Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

Earlier today, I posted a piece by Andy Jones, a high school language arts teacher in Hawaii. In the introduction, I mistakenly said that Hawaii had eliminated the teacher evaluation system that was created in response to winning Race to the Top funding. I wrote: “This past spring, Hawaii dropped the test-based teacher evaluation that Race to the Top had forced on the state as a condition of winning RTTT funds. The money was all gone, and so was this bad idea.” That was not completely accurate.

Andy Jones sent this note to correct me:

“I so hate to ask, but…the HSTA secretary, who along with everyone else here is a great admirer of your work, just asked me if I could mention to you that your intro to my article is somewhat inaccurate, in that the teacher evaluation system (EES) is still in place. We were merely successful in eliminating test scores from the evaluation. We are, however, almost equally angry at present, because in the months since that announcement was made, they have insisted on maintaining the excoriated SLO component (Student Learning Outcomes) – the mindbogglingly ridiculous quasi-action-research template we have to go through in our evaluations in which we choose learning objectives, administer pre-assessments, make predictions about student learning, collect evidence of student growth, etc., and are only rated “distinguished” if 90% of our predictions are accurate. This is now worth 50% of our evaluation, along with the standard Danielson-based observation cycle and Core Professionalism (basically a portfolio on Danielson Domain 4) comprising the other 50%.

“HSTA secretary Amy Perruso wanted me to post you on this, because she’s afraid that HSTA will now be bombarded with emails and telephone calls asking “How did you get rid of the teacher evaluations?” – which, unfortunately we have not and which we’re going to be attempting very aggressively this year to get rid of.

– Andy”

Andy Jones is a high school language arts teacher in Hawaii. The public school teachers in Hawaii have been energetic in stopping the worst extremes of the Race to the Top grant that the state received. This past spring, Hawaii dropped the test-based teacher evaluation that Race to the Top had forced on the state as a condition of winning RTTT funds. The money was all gone, and so was this bad idea.

Andy knows the history of American education, the cycles of criticism that follow one another, and he believes that the new federal law will give the state the ability to chart a better course than the one imposed by the Bush-Obama agenda of test and punish. I regret to say that his article is behind a pay wall, but I will share with you what he shared with me. In this time of doom-and-gloom, it is great to hear an optimistic forecast!

Andy writes:

Alarm, overhaul, stagnation, denial, recognition. Repeat ad infinitum.

Students of educational history will recognize in these five words the cycle that has defined American school culture for decades.

Thirty-three years ago, the “A Nation at Risk” report rang the alarm of educational decline. Its clarion call for improved public education resounded for the next generation and led eventually to initiatives such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top – programs that inaugurated sweeping, possibly irreversible changes to schools and school communities across the country.

A consensus has now emerged that these changes have led to dismal failure — a consensus signaled by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which emphatically seeks to reverse the damage done, in part by giving states back the freedom to define and enact their own vision of 21st-century education.

On the heels of ESSA and the widespread discussion it has initiated, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has released a report that may prove as decisive as “A Nation at Risk.”

The title — “No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State” — is misleading in that it seems to announce a mere repeat of the alarmist tone of the “Nation” report, perhaps to be followed by a new round of dubious policy suggestions from non-educators.

However, in what must come as a welcome shock to educators accustomed to routine governmental denial of policy failure, “No Time to Lose” fully acknowledges the mistakes of the past 15 years and seconds the sustained criticisms of prominent researchers such as Diane Ravitch and Pasi Sahlberg. These and many others have analyzed the extensive Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports on international education and have concluded that the misguided “reforms” of the past years have had an overwhelmingly negative impact on American schools, leading to ever further decline internationally.

They have also highlighted an additional, sinister aspect of these “reforms,” which have involved the gradual removal of educational decisions from the purview of teachers and educators and the corresponding enrichment of educa- tional corporations profiting from the proliferation of mediocre materials and programs that schools are forced to use.

We are fortunate to be living in a state led by a governor who recognizes what is at stake and who has created a robust task force that is working to establish grassroots consensus as to what is best for Hawaii schools and the students they serve.

We are also fortunate to have an increasingly dynamic teachers union that has sponsored a teacher- written report, “Schools Our Keiki Deserve,” which echoes the advice of our top educational researchers as well as the urgent tone of “No Time to Lose.”

Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) officials have shown signs recently that they are beginning to veer away from the pattern of denial that for years has characterized state and district education departments across the country. They have, for instance, conceded the unhealthy aspects of standardized testing, and they have also begun to embrace the idea of whole-child education as practiced in the world’s top-performing school systems.

As the DOE continues revising the Strategic Plan which will guide Hawaii education over the course of the coming years, teachers and citizens should encourage DOE officials to fully embrace the sobering findings of “No Time to Lose,” the tremendous energy and wealth of ideas emerging from Gov. David Ige’s task force, and the “Schools Our Keiki Deserve” report.

The report outlines a plan that is fully in accordance with the best educational research — one that can and should be integrated into the blueprint of the document that will determine much of what happens in our schools.

Karin Klein wrote education editorials for the Los Angeles Times for years. She now writes freelance, and she wrote this sensible article for the LA Times.

So-called reformers have advocated their view that the way to improve schools is to fire “bad” teachers. The way they would identify “bad” teachers is by whether the test scores of students went up or down or stayed flat. Reformers seldom acknowledged that test scores reflect family income far more than teacher quality.

This hunt for bad teachers has proved fruitless, as scores have misidentified good and bad teachers, good teachers are demoralized by an idiotic way of evaluating their work, and there are teacher shortages now in many districts, as good teachers leave and the pipeline of new teachers has diminishing numbers.

Linda Darling-Hammond once memorably said, “You can’t fire your way to Finland.”

Karin Klein agrees.

One day, when the current era of test-based evaluation is evaluated, reformers will be held accountable for the damage they have done to teachers, students, and public education. That day will come.

Teachers need help and support to become better teachers.

There is no waiting line of great teachers searching for a job.

School districts must work with the teachers they have, making sure they are encouraged and mentored. And paid well.

New Jersey has decided that teachers are now fully familiar with the Common Core and PARCC testing, even though most kids “fail” it, and henceforward the rise or fall of test scores on PARCC will count for 30% of teacher evaluations. Previously they had counted for only 10%.

This method has been debunked by the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association. It has been in use in Colorado and in many states for five years without producing any results.

This is faith-based policy.

The only sensible aspect of this change is that it counts only for teachers who teach the tested subjects in the tested grades. In neighboring New York and in other states, this discredited method applies to all teachers, and they are judged by the scores of students they didn’t teach in subjects they don’t teach.

In New York, an outstanding fourth grade teacher, Sheri Lederman, sued the state after receiving a low rating. The judge ruled that the rating system was “arbitrary and capricious.” For now, the rating system is in abeyance. At some point the Regrnts and Legislature will have to clarify how this ruling affects state law.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”