignation or retirement, officials said, though nine of them did so before learning they would lose tenure.

“This happening to 47 teachers has a much bigger impact,” Shamburg said. “There will be hundreds of teachers who know about this. They’ll say if they can do that to (that teacher), they can do that to me.”

One of the most powerful players in the corporate reform movement is Democrats for Education Reform (DFER), which represents the hedge fund managers who are eager to expand privately managed charters with public dollars.

Experienced journalist Alexander Russo writes here in the publication of the conservative American Enterprise Institute about the travails of DFER. From the outside, it appears that DFER is powerful for two reasons: its money (which seems to be endless) and its closeness to the Obama administration. President Obama took his cues from DFER, not the teachers’ unions. But Russo says that DFER is losing its grip and its sense of possibility. If it appears to be aimless and dispirited, it is.

The two issues that it fought for–charters and teacher evaluation by test scores–have not been the big successes that the hedge fund guys expected. Obama is leaving, and there is no certainty that Hillary will be as congenial as he was. She has a debt to the teachers’ unions, and Obama had none. On issue after issue, there have been no results–not for the agenda of privatizing the schools, nor for the fantasy of booting out all those “bad teachers.”

Money was never lacking, and the vision has all but disappeared. DFER exists because it continues to raise money, not because there is a groundswell of support for privatization and firing teachers based on test scores.

DFER’s long-time executive director Joe Williams has left to work for the Walton family.

Meanwhile, DFER’s real opposition is not the teachers’ unions but the parents and educators who are fighting back on their own dime. The grassroots opponents of corporate reform don’t have the money that DFER has, but they have passion, commitment, and the support of classroom teachers and scholars who oppose DFER’s goals. No one pays them. They (we) will outlast DFER because DFER will grow tired, tired of losing Friedrichs, tired of losing Vergara, tired of reading about the Opt Out movement, tired of being thrashed by bloggers like Mercedes Schneider and Peter Greene, tired of being vilified for their selfless investment in “reform,” tired of getting no returns on their investment.

The tortoise and the hare. Rabbit stew, anyone?

I wrote a response to an editorial that appeared in the Boston Globe, which advocated for using test scores to judge teacher quality.

My response explained why that idea doesn’t work.

I cited evidence and experience.

But people who live in Massachusetts who don’t read the Globe online won’t see it.

Please forward to friends, elected officials, and policymakers.

Open the article to see the links to sources.

Here are some excerpts:

Evaluating teachers by test scores has not raised scores significantly anywhere. Good teachers have been fired by this flawed method. A New York judge ruled this method “arbitrary and capricious” after one of the state’s best teachers was judged ineffective.

Test-based evaluation has demoralized teachers because they know it is unfair to judge them by student scores. Many believe it has contributed to a growing national teacher shortage and declining enrollments in teacher education programs.

A major problem with test-based evaluation is that students are not randomly assigned. Teachers in affluent suburbs may get higher scores year after year, while teachers in urban districts enrolling many high-need students will not see big test score gains. Teachers of English-language learners, teachers of students with cognitive disabilities, and teachers of children who live in poverty are unlikely to see big test score gains, even though they are as good or even better than their peers in the suburbs. Even teachers of the gifted are unlikely to see big test score gains, because their students already have such high scores. Test scores are a measure of class composition, not teacher quality.

Seventy percent of teachers do not teach subjects that have annual tests. Schools could develop standardized tests for every subject, including the arts and physical education. But most have chosen to rate these teachers by the scores of students they don’t know and subjects they never taught.

Scholarly groups like the American Educational Research Association and the American Statistical Association have warned against using test scores to rate individual teachers. There are too many uncontrolled variables, as well as individual differences among students to make these ratings valid. The biggest source of variation in test scores is not the teacher, but students’ family income and home environment.

The American Statistical Association said that teachers affect 1 percent to 14 percent of test score variation. The ASA is an impeccable nonpartisan, authoritative source, not influenced by the teachers’ unions.

The Gates Foundation gave a grant of $100 million to the schools of Hillsborough County, Florida (Tampa), to evaluate their teachers by gains and losses in student test scores. It was an abject failure. The district drained its reserve funds, spending nearly $200 million to implement the foundation’s ideas. Gates refused to pay the last $20 million on its $100 million pledge. The superintendent who led the effort was fired and replaced by one who promised a different direction.

Should Massachusetts cling to a costly, failed, and demoralizing way to evaluate teachers? Should it ignore evidence and experience?

Common sense and logic say no.

Should teachers be judged “subjectively”? Of course. That is called human judgment. Is it perfect? No. Can it be corrected? Yes. Most professionals are judged subjectively by their supervisors and bosses. Standardized tests are flawed instruments. They are normed on a bell curve, guaranteeing winners and losers. They often contain errors — statistical errors, human errors, random errors, scoring errors, poorly worded questions, two right answers, no right answers. No one’s professional career should hinge on the answers to standardized test questions.

Massachusetts is widely considered the best state school system in the nation. The hunt for bad teachers who were somehow undetected by their supervisors is fruitless. The Legislature is right to return the decision about which teachers are effective and which are not to the professionals who see their work every day.

Diane Ravitch is president of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of public education. She is the author of “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Schools.”

Surprise: I wrote the article.

Nothing I wrote will be a surprise to readers of this blog, but may be new to the readers of The Boston Globe.

I was moved to write it because the Globe published an editorial calling for the opposite.

This is one of the best articles ever on how to end the teacher shortage.

Janice and Geoffrey Strauss write:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s irrational vendetta against teachers and public education, aided and abetted by the state legislature and former Commissioner John King’s inept handling of Common Core, charter schools and the public education system have all led to such a toxic atmosphere in education that few candidates want to even get near public school teaching…..

We must make public school teaching attractive again, and here is a short list of what should be done:

1. Eliminate the EdTPA. This system, promoted as increasing standards for teachers, is in reality so onerous and poorly thought out that it is discouraging qualified applicants to the profession. It costs both teacher candidates and the state millions, and has resulted in teacher candidates being less prepared for teaching rather than more so.

2. Eliminate standardized testing in the public schools and for teacher candidate preparation. Research shows the best indicator of a student’s success is their GPA, not standardized test scores. Standardized testing merely adds to the coffers of the private testing industry. Reinstitute teacher-created Regent’s exams. Teacher created exams are age appropriate, more accurately test the learning of students and cost much less than corporate prepared tests.

3. Let teachers mark their own students’ tests. It’s cheaper and better.

4. Eliminate corporate “canned” teaching modules created to meet Common Core Standards, and allow teachers to create their lesson plans. Teachers are the experts; release their creativity so that they can teach students properly.

5. Make the teaching profession attractive financially. Eliminate Tiers V and VI in the teacher retirement system. One of the tradeoffs teachers had accepted for the relatively low pay for the amount of education required was a decent pension. Tiers V and VI were created to punish teachers, not reward them for their service.

6. Create a “Teacher Bar Association” to establish educational requirements for teachers for public and charter schools, thus officially recognizing that teaching is a profession. Lawyers, doctors and CPAs are experts in their fields, as are teachers in theirs.

7. Establish a program to help raise the status of teaching in the public’s consciousness. Few want to enter a profession which is constantly derided by politicians and the press.

8. Common Core has been a disaster; eliminate it. While the intent was perhaps a good one, it was created by non-educators more for political and profit motives than educational ones.

If we want more teachers, we must make the profession attractive financially and creatively. Let teachers do what they do best — teach!

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