Archives for category: Teacher Evaluations

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!

Mitchell Robinson, professor of music education at Michigan State University, writes here about the frightening new direction that is on the horizon for evaluating student teachers.

Here comes NOTE (National Observational Teaching Examination), created by ETS, in which student teachers are judged by their ability to instruct cartoon characters (“avatars”).

Robinson minces no words in chastising educators who have decided to join forces with the corporatization of teacher education-evaluation.

He writes:

Now, even some of these education experts, tempted by the prospect of previously unimaginable wealth and power, have sold out their profession for a shot at cashing in on the corporate reform gravy train. Witness Dr. Deborah Ball’s stepping down as Dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan to concentrate on her work on NOTE: National Observational Teaching Examination for ETS, the Educational Testing Service.

As I’ve written about previously here, and here, and others have written about here, NOTE is a high-stakes student teacher evaluation test that requires pre-service teachers to “instruct” avatars–yes, avatars! And if their “teaching” of these cartoon characters isn’t deemed adequate, the student teacher is denied their certification or teaching license, in spite of the fact that the student teacher in question has just completed an accredited, rigorous 4 or 5 year teacher preparation program, regardless of the student teacher’s earned GPA or demonstrated capability to teach real, live children in hundreds of hours of field experiences in local school classrooms, or the intern’s exhibited knowledge, understanding or competence in their subject area.

(And, just to rub a little salt in the wound: the persons who are remotely-operating the avatars are not teachers themselves–they are unemployed actors who have been trained to manipulate the joy sticks and computer simulations that control the avatars’ voices and movements. The designers of the avatar system found that teachers thought too much about their responses to the interns’ teaching “moves”–the actors didn’t concern themselves with matters like content correctness or developmentally-appropriate responses; they just followed the provided script, and efficiently completed the task at hand.)

Schools Matter reported on this alarming new methodology here and here, and clarifies that the new technology-driven program is funded by….(no surprise)…the Gates Foundation, which gave $7 million to “remake teacher education in a corporate high tech image, one that can be turned into deep and fast-running revenue streams by the increasingly rapacious Silicon Valley data miners and dystopian isolationists who view democratic community as a threat to unbridled corporate greed.” It seems that Bill Gates will never abandon his goal of standardizing American education.

Our reader Jack Covey supplied this video.

Do you suppose that future teachers might master teaching cartoon avatars yet lack the skills and knowledge of a well-prepared teacher?

Jon Parker, a teacher in Pittsburgh, warns that the corporate reformers are trying to reverse the results of the school board election that they lost by attacking the board’s choice of a pro-public education superintendent. The reformers (Gates-funded and called “A+ Schools”) are abetted by the pro-privatization Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Reformers don’t like democracy unless they can buy it. The pro-public education board ended the Gates’ experiment with test-based evaluation and canceled a contract with Teach for America. That sort of thing makes reformers really angry. How dare they assert a vision different from the great Bill Gates! How dare they end his experiment in evaluating teachers! How dare they say no to TFA!

Parker outlines the scenario:

Chapter 1: Pittsburgh has a democratically elected school board.

Chapter 2: Pittsburgh’s citizens vote for pro-public education candidates.

Chapter 3: A+ Schools’ (a.k.a. Bill Gates’ employee) candidates lose.

Chapter 4: A+ Schools doesn’t know what it feels like to lose and becomes upset.

Chapter 5: Pittsburgh’s democratically elected school board selects a pro-public schools superintendent without allowing A+ Schools to railroad the process.

Chapter 6: A+ Schools becomes more upset and elicits the support of local media in a witch hunt against the new superintendent.

Peter Greene discovered that a bunch of alternative certification/charter school groups wrote a joint letter to Congress proposing that all teacher preparation programs be judged by the test scores of their students, which they call “outcome data.” He says this is one of the “Top Ten Dumbest Reform Ideas Ever.”

Yes, it’s one of the Top Ten Dumbest Reform Ideas Ever, back for another round of zombie policy debate. The same VAM-soaked high stakes test scores that has been debunked by everyone from principals to statisticians to teachers, the same sort of system that was called arbitrary and capricious by a New York judge, the same sort of system just thrown out by Houston– let’s use that not just to judge teachers, but to judge the colleges from which those teachers graduated.

Why would we do something so glaringly dumb? The signatores of the letter say that consumers need information.

Without the presence of concrete outcome measures, local education agencies and potential teacher candidates are hard-pressed to compare the quality of teacher preparation programs. Thus, it is a gamble for aspiring educators to select a teacher training program and a gamble for principals when hiring teachers for their schools

Yes, because everyone in the universe is dumb as a rock– except reformsters. Just as parents and teachers will have no idea how students are doing until they see Big Standardized Test results, nobody has any idea which teaching programs are any good. Except that, of course, virtually every program for teaching (or anything else, for that matter) has a well-developed and well-known reputation among professionals in the field….

This is just the first of a series of letters to the feds telling them what the people in charge of the nation’s shadow network of privatized faux teacher trainers. So there’s that to look forward to.

Look, it’s not just that this is a terrible terrible terrible TERRIBLE system for evaluating teacher programs, or that it’s a bald-faced attempt to grab money and power for this collection of education-flavored private businesses. These days, I suppose it’s just good business practice to lobby the feds to write the rules that help you keep raking it in. It’s that this proposal (and the other proposals like it which, sadly, often come from the USED) is about defining down what teaching even is.

It is one more back door attempt to redefine teaching as a job with just one purpose– get kids to score high on a narrow set of Big Standardized Tests. Ask a hundred people what they mean by “good teacher.” Write down the enormous list of traits you get from “knowledgeable” to “empathetic” to “uplifts children” to “creative” and on and on and on and, now that you’ve got that whole list, cross out every single item on it except “has students who get good test scores.”

It’s the fast foodifying of education. If I redefine “beautifully cooked meal” as “two pre-made patties cooked according to instructions, dressed with prescribed condiments, and slapped on the pre-made buns” then suddenly anyone can be a “great chef” (well, almost anyone– actual great chefs may have trouble adjusting). These are organizations that specialize in cranking out what non-teachers think teachers should be, and their thinking is neither deep nor complicated, because one of the things a teachers should be is easy to train and easy to replace.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley reports here on new research by Steven Klees of the University of Maryland, which concludes that the contribution of individual teachers to student learning cannot be isolated or quantified as “value-added modeling” claims to do.

Accumulating evidence continues to demonstrate that the teacher evaluation systems imposed by Arne Duncan in the Race to the Top is invalid, inaccurate and unreliable. How many teachers and principals have been fired because of these flawed metrics?

VAMs Are Never “Accurate, Reliable, and Valid”

Open the article for her many links.

She writes:

The Educational Researcher (ER) journal is the highly esteemed, flagship journal of the American Educational Research Association. It may sound familiar in that what I view to be many of the best research articles published about value-added models (VAMs) were published in ER (see my full reading list on this topic here), but as more specific to this post, the recent “AERA Statement on Use of Value-Added Models (VAM) for the Evaluation of Educators and Educator Preparation Programs” was also published in this journal (see also a prior post about this position statement here).

After this position statement was published, however, many critiqued AERA and the authors of this piece for going too easy on VAMs, as well as VAM proponents and users, and for not taking a firmer stance against VAMs given the current research. The lightest of the critiques, for example, as authored by Brookings Institution affiliate Michael Hansen and University of Washington Bothell’s Dan Goldhaber was highlighted here, after which Boston College’s Dr. Henry Braun responded also here. Some even believed this response to also be too, let’s say, collegial or symbiotic.

Just this month, however, ER released a critique of this same position statement, as authored by Steven Klees, a Professor at the University of Maryland. Klees wrote, essentially, that the AERA Statement “only alludes to the principal problem with [VAMs]…misspecification.” To isolate the contributions of teachers to student learning is not only “very difficult,” but “it is impossible—even if all the technical requirements in the [AERA] Statement [see here] are met.”

Rather, Klees wrote, “[f]or proper specification of any form of regression analysis…All confounding variables must be in the equation, all must be measured correctly, and the correct functional form must be used. As the 40-year literature on input-output functions that use student test scores as the dependent variable make clear, we never even come close to meeting these conditions…[Hence, simply] adding relevant variables to the model, changing how you measure them, or using alternative functional forms will always yield significant differences in the rank ordering of teachers’…contributions.”

Therefore, Klees argues “that with any VAM process that made its data available to competent researchers, those researchers would find that reasonable alternative specifications would yield major differences in rank ordering. Misclassification is not simply a ‘significant risk’— major misclassification is rampant and inherent in the use of VAM.”

Klees concludes: “The bottom line is that regardless of technical sophistication, the use of VAM is never [and, perhaps never will be] ‘accurate, reliable, and valid’ and will never yield ‘rigorously supported inferences” as expected and desired.

Last week, the Houston Independent School Board deadlocked in a 3-3 tie vote on whether to renew its contract with the vendor supplying the teacher evaluation program.

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley explains their decision here.

At least three board members realized that five years of this program had not moved the needle by an inch. If performance matters, then EVAAS was a failure.

Beardsley is one of the nation’s leading researchers in the study of teacher evaluation.

She writes:

Seven teachers in the Houston Independent School District (HISD), with the support of the Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT), are taking HISD to federal court over how their value-added scores, derived via the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), are being used, and allegedly abused, while this district that has tied more high-stakes consequences to value-added output than any other district/state in the nation. The case, Houston Federation of Teachers, et al. v. Houston ISD, is ongoing.

But just announced is that the HISD school board, in a 3:3 split vote late last Thursday night, elected to no longer pay an annual $680K to SAS Institute Inc. to calculate the district’s EVAAS value-added estimates. As per an HFT press release (below), HISD “will not be renewing the district’s seriously flawed teacher evaluation system, [which is] good news for students, teachers and the community, [although] the school board and incoming superintendent must work with educators and others to choose a more effective system.”

Open the link, read the full article, and read her links. This is excellent news.

The bad part of her post is the news that the federal government is still giving out grants that require districts to continue using this flawed methodology, despite the fact that it hasn’t worked anywhere.

Apparently, HISD was holding onto the EVAAS, despite the research surrounding the EVAAS in general and in Houston, in that they have received (and are still set to receive) over $4 million in federal grant funds that has required them to have value-added estimates as a component of their evaluation and accountability system(s).

So Houston will have to find a new vendor of a failed methodology.