Monday, August 02, 2010

How to Talk About Education Reform

There appears to be a lot of support, right now, among politicians, the media, and rest of the "opinion-making" class, for Education Reform.

I understand that. The Education Reform movement has a lot of very attractive bumper-sticker type slogans that appear to make a lot of very good sense. Who wouldn't be in favor of firing bad teachers? We've all had a bad teacher who should be fired - haven't we? Even if you haven't had a bad teacher, you've heard the horror stories about them. Who doesn't think accountability is a good thing? Who wouldn't support innovation and choice? It all sounds really good and worthy of our support. Morover, anyone who opposes it, such as teachers' unions, must be doing so for their own selfish purposes.

It's only when people go past the bumper-stick slogans, get past the anectdotes and myths, and begin to consider the realities that the elements of this vaunted Education Reform start to break down.

That's the path to effective communication. I think it wise to begin the conversation by acknowledging how attractive those slogans are and by acknowledging how convincing those stories can be.

Tell these people that you are totally with them, but that you want to advance the conversation beyond just vague talk and turn it into action. That's when you can get them to confront - for themselves - the real difficulties of the Education Reform effort and they can see - for themselves - how thoughtless it is.

We should definitely assess teacher effectiveness. That's for sure. Now, how can we measure teacher effectiveness? Student test scores? Yeah, but there are lots of much bigger influences on student test scores than teachers, aren't there? Are all of the teachers in low-income schools horrible and all of the teachers in affluent schools wonderful? How would we measure the effectiveness of teachers in untested courses such as music, art, history, world languages, and P.E.? What about teachers who have high performing and low performing students in the same class? How does that happen, and what does it indicate about the teacher's effectiveness? If the teacher is good, then how did any student fail, and if the teacher is bad, then how did any student do well? It's a puzzle, isn't it?

Gee, it's a shame, but it's pretty clear that student test scores really aren't a good indicator of teacher effectiveness, are they? We'll need to think about this some more - and it would be pretty stupid and unfair to move forward without a really sound basis for evaluating teachers, wouldn't it? Does anyone have a good measure of teacher effectiveness? Looking around, I don't see one.

Hey... waitaminnut... if there is no good measure of teacher effectiveness, then how can there be studies that show the strong positive impact of effective teachers? It turns out that those studies identify effective teachers as the ones with high-scoring students on standardized tests. It turns out that those studies measure the impact of teacher effectiveness by student test scores on standardized tests. So those studies essentially conclude that teachers with high scoring students have students who get high scores on standardized tests. Kinda circular, huh? Is this a study that we want to use to make decisions about children's education or teacher's jobs? I don't think so.

If we fire a whole bunch of bad teachers (how many of them are there?), then who will we hire to take those jobs? There are lots of qualified people who would be wonderful teachers - they just don't have teacher certificates. That brings us to the thinking behind the alternative teacher certification processes and programs like Teach for America. The thinking here is that people who have not had teacher training are as effective or more effective as teachers than people who have been through teacher training. Does that even make sense? Even if this were true - and it may not be - that doesn't strike me as a negative for teachers so much as a negative for schools of education. Only it turns out that the only studies that show this are studies from people who sell the idea. Not exactly unbiased. Is it unreasonable to expect people to get a teacher certificate before we allow them to teach in a classroom? Is that an unreasonable burden? Aren't we, at the same time, demanding that teachers be MORE qualified? Hmmm. We may need to give this idea some more thought as well.

And this charter school thing. What is it that charter schools can do that regular public schools can't do? Apparently the only difference is the freedom to set their own curriculum and the freedom to extend the teachers' working hours. So shouldn't we allow our regular public schools more freedom to set their own curriculum? If it's good for charter schools, then isn't it good for other schools as well? If charters are so great, then shouldn't we be promoting and supporting more alternative schools? Yet that doesn't seem to be happening, does it? As for the teachers working longer days, has anyone approached them about that? I know that there are schools here in Seattle with extended days - Aki Kurose, Hawthorne, West Seattle Elementary, and STEM to name a few. We have public/private partnerships at a number of our schools, so that's already happening as well. There doesn't appear to be much that can be done at a charter school that cannot already be done in a public school. Tell me again why we need them?

And so, like this, we can constructively engage the folks who want to thoughtlessly push the Education Reform agenda. We can begin by assuring them that we all share the same goals. Encourage them to take the next step after echoing the bumper-sticker slogans. Ask them to think a little deeper about what is being proposed, why anyone thinks it is good, how it could be implemented, and what is already being done. They will quickly - for themselves - come to see that the "movement" is empty. They will quickly - for themselves - come to see that none of the proposed simple solutions are either simple or real solutions at all. You don't have to convince them - they will convince themselves. The Education Reform movement is bankrupt. Not one element of it can survive taking as many as three steps forward.

The conclusions that these folks will quickly reach are:

1) School administrators and district staff are more to blame for failure than teachers, much less prepared for their jobs than teachers, less accountable than teachers, and much more highly compensated than teachers. Yet these people don't do anything for the students.

2) The at-home determinants of student achievement vastly outweigh the at-school factors. It is ridiculous to hold teachers or schools accountable for factors beyond their control.

3) Schools of education are not to be trusted.

4) The people who are pushing Education Reform haven't thought it through very well, have they? Why not? Why don't they have answers to the very next questions? Why aren't they ready to actually implement anything they propose?

5) There are no quick fixes - not charter schools, not busting the unions, not firing a bunch of teachers, not hiring a bunch of unqualified people.

Then you can begin to promote a different vision for public education - one that isn't the status quo, but isn't the vision put forward by Education Reform advocates. One that is student-centered. One that isn't based on the industrial model. A post-industrial vision for education in which students get the lesson they need when they need it. In which students working below grade level get support and acceleration to bring them up to grade level. In which students working beyond grade level get challenge to keep them engaged. In which all students are engaged and motivated in a culture of achievement. In which all of the adults are held accountable for making these things happen for students.

Now THAT's a reform I can support.

46 comments:

Rabbit said...

Very, very, well said, Charlie.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, absolutely brilliant! You have got to send this (or I will) to every single media and education entity in this town.

Two things. There was an article in the NY Times about how it is almost harder to get in to Teach for America than law school and that it is considered quite a feather in your resume to have done it. (And a lot of these people do not stick around and remain teachers.)

Other thing. The other difference with charter schools is how they write their charter and who oversees it. Charters have the ability to not write in services for some students (not deny them but just not have them) and be able to say "Sorry, this charter probably isn't for your child. Try another one." Well, the answer to that is that regular public schools have to take all comers. Also, charter law varies from state to state with different degrees of oversight.

Thanks for a great essay.

another mom said...

Charlie, have you considered submitting this as an op-ed to the Seattle Times, NY Times, or any other publication? As Rabbit already said, very well said.

Martin H. Duke said...

The offered example of teacher effectiveness is a straw man. Of course it's idiotic to look at test scores without any regard for the context of that student body!

But there are obvious ways to correct that: measure the improvement in student performance on tests, rather than taking raw scores. Comparing the performance of teachers with students with roughly the same SES.
And so on.

Or perhaps there's no way to discern which teachers are the good ones. Then let's just give everyone a flat salary, since we have no way of determining if experience, additional education, and so on have any bearing on teacher performance.

Charlie Mas said...

The key here - the absolutely critical key - is that you not disagree with anyone in the Education Reform movement. Instead, you show that you want to go FURTHER down that path than they have thought to go. Tell them that you think they are absolutely right - now, what's the next step? How can we take this from something that is spun about in op-ed pieces to something that really happens?

They can't very well suggest that you're being obstructionist if you take this tack, can they? If they want you to "Lead, follow, or get out of the way" then you're going to Lead. Only there's nowhere to go. This Education Reform agenda is a dead-end.

That's when you can substitute it for a different type of education reform. The student-centered reform. The reform that actually works. The reform that reduces the number of central office administrators (who don't teach) with more classroom teachers who actually do something for our kids.

Anonymous said...

Here's a fact that starts to put a real life face on your argument. I work at Van Asselt:

A kindergarten teacher started out the year with 24 students and finished the year with 24 students. At the end of the year only 12 of the students were left from the 24 who started the year with her; and, of the 12 who came later English wasn't their first language. Yet all were required to take the MAP test.
ken berry

Also, I'm finding it more and more difficult to listen to anyone who's enamored with the word, "accountability."

"Every student achieving; everyone accountable."
Nice ring to it?..Not for me. It sounds divisive and threatening. Not a rallying cry to get the best out of teachers, nor students. More a way to divide and conquer.

"Everyone engaged; everyone empowered," I would aver to be more inspirational, more collaborative, more team building. Sadly, teamwork is not a priority with this Superintendent, nor the majority of this Board.

Charlie Mas said...

It is nice to read Mr. Duke's statement "Of course it's idiotic to look at test scores without any regard for the context of that student body!"

That is, of course, what a lot of the Education Reform people want to do.

If Mr. Duke has a meaningful measure of teacher effectiveness, I'm happy to hear it, because, as I stated at the beginning, and as I continue to say, I am all for all of the stated goals of the Education Reform crowd. I'm all for evaluating teachers, getting rid of the bad ones and rewarding the good ones.

Does Mr. Duke have a measure of teacher effectiveness?

It will be tricky to use student test scores in any way - whether using raw score or some measure of progress - because, except in extraordinary cases, the teacher's work is not a primary determinant of the score. The scores are influenced much more by at-home factors than in-school factors. Moreover, the scores don't always accurately reflect the students' abilities.

As ken berry noted, some classrooms have highly transient populations.

I'm not saying it can't be done; I'm saying it has to be done thoughtfully.

I want it to be done, but I don't see a thoughtful proposal yet.

Come on, Mr. Duke, let's think of something meaningful that we could use. We both have the same goal and want to get to the same place.

What do you suggest?

Charlie Mas said...

I have an idea. How about we evaluate the teachers' performance based on those things which are within their control?

Let's assess the teachers' performance based on these criteria:

1) Did the teacher present - at a minimum - the baseline content for the subject and grade level? What evidence can the teacher offer that the presentation was effective?

2) What other content did the teacher present?

3) How did the teacher identify the students working below grade level? What evidence can the teacher offer to assure that no student working below grade level was not identified?

4) How did the teacher support and accelerate the academic progress of the students working below grade level in an effort to bring them up to grade level? What evidence can the teacher provide that these efforts were effective?

5) How did the teacher identify the students working beyond grade level? What evidence can the teacher offer to assure that no student working beyond grade level was not identified?

6) How did the teacher provide appropriate challenge for the students working beyond grade level? What evidence can the teacher provide that these efforts were effective?

7) How did the teacher foster a culture of achievement in the classroom? What evidence can the teacher provide that these efforts were effective?

8) How did the teacher keep students engaged in the curriculum? What evidence can the teacher provide that these efforts were effective?

9) How did the teacher maintain an appropriate standard of conduct in the classoom? What evidence can the teacher provide that these efforts were effective?

How would that be as a teacher evaluation? Does that address the duties of a teacher? Would that be meaningful?

The teacher could use student test scores as a means of identifying student progress, but doesn't have to.

Let me be VERY CLEAR. I am not opposed to meaningful teacher evaluations. I WANT MEANINGFUL TEACHER EVALUATIONS. I just don't think they should turn on student test scores as those are not much attributable to the teachers' work.

TechyMom said...

a couple more:

What did the teacher do to identify students who were working at grade level, but who were coasting, and needed a little push to get beyond grade level? How many students moved from grade level to beyond grade level?

How many students moved up percentiles on a nationally normed test? This is a measure of growth, but it says more than asking whether the students aquired at least one year's worth of material. This NYT Article claims that a move from the 50th percentile to the 60th is typical for a kindergartener with a good teacher.

kprugman said...

The fallacy with that argument is that its always possible to find a kindergartner (in NYC) who's test score went up 10 points AND then claim it was because the student had a better teacher. Its just as likely to find a student in the same classroom who's test scores went down 10 points. Was that because the same teacher was also a bad teacher?

The best way to improve teaching is improve the pipeline for new teachers. Offer incentives for new teachers, such as higher salaries. Giving teachers lower evaluations based on the performance of their students is subjecting teachers to a double standard that exists not only between schools, but within the school itself. In a district, it is common for teachers and people to divide a community by what side of the tracks (or freeway or river) that schools are built on.

Change what can be changed like lowering class sizes and improving textbooks.

Once schools take the reform path and strike out at teachers, the majority of communities will take years to recover.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

Thanks so much for your efforts. I've been up way too long building spreadsheets and writing. I am looking for accountability from leadership. Instead I get pure baloney. Director Martin-Morris tells me that the promotion /non-promotion policies are enforced. He has also told me that the Washington Math standards are the curriculum.

As you can tell from the recall effort, some of us are less than passively consuming baloney these days.

I took the Everyday Math Instructional guide for grade three draft 8/7/2009 and decided to see how it stacks up with the Grade 3 Math Standards. Remember this EDM stuff is the foundation of the k-12 vertically aligned math program.

There are 37 third grade Math standards and the instructional guide covers 29 of them. The bizarre part is that the guide actually covers 83 standards and most of them are at a grade level other than grade 3.

29/83 = 35%

So of the standards covered 35% are from grade 3. ... and 65% are not from grade 3.

Looked at another way we can talk about performance expectation-days.

since standard 3.2.D is taught on 12 days .. I'll call that 12 expectation days. It is surpassed only by 2.2.A at 13 expectation-days.

I totaled 291 expectation days. Here is the break out for grade three 135/291 = 46.4% that tells me that roughly 50% of the time in grade three is spent on grade 3 objectives when following the instructional guide. ... Hummm and the plan is to do performance management based on student performance on the third grade math standards for third grade students.

Equally disturbing is the fact that the standards are not covered in a coherent fashion so what is the map test testing and when?

The rest of the 291
grade 1 8/291 = 2.7%
grade 2 60/291 = 20.6%
grade 4 71/291 = 24.4%
grade 5 13/291 = 4.5%
grade 6 3/291 = 1.0%
grade 7 1/291 = 0.3%

There is an incredible deficiency of leadership. The promotion / non-promotion policies that require effective interventions are not being used.

The Washington Math Standards are not really being effectively taught ... but the Board and the Superintendent want us all to make believe and pretend the fantasy that the District is teaching the math standards exists.

Check this. my worksheet.

The Day by Day Guide

From lowest to biggest.

wseadawg said...

You're preaching to the choir Charlie.

Unfortunately, however, your words take away the convenience of blaming teachers for our deficient parenting. This is America. We can't live without our scapegoats.

And let's be honest, what's easier? Rolling up your sleeves, wrestling with a poorly written curriculum (which teachers have no say over), and fighting the ubiquitous and perpetual distractions of computers, televisions, Xboxes, and hand-held devices, or blaming teachers? We are a community and a nation built on conveniences, so guess what we default to: Waaaaahhhh!!It's somebody else's fault!!

Sure there are bad teachers out there. But what I encounter everyday are overpaid, poor-listening, marginally literate people throughout our community consumed with self-promotion and hedonic, me-first, I can do no wrong self-assessments, and therefore, neither can my kid. Victory has many fathers; failure is an orphan.

Why do I say this? Because nobody can prove that more than 5%, or 1 in 20 teachers are the proverbial "bad teachers," yet, the jealous, envious numb-skulls who complain about "summers off," etc., are ready to fire the whole corps, or at least bust the union. Shouldn't 95% "effectiveness," according to every principal I've spoken with be cause for celebration vs. demonization?

Do we really want to hire and fire our teachers Wal-Mart style?

If teachers are to blame, for all those who embrace reform, where are your placards and banners praising the great teachers who work at the schools with the high test scores? Obviously it has nothing to do with your parenting skills. The teacher should get all the credit for your kid being smart and getting good grades. Can't have it both ways, now can we?

I think you've got it covered pretty well Charlie. But until we dispense with our bi-polar, impulsive, emotional, un-critical thinking in Seattle and other places, we'll ultimately continue to be easily exploited kool-aid drinkers, ripe for the picking for Gates, Wal-Mart, Duncan and Broad.

I am dying to be proven wrong and that people will realize the circular fallacy that is modern "Education Reform," and that the true agenda is for billionaires to get their hands on our tax dollars under the guise of "responding to a system in crisis."

But I'll sooner see monkeys flying out of my blow hole, I think.

Rabbit said...

The fallacy with that argument is that its always possible to find a kindergartner (in NYC) who's test score went up 10 points AND then claim it was because the student had a better teacher. Its just as likely to find a student in the same classroom who's test scores went down 10 points. "

Ah, yes. To prove a teacher was the cause of the 10 point increase, all of the kids would have to remain the same or improve. If some kids in the same classroom went down 10 points, then the gain (and loss), could not possibly be attributed to the teacher.

MathTeacher42 said...

Charlie -

Since you haven't been part of the well paid edu-cracy issuing edicts from the comfort of their out of touch ivory sinecures,

Since you haven't been part of the well paid edu-consultants issuing edicts from the comfort of their out of touch conferences,

how dare you ... yawn ... succinctly and concisely and quickly get to the bottom of so many issues!

I know in polite company one would typically preface contempt and scorn and ridicule with some kind of qualifier like "pardon me ..."

BUT,

I'd hate for the edu-crats and edu-consultants to think that I have anything above contempt for 99% of their efforts.

I do kind of respect that people so useless are so well paid - how do you all sleep at night?

Thanks!

p.s. too bad the multi million dollar a year teacher's unions can't come up with effective messaging.

Charlie - bill the WEA/NEA.

BM

Charlie Mas said...

It appears that I'm working towards a sort of unifying vision for the work that our schools need to do, and, from that, developing a vision for what our teachers and our principals need to do.

The same themes keep repeating - as they should.

Sahila said...

A suggestion Charlie, considering school is supposed to prepare our children for their adulthood, you might like to look at education in its broadest definition so that our children really do get a complete educational experience... especially seeing the screwed up world we're leaving them that they will have to be working to change...

Please, please, please dont limit your vision of what a holistic education system to that which we have on offer now...

If now is the time to envision something new, now is the time to envision a "best of all possible worlds" education system... and if we dont dream big, we will only get the crumbs... much better strategy to dream/enunciate big so that when the inevitable compromises are forced on us, we - and our children and the next generation - still will end up in a better place than we are now....

Character Education said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
none1111 said...

kprugman said: "The fallacy with that argument is that its always possible to find a kindergartner (in NYC) who's test score went up 10 points AND then claim it was because the student had a better teacher. Its just as likely to find a student in the same classroom who's test scores went down 10 points. Was that because the same teacher was also a bad teacher?"

Wow. You've had some good posts recently, but please at least read the article before you comment on it. Go on, admit it, you didn't even read it. Rabbit as well.

I was going to post this same article, as I just read it today, and it's related to "teacher quality". The data may or may not hold up to finer scrutiny, but what they found seems pretty amazing. And contrary to much of what has been spouted for quite some time (fade-out effect). We'll see how it holds up.

We all know there are good teachers and bad teachers. And great teachers and terrible teachers. I have no idea where wseadawg comes up with the notion of 5%, but IIRC, even our straw poll here a few months back was much higher than that. My own experience as both a student and a parent of multiple kids at 5 schools is maybe 10% poor and 10% terrible. Along with 10% outstanding and 20% very good. The rest are okay, nothing to complain about, but nothing to rave about either.

I agree with Charlie that I'd like to see meaningful teacher evaluations, but using test scores would be very tricky, and certainly couldn't be more than a small portion of the evaluation. I think it would be a dangerous path to start heading down right now. A more reasonable start, IMO, would be to simply have more then 2 categories - adequate or inadequate (I forget the formal names right now). Changing that to a 4 or 5 level system would help a lot, and there really isn't a good reason not to do so.

none1111 said...

Melissa/Charlie, the "Character Education" post above appears to be spam, advertising iamgoingtocollege.com.

Please delete this post either way, thanks.

dan dempsey said...

OMG we have reached a level of complete absurdity with reform thinking in the SPS.

Consider the idea that MAP testing will be able to accurately measure student learning at three successive intervals in mathematics during the course of a school year. It is most apparent that the SPS thinks this is possible and in fact plans to use MAP growth results to assess student learning and teacher performance.

From NMAP’s “Foundations of Success” page 22:
Recommendation: A focused, coherent progression of mathematics learning, with an emphasis on proficiency with key topics, should become the norm in elementary and middle school mathematics curricula. Any approach that continually revisits topics year after year without closure is to be avoided.
=========
It should be noted that the Everyday Mathematics program used by the Seattle Schools employs the continual revisiting of topics, which makes it unsuitable for preparing students to be adequately assessed by the MAP test if the assessment is done using grade level Washington Math Standards.

dan dempsey said...

I created tables and sheets based on the Everyday Mathematics instructional guide for Grade Three draft of 8/7/2009, which I downloaded from the Seattle Schools website on August 1, 2010. These show that the district instructional guide presents 83 standards as topics for learning in Grade 3 but only 29 of these are grade 3 standards. There are 37 Grade 3 standards but only 29 are covered, 29/37 = (78%). Only 22 of the third grade standards are covered on more than 2 days during the year, 22/37 = 59.5%. So if teachers follow the SPS guide their kids have at best a shot at learning about 60% of the standards to be mastered. This is why kids from advantaged backgrounds do a lot better than those stuck with only SPS instructional design.

Most Third grade Standards are covered for more than one day. Standard 3.2.D is the subject of study (Performance Expectation) on 12 days. I recorded this 12-day occurrence as 12 performance expectation-days. When the course of study outlined by the Third Grade Instructional Guide is used there are 291 performance expectation-days. Of these 291 there are 135 for Washington Grade Three Standards, 135/291 = (46.4%). Thus the District instructional guide has teachers spending approximately 45% to 50% of their instructional time on Grade Three Standards if they follow the recommendations in the pacing guide. While it is reasonable that some time be spent on prior standards from grade 2, it seems unusual that if third grade standards are the subject of mastery, why is only about half the class time spent on them? It will be difficult for any test that is given in the SPS at periodic intervals to measure either student growth or teacher proficiency from assessing standards mastery. Much of the work on a Standard may occur on a scattering of days over the course of the year.

It is interesting that the MAP contract was approved 7-0 and not one of 7 directors asked: Will this thing work as advertised?

dan dempsey said...

Board members asked only one question.

That question was is the "Sole Source Justification" form filled out. No one noticed that the justifications provided on that form make little sense.

Surely there are other providers that can measure student performance as inaccurately as the MAP in the SPS situation ... but ... just maybe .. the others cannot be used to BEAT UP on teachers as well.

Really read the Promotion / Non Promotion Policies ... so how is MAP going to measure mastery of particular standards successfully?

So how are the interventions needed to help students gain mastery of standards going to be specified by MAP? The are NOT.

So much for Everyday Math, the foundation of our vertically aligned k-12 math program, or MAP testing helping students obtain mastery of WA Math Standards.

How can 7 directors be unable to ask even one question on a plan this bad?

Are our Directors afraid or ignorant about what is happening?

Surely they noticed that the only reason for the Superintendent’s bonuses was to lay the groundwork for Performance Management of teachers. See teachers the Superintendent got $5,280 for fulfilling 25% of her own goals, you do not want to miss out on this gravy train … sign here.

The Directors appear to be silent accomplices in Reform atrocities.

dan dempsey said...

Troubling Questions about EDM and MAP


Dear Director DeBell, 8-3-2010

I posted the Troubling Questions about EDM and MAP at comments 20, 21, 22 here:

http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2010/08/how-to-talk-about-education-reform.html

This approval of MAP testing involved no investigation into the likelihood of whether this expenditure was advisable.

This is an incredible waste of $450,000 as this product can not possibly perform as advertised.

Please recognize that your math program needs to be fixed.

It is pointless to buy a poor measuring tool and think that purchase will lead to improvement.

$450,000 for what?

--- Dan

Martin H. Duke said...

Mr. Mas,

Thanks for the response.

I'm not an ed professional, nor even a particularly close follower, but I offered up some examples of how you could use test scores by correcting for SES.

Most of the ed reform stuff I see seeks to compare the rate of improvement rather than the absolute score, which of course strips out a fair amount of the student-dependent stuff.

Lori said...

Dan, can you clarify from your post at 730AM today who NMAP is? Did you mean NWEA, the organization that created and sells MAP?

If so, this is one of the most outrageous things that I've read in a while. If NWEA, the maker of MAP and on whose Board MGH sits, says that MAP should not be used to evaluate students who are taught with Everyday Math (and other spiraling curricula), then we need to either 1) change the math program or 2) not use MAP to evaluate math proficiency.

Am I the only one (in addition to Dan) to get really angered by this?

Charlie Mas said...

Mr. Duke, I like the idea of the MAP. It is a wonderful tool if used properly for its intended purpose. Trouble comes when education managers use the MAP - or other assessments - improperly.

The WASL is probably the most misused assessment of all. Intended as a measure of effectiveness of schools and districts, individual student results were not intended to be reliable - and they aren't. The test was intended as a tool to hold schools and districts accountable - not students. The technical notes for the test specifically caution against using it to determine individual student placement - yet that's how Seattle Public Schools is using it. It is a criterion-referenced test and cannot be used to rank students, but that's how the District is using it. It's inexcusable.

The MAP was purchased for use as a formative assessment. As such, its proper use is to help tailor instruction for individual students.MAP scores are intended to be indicative, not definitive. The MAP is much better suited to sparking questions than providing answers.

SPS mom said...

NMAP is the National Mathematics Advisory Panel and is not related to NWEA or the MAP. I believe Dan is referring to the federal NMAP report. Based on the report's recommendations, Everyday Math is simply a poor choice.

The NWEA MAP test is used by students all over the US, a good number of which probably use Everyday Math.

Martin H. Duke said...

Mr. Mas,

I'm reassured by many of your comments. I'm glad we agree that measuring teacher effectiveness and rewarding them accordingly is a worthwhile enterprise.

I'm also glad to see that you (if I understand you correctly) think that standardized testing, properly applied, has a significant role to play in this.

You would know better than I how SPS is (mis)using test results. I reacted to your blanket criticism of Ed Reform -- a movement * associate with the Obama administration and the Gates Foundation as sincere efforts to make schools work better.

dan dempsey said...

NMAP final report
Foundations for Success

I refer to paragraph 27 on page xxiii and the recommendation on page 22.

There was a huge volume of evidence to reject the Everyday Math adoption on May 30, 2007 but the Board does not use evidence in making decisions. Vote to adopt was 6-0 as Irene Stewart was not present. Current Board member DeBell voted yes.

High School adoption of "Discovering" on May 6, 2009 was an equally if not worse choice. That was a 4-3 approval with Sundquist, Maier, Carr, and Chow preferring to support TEAM MGJ's recommendation rather than using evidence.

Harium has now replaced Cheryl Chow as the 4th supporter of TEAM MGJ nonsense. He ignored all the evidence in approving the NTN contract for Cleveland twice (once on Feb 3 and once on April 7).

Note all 7 current Director's voted for NWEA/MAP testing.

Charlie Mas said...

I absolutely see value in standardized tests when they are used properly and their results are appropriately understood.

Likewise, I have never said or written a word in which I presumed ill-intent on the part of the Alliance, the Gates Foundation, the Obama administration or anyone else who wants to improve public education. I just think that they make too many statement before asking enough questions.

Sahila said...

Mr Duke... with whom are you affiliated?

Charlie might never say or write a word presuming ill intent on the part of the Alliance, Gates/Broad et al, but I will....

Those who believe/state the 'reform' agenda pushed by these people (and the Alliance's clone Our Schools Coalition, and the other Broad/Gates-funded astro- turf groups League of Education and Stand for Children) are a sincere attempt to improve the education system, either have not done their own research or are lying to us...

There is plenty of evidence available now proving that these 'reform' efforts are not benign at all...

http://sahilachangebringer.blogspot.com/2010/08/occupation-of-us-public-schools-kids-as.html

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/5/protests

and here's an interesting read that relates to the propandising efforts of the Alliance et al at this time of teacher and union bashing:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_deception_of_real-world_inception_20100729/
"The Deception of Real-World Inception

By David Sirota

For all of its “Matrix”-like convolutions and “Alice in Wonderland” allusions, the new film “Inception” adds something significant to the ancient ruminations about reality’s authenticity—something profoundly relevant to this epoch of confusion. In the movie’s tale of corporate espionage, we are asked to ponder this moment’s most disturbing epistemological questions: Namely, how are ideas deposited in people’s minds, and how incurable are those ideas when they are wrong?

Many old sci-fi stories, like politics and advertising of the past, subscribed to the “Clockwork Orange” theory that says blatantly propagandistic repetition is the best way to pound concepts into the human brain. But as “Inception’s” main character, Cobb, posits, the “most resilient parasite” of all is an idea that individuals are subtly led to think they discovered on their own.

This argument’s real-world application was previously outlined by Cal State Fullerton’s Nancy Snow, who wrote in 2004 that today’s most pervasive and effective propaganda is the kind that is “least noticeable” and consequently “convinces people they are not being manipulated.” The flip side is also true: When an idea is obviously propaganda, it loses credibility. Indeed, in the same way the subconscious of “Inception’s” characters eviscerate known invaders, we are reflexively hostile to ideas when we know they come from agenda-wielding intruders...."

Sahila said...

Re the myth that our kids are victims, plagued by hordes of bad teachers:

http://sahilachangebringer.blogspot.com/2010/08/if-you-repeat-lie-often-enough.html

kprugman said...

I told you Dan - Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids are not that large a leap over to Seattle. This blog got somebody's attention. Nice hunt - I'm out of shells....

zb said...

"This NYT Article claims that a move from the 50th percentile to the 60th is typical for a kindergartner with a good teacher."

The article (and the paper it cites to) saying that the achievement effects of having a good Kindergarten class persists into adult earnings. A good Kindergarten class was defined as one that showed a higher percentile increase in test scores than the average in the school, over the course of the year. That increase could have been as high as 10%, but there was a distribution of these percents, with both below and above average increases in percentile. The authors used these variances to divide classes into "good" or "bad" because the variances in class performance over the year were greater than expected by chance (given statistical assumptions). They were then able to show that the effect of being in a "good" K class persisted into adult hood (pretty amazing).

But, and this is critical, the definition of good class couldn't be attributed specifically to a teacher. The classes themselves could be different in some unidentifiable way (though the authors were able to show that SES, for example, didn't vary significantly among the classes). So it is not appropriate to say that a kindergartner with a good teacher moved up 10% points (since the definition of good teacher was that the kindergartner was in a class that moved up 10% -- it's a circular definition).

zb said...

PS: Here's the slides to the Kindergarten class effect study:

http://obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/STAR_slides.pdf

(It's not published yet, but was presented at a conference, and the author has made the slides of his presentation available).

Anonymous said...

Charlie's premise... identify and address 3 groups of students: those below, at, or above grade level is way off the mark. Most decidedly not brilliant as Melissa posits. Why are those the 3 key groups of students? They aren't. First of all, the whole notion of "grade level" is a problem. Those who believe in that simlistic notion should be quite happy to have MAP, or MSP, or any other test, be the measure of worth for a teacher. And, happy to have that as the reward criteria for teachers too. It follows from their premise. After all, don't those tests identify grade level standards and expectations... as well as the students achieving them? And with tests given 4 times a year (3 MAPs, and 1 MSP)... that should be more than enough evidence to demonstrate the movement of students through the expectations. We could consider average trajectories of those in common circumstances: race, poverty, number of days in same school, special need status etc. And then look at any given individual or teacher and determine how they have performed against the expected (or mean) trajectory of the student given the factors. All quite do-able.


The problem with all that is fundamentally the notion of grade level expecations, and the narrowing of the education to meet the test. The real question is did the student learn anything from the teacher? Is he/she maximizing his/her potential as a citizen? Unfortunately, there is no legal or contractual obligation for the teacher to maximize anybody's learning. And schools (teachers and administrators) shrink at the idea that potential maximizing is part of their job. As parents and taxpayers though, that is really what we seek. Nor do those tests give us that information. The other thing we want to know. Did the teacher create a classroom where everyone could learn?

kprugman said...

I suppose the same statistics that were used in all the other positive studies were also used in this, as yet, unpublished report, no doubt published on the internet by a textbook salesman or his astronaut cousin.

With the current state of low test scores and student achievement perhaps it is time we changed our methods of doing research.

There is too much being written about in education that either could never be proven or will ever work in all classrooms. The public has stopped believing the ed departments at Ann Arbor, UW, and especially the U. of Chicago (not to mention the Dana Center, CMC, and the NCTM).

What was leadership doing filming a documentary about the Sasquatch. The NCTM leadership are no better than Wiccans.

My draft pick is Singapore. Everyday Math will always be Little League. The creation, evaluation, adoption, sale, and marketing of Singapore is an entirely different model than what has been used to sell American Standardized textbooks. And the difference is painfully obvious. Put some glasses on!


Change your tune, the public doesn't believe you. I've done enough analysis of bad research to know most of US education is in serious trouble.

zb said...

Although the Chetty work is not yet published, it's a pretty innovative study. If it turns out to be statistically valid, it's a step away from using testing as an endpoint in education research, and instead relying on long term outcomes. It's an economics paper so it still uses money (earnings) a it's endpoint. But it doesn't use performance on the test as the endpoint of success.

I do agree that there is a fundamental conflict in parents seeking the maximum learning for their individual child, a responsibility that teachers don't want to be measured against. A more reasonable stand is an environment in which everyone can learn.

Anonymous said...

Of course all parents know that they will never, ever get anything close to maximizing their potential. But, some teachers get a lot closer than others. And the thing is, getting to the potential is a highly individualized affair... something the MAP never is. EG. Developing the skills to be a great plumber may the maximum potential achievement for one student, and that will never be reflected on any test.

Maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said...

But, and this is critical, the definition of good class couldn't be attributed specifically to a teacher. The classes themselves could be different in some unidentifiable way

I think zb makes a good point that is often disregarded in studies of academic results. Children are generally not randomly assigned to classes/teachers. In many schools, parents who have a clue have ways of making sure their kid is assigned to a 'good teacher' (however they define that.) As a result, more of the kids with involved families can end up assigned to the same class. It is generally not possible to separtae the impact of a perceived 'good teacher' from the impact of a 'good cohort.'

The Tennessee experiment, Project Star, referenced in the NYTimes article linked to here recently is one of the few I have heard of that randomly assigned the kids to classes. IIRC that study was designed to measure the impact of class size not teacher quality. The teacher quality result seems to have been pulled out recently-out of the remaining variation in kids performance. Has anyone read this lit closely? Do you think the new teacher quality result is valid?

Lori said...

Maureen, you are right. STAR is one of the only randomized studies out there, and it was primarily designed to evaluate class size. This new analysis was presented at a professional meeting and summarized in the NY Times but it has not yet been fully published nor subjected to peer review. I read the NY Times article and am intrigued, but I'd want to read the full study before I comment on it.

FWIW, I teach a class called Medical Literature Evaluation to graduate students at UW, so although I'm not in education, I have some skills that translate into evaluating the education literature, such that it is. This is something of a tangent, but when I see education folks say that class size doesn't matter, it shows that they don't know their own literature or how to interpret it. I searched for well-done studies about class size last year after my daughter's first grade class had 28 kids in it and the leadership at our school flat out said class size doesn't matter, numerous studies show that, etc. However, class size did matter in STAR, but just as importantly, that comparison was class sizes of 13-17 versus 22-26. No randomized class size study has looked at 28+ per class versus some smaller number. Even if STAR had shown no effect, it would be inappropriate to extrapolate to larger class sizes that were not studied. What they should have told me instead of "class size doesn't matter" is that "we don't know if classes this large have a negative impact because it hasn't been systematically evaluated."

I guess coming from a profession that embraces data and strives to use it intelligently, it is very hard to sit by and watch what is going on in education, particularly the high-stakes testing tied to teacher pay. As in my class size example, what we have going on now is an attempt to tie pay to MAP scores when the validity of that approach has not been systematically evaluated and proven effective.

Charlie Mas said...

In response to Anonymous at 9:31 PM on 8/4/10 (by the way, please select a nom de plume - anonymous posts may be deleted).

"(T)he whole notion of 'grade level' is a problem. Those who believe in that simlistic notion should be quite happy to have MAP, or MSP, or any other test, be the measure of worth for a teacher."

These two suppositions are completely unrelated. Those who would believe the concept of grade level constitutes a belief that the MAP can be used to measure a teacher's worth should be quite happy to stick their head in a bucket of manure.

No, but seriously, the concept of grade level does not equate to confidence in the MAP to measure anything about teachers' work and I really resent the jump.

The idea of grade level has a proper use as do the assessments. When these tools are used properly and properly interpreted, they are beneficial. When they are misused or misinterpreted they are harmful. The tool is neither good nor bad; that depends on the person who wields it.

As for the concept of "grade level" in the first place, I have no problem with it. Part of the reason I don't is because I don't think there is any shame associated with working below grade level nor any honor in working beyond grade level. Grade level represents a normal range for development and expectations but there are a lot of people outside the normal range. So what? The function of grade level, like so many other measures applied to people, is not to find answers but to spark questions.

So if a student is working below grade level it is a signal that the teacher - and others responsible for the student's development - should determine if there is something that isn't working right for that student. If everything is working right, but the student is just progressing at a slower than normal pace, that's okay.

Children are expected to start walking around a range of ages. Some children start walking some time sooner, some start walking some time in the normal range, and some start walking some time after the normal range. So what? It's not a point of honor or shame and, so long as they all start walking, who cares when they started?

If, however, a child is late walking it should trigger an examination to determine if there is a physiological problem.

Students who are working beyond grade level should be identified so they are given work that will engage them so they will remain motivated learners.

I think that if the anonymous commenter had read the rest of what I wrote, they would have seen that we share the same perspective about misusing the test to assess teacher quality.

Anonymous and I both oppose the narrowing of education to meet a test. I will go further. I oppose the narrowing of education to meet a written curriculum. We both want students to have the opportunity to maximize their potential. I think that happens when students get lessons at the frontier of their knowledge and skills - wherever that frontier may happen to be. I think Anonymous would agree.

I do think that teacher performance reviews, as currently conducted, are inadequate. I don't think they measure the things that really matter - the sort of things that anonymous wrote of. They could be much more meaningful and they could be a tool to put the focus of teachers' work where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

The idea of "frontier of your knowledge" is an equally ridiculous concept. The teacher should offer lessons that have a range of accessibility using universal design. Your proposal is grossly segregationist on many fronts, as have most of your previous posts and educational therorizing. The student should take that "lesson" to the "frontier" if that's something he believes in. The problem with the "grade level" notion is that it reduces the education to the points on which grade level has been defined. Then, education is reduced to those points. The marginalization you speak of is unavoidable in your world. (and notably, you benefit from it)

If you believe that a grade level can be defined, then it can be measured. If it can be measured and is important, then it should be the basis of evalution. How not? The two ideas are inextricably linked.

kprugman said...

Raj Chetty also calculated that 'good' kindergarten teachers should make $320,000 per year. Almost as much as Seattle's Superintendent. If that's statistically valid than I think we're in trouble.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/29/kindergarten-teaching-aff_n_663830.html

Martin H. Duke said...

Sahila,

I'm not affiliated with anyone - just a concerned SE Seattle parent, wondering if I'll need to shell out for private school for a decent education for my toddlers.

As a veteran, however, I find your characterization of military members as "cannon fodder" deeply offensive, the implication that a concern for physical fitness of recruits is brainwashing laughable, and in any case entirely orthogonal to this discussion.

As for the Ravitch link, the most damaging thing to the cause of better funding for public education is the idea that additional money will simply be squandered with no gain in student performance. The criticism of NCLB and Race to the Top as not achieving anything is a pretty good argument that the educational establishment doesn't know how to deploy additional resources to improve outcomes.