"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Medley #4 It's all About New York

NYC teachers' rankings based on test scores published.

The New York Times published teacher rankings based on student test scores.

Teachers in the rest of the nation (except for LA, where it's already happened) get ready. It won't be long till your "rank" based on how well your students do on a standardized test is used to judge you and humiliate you.

It doesn't matter if it's accurate, valid or reliable. That only matters when your teaching methods are in question.


NYC releases teachers’ value-added scores — unfortunately
This takes some kind of special nerve: New York City’s Education Department publicly released the rankings of 18,000 public school teachers based entirely on student standardized-test scores — after pleas from educators not to do it because it would be unfair and disparaging. And then it told the news media not to use the results to disparage teachers.

New York Teachers "Assaulted and Compromised:" Lawyers Line Up
Teachers will be rated as “ineffective, developing, effective, or highly effective.” Forty percent of their grade will be based on the rise or fall of student test scores; the other sixty percent will be based on other measures, such as classroom observations by principals, independent evaluators, and peers, plus feedback from students and parents.

But one sentence in the agreement shows what matters most: “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.” What this means is that a teacher who does not raise test scores will be found ineffective overall, no matter how well he or she does with the remaining sixty percent. In other words, the 40 percent allocated to student performance actually counts for 100 percent. Two years of ineffective ratings and the teacher is fired.

Reporting of Teacher Performance
It had to happen sooner or later. Sixteen months after the Los Angeles Times published rankings of 6,000 third- through fifth-grade teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District that it compiled from seven years of math and English scores, news organizations under the Freedom of Information Law finally received data on 18,000 teachers in the New York City school system...The New York Times published the names of teachers and their schools, and their ranking based on their students' gains on state standardized tests in math and English over five years until the 2009-10 school year ("City's Ratings of 18,000 Teachers Indicate That Quality Is Widely Diffused," The New York Times, Feb. 25).

The rationale was that parents have the right to know how their children's teachers rank. It's a compelling argument if it can be proved that publication of ratings leads to better instruction. But it doesn't...A teacher's score could be 35 points off on the math exam, or 53 points off on the English exam. These numbers hardly instill confidence. For another, teachers who teach English language learners, special education students and disadvantaged students receive lower scores than when they teach affluent students. This raises the question of fairness. Finally, the practice relies on the alleged benefits of naming and shaming, which even Bill Gates opposes ("Shame Is Not the Solution," The New York Times, Feb. 23).

I can't think of data reports with a similar margin of error in any other field that have received such prominent coverage. In fact, most editors would in all likelihood dismiss out of hand any study with such shaky statistics. The imprecision alone would constitute a red flag. Aaron Pallas put it best: "For teachers, the key concern is fairness. Fairness is primarily a procedural issue: Teachers, and the unions that represent them, seek an evaluation process that is neither arbitrary nor capricious, relying on stable and valid criteria that they believe accurate characterize the quality of their work" ("Reasonable doubt," Eye on Education, Feb. 6).

A simple question teachers should now ask about their profession
The reality is that the release of teacher scores based in student test data will exacerbate all of the bad consequences of using test scores to evaluate teachers. Teachers will be even more likely to teach to the test, to resent uncooperative students, and to see fellow teachers as rivals not colleagues. They will hesitate to take on student teachers, who might depress their score...For evidence regarding the unreliability of VAM scores, see here.

We will see a tremendous push by the most skilled, demanding, and well-resourced parents to get each year’s “highly effective teacher” and for district offices to “stick” the ineffective teacher in a class (or school) where the parents are less likely to complain...

...student grades assigned by a teacher labeled less than effective will be challenged...The evaluation scores given to teachers by principals who themselves are rated less than effective, will be challenged as well. Can a teacher be fairly rated by a principal who was rated ineffective that year? And when the “ineffective principal” is dismissed, who will agree to lead that school, if the ineffective rating was based in large part on student achievement? No administrator will risk that move — achievement cannot be turned around that quickly — and the students in struggling schools will lose again.

...teachers with highly effective evaluations in hand, will head for the Gold Coast of Long Island to land a higher paying teaching job. Superintendents in well resourced districts will vie for the highest share of highly effective teachers in the state. Isn’t that the rule of the marketplace that the reformers embrace? Once again, students in financially struggling schools will be left behind.

NY principal: Teacher scores inaccurate at my school
It is wrong to call a great teacher a failing teacher because a few kids got 3-4 questions wrong one year rather than 2-3 questions wrong the year before. It is particularly problematic given that the 3rd grade test in the past was very different from the 4th grade test. It could be that the children in a particular class were always weaker in writing, but the 3rd grade test for the years the TDRs are being released had very little writing compared to the 4th grade test, so the children may not actually do worse; it may be that they are just tested on different material.

I honestly cannot understand how public ranking of teachers by percentile will have anything but a negative effect on teaching and learning. Particularly in middle school, I can imagine teachers losing control as children and parents take the position, “why should I listen to you, you’re a below average teacher.”
Click here for Part 2: More from New York...
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