Monday, August 30, 2010

Okay, So Can We Slow This Train Down (a bit)?

Major news about a major study from an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper on the study (italics/bold mine):

If new laws or policies specifically require that teachers be fired if their students’ test scores do not rise by a certain amount, then more teachers might well be terminated than is now the case. But there is not strong evidence to indicate either that the departing teachers would actually be the weakest teachers, or that the departing teachers would be replaced by more effective ones. There is also little or no evidence for the claim that teachers will be more motivated to improve student learning if teachers are evaluated or monetarily rewarded for student test score gains.

I have only skimmed the briefing paper but it looks like good, sober reading. I plan on sending this to the Board, the Times editorial board, my legislators, etc. Please consider doing the same.

From the Daily Kos which has links galore:

This document has been in the works for several months, and was NOT hurriedly put together as a response to the recent series by the Los Angeles Times which used value-added assessment to label teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Second, the ten scholars whose names are on the document are some of the most eminent in educational circles, including among their midst former Presidents of the American Educational Research Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education, two of the three professional organizations most involved with psychological measurement, of which school-related testing is a subset. One of the scholars, Robert Linn, has not only presided over both of those organizations, he has also serve as chair of the National Research Council's Board on Testing and Assessment. The group also includes the immediate past president of the National Academy of Education, Lorrie Shepard, Dean of the School of Education at Colorado.

The document is thorough. It reviews all the relevant studies, including one not yet in print. Those includes studies by Mathematica for the US Department of Education: by Rand: by the Educational Testing Service; done for the National Center for Education Statistics of the Institute of Education Sciences of the U. S. Dept. of Education; issued by the Board of Testing and Assessment of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Academy of Sciences, and so on. There are citations from books, from peer reviewed journals.

Interesting notes from briefing paper pulled out by Kos:

One study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%. Another found that teachers’ effectiveness ratings in one year could only predict from 4% to 16% of the variation in such ratings in the following year.

A study designed to test this question used VAM methods to assign effects to teachers after controlling for other factors, but applied the model backwards to see if credible results were obtained. Surprisingly, it found that students’ fifth grade teachers were good predictors of their fourth grade test scores. Inasmuch as a student’s later fifth grade teacher cannot possibly have influenced that student’s fourth grade performance, this curious result can only mean that VAM results are based on factors other than teachers’ actual effectiveness.

In both the United States and Great Britain, governments have attempted to rank cardiac surgeons by their patients’ survival rates, only to find that they had created incentives for surgeons to turn away the sickest patients.

Kos also pointed out that:
  • students are not randomly assigned to teachers
  • sample sizes are often too small/makeup of the class may change during the year (especially in schools with many low-income students)
  • Even with value-added analysis, to date scholars have not been able to isolate the impact of outside learning experiences, home and school supports, and differences in student characteristics and starting points when trying to measure their growth.
  • As testing expert Dan Koretz of Harvard is quoted as noting,

    "because of the need for vertically scaled tests, value-added systems may be even more incomplete than some status or cohort-to-cohort systems"

  • If measuring end of year to end of year, even if there are vertically scaled tests, there is still the well-documented issue of summer learning loss, which falls disproportionally upon those of lesser economic means, which also means it falls disproportionally upon those of color, who are more heavily represented at the lower end of the economic scale.
On value-added (from the study):

The claim that they can "level the playing field" and provide reliable, valid, and fair comparisons of individual teachers is overstated. Even when student demographic characteristics are taken into account, the value-added measures are too unstable (i.e., vary widely) across time, across the classes that teachers teach, and across tests that are used to evaluate instruction, to be used for the high-stakes purposes of evaluating teachers.

Value-added methods involve complex statistical models applied to test data of varying quality. Accordingly, there are many technical challenges to ascertaining the degree to which the output of these models provides the desired estimates. Despite a substantial amount of research over the last decade and a half, overcoming these challenges has proven to be very difficult, and many questions remain unanswered...

From the Daily Kos:

Let me clear. The authors are not opposed to value-added assessment. They are not even opposed to it being included in the process of teacher evaluation, although they offer some serious cautions that policy makers would be well advised to consider.

The title is accurate - there are still serious problems with using test scores to evaluate teachers. These problems are not solved by resorting to a value-added methodology.

So let me be clear.

No one, anywhere, is saying that tests don't have value. And, using value-added data helps get a fuller picture of the results. But I don't support that tests results should play a major role in teacher retention or salary.

From the briefing paper:

Some states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation decisions to scores on existing tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise.

Any sound evaluation will necessarily involve a balancing of many factors that provide a more accurate view of what teachers in fact do in the classroom and how that contributes to student learning.

47 comments:

Josh Hayes said...

Excellent, clear stuff.

But you don't really think anyone on the Board will read it, do you? And you don't think the _Fishwrap_ -- err, I mean, the _Times_ -- will say word one about it, do you?

You can only change someone's mind by reason if they arrived at their present state by reason. Since these folks are operating in a faith-based realm, it's impossible to change their minds (unless the scales fall from their eyes or something).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Josh, you may be right. But I like make sure that people have ALL the information. If I know I have done my part, then they can choose how they use it. I also have the ability to say that they knew this information and have chosen to disregard it in their conclusions.

Sahila said...

Not sure if this is the same report, but I found it on the Federal DOE site about two months ago and have been posting it around the traps... it says using standardised test results to evaluate teachers has an error rate of at least 25%...

NCEE 2010-4004

Error Rates in Measuring
Teacher and School Performance
Based on Student Test Score
Gains

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104004/pdf/20104004.pdf

From Chapter 5, the Summary:

"Our results are largely driven by findings from the literature and new analyses that more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher. Thus, multiple years of performance data are required to reliably detect a teacher's true long-run performance signal from the student-level noise. In addition, our reported sample requirements likely understate those that would be required for an ongoing performance measurement
system, because our analysis ignores other realistic sources of variability, such as the nonrandom sorting of students to classrooms and schools. Moreover, in practice, the multitude of comparisons made in a performance measurement system imply higher overall Type I error rates than those identified by our analyses, which ignore multiple comparisons issues.


Our results strongly support the notion that policymakers must carefully consider system error rates in designing and implementing teacher performance measurement systems that are based on value-added models. Consideration of error rates is especially important when evaluating whether and how to use value-added estimates for making high-stakes decisions regarding teachers (such as tenure and firing decisions) (see Harris 2009). There are no universal definitions for tolerable system error rates and appropriate error rate measures. Rather, these decisions will likely depend on the nature of the system’s rewards and sanctions, and stakeholder perspectives on how to weigh the various benefits and costs of correct and incorrect system classifications."

Josh Hayes said...

That's an excellent point, Melissa. I didn't mean to imply that anyone here should stop fighting the good fight.

In fact, I actually KNOW a couple of local journalists. Maybe I'll put a bee in their bonnet with this document -- no, no, DEFINITELY I will.

ParentofThree said...

What I think is important at this moment is that the SEA folks have this info at the table. Bad timing for the MGJ, who I think is bringing MAP accessment to the table for one reason: If she can get MAP used as a teacher evaluation tool that opens up a whole new market to peddle this test across the country.

Hope teachers stand firm. Very importent moment in SPS.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to point out that the Diary was written by teacherken and not by Markos. A good read though...

-stijockey

another mom said...

The paper referred to on the Dailykos is in a pdf and quite interesting and available at the site below.
http://www.epi.org/

These folks actually have quite a bit on their site that is worth the time to peruse.

Josh Hayes- your first post had me rolling on the floor. In fact I am still chuckling.

Also parentofthree, I emailed the SEA this AM with this reference.

Maureen said...

I went to the Alliance for Ed blog about an hour ago and asked if they have a response to this paper. We'll see if they post my question (haven't yet).

One line from teacher ken's commentary really sums it up for me:

One problem is that too many who write about education are close to ignorant about the limits of the information one can get from various kinds of assessment. We tend to what hard numbers as a society, we are obsessed with comparisons and rankings. In the process we often give far more credence to quantitative measures than they warrant.

This, plus the fact that 'what gets measured gets done' (who said that first?), is what makes me very wary of using VAM of kids' test scores to evaluate teachers.

Rosie said...

EPI has a union-dominated board. http://epi.org/pages/board/ So it should be no surprise that they funded research that results in a pro-union finding. Peer-reviewed, neutral research it's not.

Sure, the document is worth reading, and the DailyKos piece was well done, but don't accept it as gospel any more than you would something funded by a foundation whose politics you don't like.

Sahila said...

Well Rosie - I wonder what you would say about this report, coming out of the Federal Dept of Ed.... which says that error rates in tying teacher and school evaluation (and merit pay) to test scores are as high as 25%...

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104004/pdf/20104004.pdf

NCEE 2010-4004

Error Rates in Measuring
Teacher and School Performance
Based on Student Test Score
Gains

From Chapter 5, Summary and Conclusions:

"Our results are largely driven by findings from the literature and new analyses that more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher. Thus, multiple years of performance data are required to reliably detect a teacher's true long-run performance signal from the student-level noise. In addition, our reported sample requirements likely understate those that would be required for an ongoing performance measurement
system, because our analysis ignores other realistic sources of variability, such as the nonrandom sorting of students to classrooms and schools.
Moreover, in practice, the multitude of comparisons made in a performance measurement system imply higher overall Type I error rates than those identified by our analyses, which ignore multiple comparisons issues.

Our results strongly support the notion that policymakers must carefully consider system error rates in designing and implementing teacher performance measurement systems that are based on value-added models. Consideration of error rates is especially important when evaluating whether and how to use value-added estimates for making high-stakes decisions regarding teachers (such as tenure and firing decisions) (see Harris 2009). There are no universal definitions for tolerable system error rates and appropriate error rate measures. Rather, these decisions will likely depend on the nature of the system’s rewards and sanctions, and stakeholder perspectives on how to weigh the various benefits and costs of correct and incorrect system classifications."

seattle citizen said...

Rosie, as with anything I personally would not accept this study as gospel (though it studies a bunch of other studies, and there appear to have an unbiased validity), nor, as you say, would I accept the studies funded by "a foundation whose politics you don't like."

The point I take away is there are multiple viewpoints, the jury is still out, so why, exactly, is the district insisting that this is what's best? Are teachers and students guinea pigs? I mean, hey, Gates Foundation itself is in the midst of a long "study" to determine the efficacy of this whole schtick. If THEY'RE not sure...

I believe this study is much more neutral than other studies I've read from the various "foundations I don't like."

BTW, it's not the politics of these foundations I don't like, it's their economic theory, that free enterprise is the key to succesful education. The "politics" is mere propaganda to prop up this insane idea.

WV thinks I should put THOSE foundations' studies away...in the guanstor.

Sahila said...

I have tried three times to post this piece.... had extracted some paras from Chapter 5 (Summary) of this report, but each time, its shown my posting and then when I go back its gone...

try this once more, sans text...go here for another report basically saying the same thing... error rates in using standardised test results to assess teacher and school performance are as high as 25%...

http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20104004/pdf/20104004.pdf

Anonymous said...

Bottom Line:

If you evaluate a teacher based on test scores he/she will fight to keep your slow learner out of their classroom.

If a principal puts too many struggling learners in one classroom then bias/harassment/discrimination lawsuits will become the norm in SPS.

IF it is choice between feeding one's family and your kid's education, a teacher will fight to keep your kid out of their classroom if that child will lower year-end test scores.

Signed: Duh!

Rosie said...

So what we have doesn't work for lots of kids. And the union does not really seem engaged on that front, but is instead hell-bent on protecting the status quo in several ways -- by insisting on the current crazy-complicated process that makes it well-nigh impossible to complete the documentation necessary to let a poor teacher go. (And even if a principle does so, some hearing examiner may well decide to send the teacher back -- see, e.g., http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2012764167_apusfiredteacherreturns.html)

And then, of course, the union hasn't even made a counter proposal on the District's request to get rid of super-seniority. The readers of this blog should be outraged over that one - because it means that teachers get placed based on seniority, without any parent or staff interviews of involvement, and sometimes against the protestations of the principal. Long-time elementary educators getting popped into a high school because they happen to have taught at one 20 years ago? Displacing a well-regarded but newer teacher in the process? How can the union say with a straight face that they're student-centric in light of such ridiculousness?

So why move ahead with something new? Because what we have doesn't work. And there is no indication that the union's proposal has anything more at its foundation than a new-fangled twist on maintaining job security for its members.

concerned parent said...

I think the point is that there ARE no studies that show that this has worked... yet. The district can't show us any-- they don't have any data. Perhaps someday there will be. Perhaps someone will find that perfect method. But why hurry this process through one month before school starts and make Seattle a huge test case? I don't understand why people who think SERVE is a good idea are so fired up to hurry it though. What is wrong with careful consideration? If it IS a good program, why not do it right and get people on board? The only reason I can see to rush it through is because they know they don't have the data, and it isn't.

Charlie Mas said...

Rosie writes that "So what we have doesn't work for lots of kids."

How, exactly, will a change in teacher evaluation result in something that works better for kids? Are you expecting a massive turnover in teachers following the implementation of the new evaluation? Will 10% of the teachers be replaced? 20%? I don't think so. I don't think there are that many ineffective teachers. Even if there were, weak teachers will simply not choose to be evaluated by SERVE since it is voluntary for current staff.

So if there isn't going to be mass firings, then how will it work for kids? Will the teachers stop slacking and suddenly get to work? I don't think so. Again, only a very small number of teachers are slacking, and because it is voluntary for the current teachers, the slackers won't be affected because they won't volunteer to participate.

So you can complain that the current teacher evaluation isn't working for kids, but first of all, I don't expect it to, and secondly, SERVE won't work any better for kids.

It may seem to Rosie that the union is "hell-bent on protecting the status quo" but I don't see that. I see the union working in partnership with the District for two years to develop a new teacher evaluation. Definitely not the status-quo.

I keep hearing about "the current crazy-complicated process that makes it well-nigh impossible to complete the documentation necessary to let a poor teacher go". Just how complicated is it? Does anyone really know, or is it all urban legend? It is any more or less onerous than firing any other union worker?

For the record, I don't like super-seniority and I would like to see it gone. But I'm not outraged about it because no one is holding principals accountable. When they do, I will want them to allow the principals to choose their teams and I will come out against super-seniority. Since it is a result of program and school closures, how many instances of super-seniority do we expect to see on a regular basis?

I keep hearing that what we have doesn't work, but what is the evidence for that? What is the metric and the benchmark?

Central Mom said...

My relative is a life-long educator...a secondary school administrator and a respected leader in a national alliance of schools.

FWIW I took time this weekend to explain to this relative the superintendent's non-paid place on the board of the NWEA, the implementation of NWEA's MAP test on her watch, and the surprise proposal to the union to use the test as a teacher assessment. (He is not a big supporter of teacher's unions.)

My question: Am I (and others) just too hyper-sensitive about this chain of events?

He looked at me in disbelief, and I thought I was going to get a scolding about being too idealistic in the boiling water of public education issues.

Instead, his incredulousness was around the superintendent's actions and the board's approval of them. He called the MAP issue "a clear case of conflict of interest", and "an ethics violation." Says that trying to bring in the MAP test as a teacher eval tool in the biggest district in the NW is "soaking the beans" in a soup in which she and other NWEA members may eventually cash in via sales $$. Also completely trashed the idea of using this particular test, which he knows well, as a teacher eval tool. Said (drumroll) "that's not its intended purpose."

In short, from an outsider's perspective, he was aghast. And (funny!) asked why the media has not picked this up. Superintendents in larger districts in his neck of the woods have been tossed out on their behinds for less.

Slow the train down indeed. Perhaps some of us need to look beyond the Seattle Times and get a national education think tank or two to narrate this Seattle story to a wider national audience.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
seattle citizen said...

Well, Rosie, if we should just do any ol' thing instead of what we have now, how about we just, oh, flip coins to see who gets the ax? That system, it appears, would have about as much reliability as using VAM. Why send the superintendent's company, NWEA, all our millions when we can just use a roll of the dice, odds/evens, or, hmm, like/dislike to achieve the same result?

Btw, amidst all the hoopla, I'm STILL waiting to hear the definition of a quality teacher. Given the hoopla, I'm assuming the pro-test-score=student crowd would say a "quality teacher" is one who gets those dang Reading and Writing scores up. Isn't there anything else?

WV says that if I'm being a pain with all these comments, just throw me in the zatorpit.

Jan said...

Rosie: thank you for your post on the board membership of EPI. I have found some of Sahila's sleuthing to be very instructive, and this was as well. I have no idea whether the research has been in any way "peer reviewed" or otherwise found (if there is another way) to be disinterested, but I think you are correct in saying that the board certainly is NOT disinterested (as a group, there were a few individuals whose likely sympathies could not be determined from their CVs, but not many.

I had some comments on your next post, though. You say:

So what we have doesn't work for lots of kids.

Could you be more specific? Are you saying "what we have in terms of teacher evaluation/compensation doesn't work for a lot of kids? Or what we have in terms of public instruction in general doesn't work for a lot of kids. The latter is certainly true (witness graduation rates, readiness for college courses, etc.). But whether the former is true? I don't really know. I guess it certainly doesn't work for school administrators who want to be able to get rid of teachers they don't want more easily, or want to be able to decline to take a "senior" teacher in favor of a less senior one. Do I think that is a problem. Yes, I guess I do (just the description of it sounds pretty heavy handed, given that I think principals should have the authority for staffing their schools (within reason).
But is that THE problem? The BIG one, the solution to which (SERVE) will really move the dial in terms of improving student learning (as indicated in a number of ways, only one of which is standardized test scores? I see nothing to suggest that it is. Before we spend millions and millions of dollars (virtually the entire amount of the proposed fall levy) on this, shouldn't we be clearer on whether there is ANY positive connection between the goal (better student learning) and the proposal (SERVE)? Particularly since logic suggests that it has the potential (by narrowing the curriculum, causing teachers to refuse to teach in lower performing classrooms, etc.) to actually HURT educational outcomes? If SERVE were a drug, would it EVER get past the FDA in its current form, with its current research backup? I don't think so. Its backers have neither produced credible evidence that it will help (that student learning will improve or more students will stay in school, etc.) OR that it won't make things WORSE (that student outcomes won't get worse, that more students will become so discouraged as classes grow duller and electives are dropped, that they don't leave in even greater numbers, that stress levels on both students and teachers won't rise, that schools will become LESS collegial places as teachers with high numbers of slow/no learners resent their colleagues who lucked (or brown-nosed) their way into classes that have higher performing kids.

Cont'd.

John S said...

How come evaluations by parents are never discussed in rating teachers? We're one year into the SPS experience, and I was a little surprised that the district didn't ask for any feedback about our teacher, or school, or anything. Not even a fill-in-the-dots form, since they love those so much. (If they'd asked, I would have rated our teacher and principal as A for Awesome.)

Jan said...

Your next point was:

And the union does not really seem engaged on that front, but is instead hell-bent on protecting the status quo in several ways -- by insisting on the current crazy-complicated process that makes it well-nigh impossible to complete the documentation necessary to let a poor teacher go. (And even if a principle does so, some hearing examiner may well decide to send the teacher back -- see, e.g., http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/

They HAVE come up with a change in the system -- going from two tiers to four. Why won't the district, which worked on this with the Union, start with these changes (none of which require that student test scores be used) and go from there? At one place where I worked, a review of the employee feedback process showed that, over time, people had become "too generous" -- everyone was getting extremely high marks (arguably, we were good -- but certainly not THAT good, and in some cases there was an obvious disconnect between evaluation scores and actual satisfaction by other employees with work done.
What happened was retraining of the evaluators (in the case of schools -- the principals, I think). They were taught NOT to give the highest possible marks, unless they could establish, and document, certain benchmarks -- and defend them if called upon (i.e. -- in the X percent of all [name of staff position]s you have worked with on task A or B -- with the understanding that they might have to produce examples. Evaluators were required to give constructive feedback (if person Q is NOT in the top tier, what specific things could he/she work on/do/learn etc. that might get him or her to that tier. Again -- they had to be specific. If we couldn't/didn't say anything -- then they must be in the top tier (and since they weren't -- there must be something better they could do). It was all a good way of FORCING criticism averse people to confront the discomfort/hassle of being good critics. But you don't need the cost/stress of something like SERVE -- and you don't need the problems of adopting an evaluation system based on something (student MAP scores) that has not been established as valid in any way as an indicator of teacher effectiveness.

When you think about it, don't most good teachers (like good workers anywhere) benefit if the bad ones are weeded out? The students they get are better prepared and less negative about school. The good ones don't have to spend time reteaching stuff the bad ones didn't teach the year before. Really -- why would good teachers object to GOOD evaluation systems that get rid of bad teachers? I think they wouldn't. What alarms many of them, I think, is that there are so many arbitrary, or un-fleshed out elements to SERVE that the GOOD teachers, the ones we would HATE to lose, have no clue how they or anyone else will fare in this system from year to year.

Cont'd

Sahila said...

Rosie think there are no effective measures in place to evaluate teachers and get rid of bad ones...

That's simply NOT TRUE...

Think I posted it a couple of threads ago, but if you read for yourselves the current contract subparas on teacher evaluations, probation, improvement and dismissal (see link below)... ITS ALL THERE, RIGHT NOW...

Its simple, straightforward, fair, FAST (THREE MONTHS AT THE MOST) and it ensures due process... if its not happening ITS BECAUSE ADMINISTRATORS ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOBS....

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/laborrelations/cba/SEAsaeop.pdf

WV says with a caribbean accent: "its not happenin cos those bosses are loozy mon"!

Sahila said...

Or maybe its not happening as much as Rosie would like to hear about, cos there really are not that many bad teachers out there... revolutionary thought!

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

SPS reports that a tentative agreement (TA) has been reached. Details forthcoming. . .

"We’re very pleased to let you know that SEA and SPS believe that we have reached tentative agreement. We will meet again tomorrow, Tuesday, to confirm final details and will provide information about the tentative agreement at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Office of Communications and Public Affairs"

Melissa Westbrook said...

First, the principal at my son's school? New to the school but in two years got rid of 3, count 'em 3, low-performing teachers. Yes, it can be done but it take someone willing to follow the process. You'd have to ask your principal why he/she doesn't want to do so if you feel there are low-performing teachers at your school.

I'm with Charlie. If the union had only cared about job security, why work WITH the district the last two years on a teacher evaluation plan?

About super seniority. Sure, it probably needs review but I still support it because if you are a teacher and your school is closed for reasons not to do with you, beyond your control, you go to the bottom of the line? How fair is that? No teacher, old or young, would think that is fair.

Rosie said...

Responding to John S -- The SERVE proposal would base 5% of the review on "Stakeholder evaluation," which I've heard described in ways that make it sound like a 360 degree evaluation -- so parents and maybe even other educators would have the opportunity to have their feedback taken into account.

Responding to Charlie -- I guess the strongest evidence that the current system doesn't work is how many kids aren't getting the education they deserve. There are many factors that need to be changed for that to happen, but part of that is to evaluate teachers not like "any union worker," but instead like other professionals we deal with like doctors, nurses, attorneys, etc. I have great respect for people in the trades,and for the workers who have formed the new face of American unionism, such as hotel workers, restaurant workers, etc., but the standard of performance of folks in the trades or in those jobs is not anything like I would expect of the standard of performance for educators.

I have only anecdotal evidence of how hard it is to fire teachers. It is based on conversations with principals.

Finally, once again there's a chicken and egg argument being made. We shouldn't do anything about teacher evaluations until all the other changes are made to our liking. I don't care which comes first, I just want to see forward motion.

Overall, there are certainly flaws with SERVE. Maybe there's too strong a reliance on test scores at the outset. Maybe it should be 5% and stakeholder evaluations should play a stronger role. Maybe "instruction and professional practice" should account for 60% or 70% of the evaluation. And certainly, that queen of poor communications blew it in terms of the timing and how she explained the proposal. But there's much good in it too. But those details can be changed in bargaining. Instead, SEA has urged its members to try to rally parents to its cause which the conspiracy theorist in me sees, as I already stated, as a means to deflect attention from any effort to attack super seniority.

Jan said...

And finally, you point out, correctly, that:

[T]he Union hasn't even made a counter proposal on the District's request to get rid of super-seniority. The readers of this blog should be outraged over that one - because it means that teachers get placed based on seniority, without any parent or staff interviews of involvement, and sometimes against the protestations of the principal. Long-time elementary educators getting popped into a high school because they happen to have taught at one 20 years ago? Displacing a well-regarded but newer teacher in the process? How can the union say with a straight face that they're student-centric in light of such ridiculousness?

I don't like the current seniority rules (when taken to their extreme) either. I have NEVER agreed with the idea that a principal should have to take the placement of a teacher whose teaching methods, energy levels, etc. may not meet the needs of his students or his school - especially if it means getting rid of a great teacher already AT the school who may have fewer years of seniority but who is clearly doing a good job.
BUT - I also agree with Charlie. If the Superintendent wants this, the deal should be that principals are accountable for staff hiring (and their evaluations should include input components from parents, students, their supervisors at the District -- AND other teachers in the school). And if the District doesn't think through the ramifications of what happens to teachers in schools that get closed -- you will have the same problem private businesses do -- as soon as staff smells any "blood in the water" with respect to a school's survival-- they will abandon the school before it can abandon them. You couldn't expect them to do otherwise -- and schools with large percentages of struggling students that needed the BEST teachers, and maybe could have been turned around with good teachers, will instead fail.

Finally, you ask:

So why move ahead with something new? Because what we have doesn't work. And there is no indication that the union's proposal has anything more at its foundation than a new-fangled twist on maintaining job security for its members.

Again, I think "doesn't work" is too broad. Doesn't work in what way? Am I right in thinking that you think it is just too hard to get rid of bad/ineffective teachers? And that this is the main problem with student learning? Do you think teachers should have NO job security? Are you ok with "some" job security, but think it has just gotten too out of hand? Because I will bet you that if you looked at systems that everyone seems to like (Finland, South Korea, etc.) you will find that many of the best systems still have ample job security for teachers -- they just do a better job of attracting good ones, evaluating and developing them when they get in the door, and counselling them OUT of the profession if they burn out or it turns out to not be a good fit for their skills.

Cont'd

Rosie said...

Melissa, can you clarify whether the low-performing teachers left your school or left the District? I have heard of plenty of principals who have made it uncomfortable for folks at their school, and those folks get passed around elsewhere. If your principal was able to get them out of the District, bravo to her. Or him.

Jan said...

Here is MY proposal (no one from the SEA or the District will care, but I would be curious as to what you think):
1. Move immediately to the four tier system that the District and the SEA have already worked out.
2. Add additional teacher collaboration time -- but 2/3 of it should be teacher driven (with approval of the principal) and only 1/3 should be either District or principal driven. All collaboration efforts should be subject to review and evaluation by the participants, with a view towards making it more useful to teachers.
3. Drop the pay incentives (I have seen nothing that indicates they can reasonably be expected to have any effect on anything), and put that money into schools that need additional help to raise student outcomes (this does NOT include coaches, unless that is what teachers request). Instead, have each school identify improvement goals (student learning based/graduation %ages, whatever), the tools (within a modest price range) needed to reach them, and build attainment of those goals into the evaluation system. If the teachers and the administration want to try to use available money for additional compensation or bonuses in connection with this effort, that would be a worthwhile thing to negotiate over, and maybe experiment with for a few years, to see what actually works.

4. Team with Gates or someone not TOO craven (not Broad) to run some long term pilot programs to try to determine OBJECTIVELY if there are measurements of student learning that can be reasonably correlated with effective teaching, and what the statistical implications are (how many years of data do you need to reach relevance/how much student demographic information is needed to make data from one teacher relevant to data from another teacher, etc.)

My sense is you think the Union has just dug in its heels on issues like seniority and should be called out on its stubbornness. If they are not willing to move at all, in any way, I guess I agree with you -- but my understanding is that the District (at least a week ago) was equally stubborn and intransigent when saying that there was NO acceptable teacher evaluation system (in their mind) that did not include, as a component, student test scores. How is that not equally outrageous, given that there is no published data indicating that it is valid, and at least some that indicates that it is not? At this point, I see a lot more cost (millions and millions of dollars), a lot less benefit to, and a lot more potential harm from SERVE than I see in staying with something much closer to the status quo.

Jan said...

Rosie: Interesting point on where teachers go when unsatisfactory reviews make them leave a school. I suspect some of them end up "downtown" (that certainly seems to be where principals I thought were not satisfactory seemed to end up). Some of them should leave the profession -- but in some cases, it may just be a bad fit with a particular principal or a particular staff. Just like an electrician who had a bad fit with management at one place may be a great electrician somewhere else, the same can be true of a teacher (on the other hand -- maybe they were just a horrible electrician!) And even if they were just teaching badly, maybe a different school, with a different curriculum/pedagogy/management style is just what they need to take the next leap forward.

Also -- some teachers are just gadflies. They want to teach novels that push the comfort envelope, or they back the student newspaper when the administration wants to engage in a little "prior restraint." Yet most of the Sons of Liberty were gadflies, as were many of our civil rights heroes. Not all principals (and parents) love these teachers, but they may be the best teachers we have, in terms of teaching children how to speak truth to power, how to advocate for unpopular positions in the face of majority opposition, and how to think and act independently, rather than to just "go along." Just because one principal is too insecure (or just plain annoyed) to put up with them, I would like to think that another school might want them.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

And now this from the SEA:

"We believe we have a tentative agreement. A subset of the two teams will get together tomorrow to review language and proposals to make sure we are on the same page. If we see that we are both on the same page, we will announce a definite tentative agreement tomorrow afternoon. We are not releasing any details at this time, but details will follow after a tentative agreement has been confirmed."

wseadawg said...

Josh: You're correct. The "reason" train left the station long ago. That's not in MGJ & Co's DNA.

Many people here have their collective heads up their arses. Who in their right mind would try some untested, unproven method of improving the current situation, and pledging millions to do it, when it is going on elsewhere, but the jury is still out on whether it makes a tinkers damn worth of difference? Idiots and morons, that's who.

Rosie, you can toss the baby out with the bathwater at your school, but keep your hands off of mine. Because SOME kids aren't getting what they need, or, more likely, aren't getting parental support at home, or doing their homework, lets go after those Go#$amn unions! Sure! Great idea! Along with the notion that principals should have all the power to staff their schools, blah, blah, blah. Good luck! MGJ was brought in as a strong central administrator to do just the opposite and reign in rogue principals and eliminate site-based management. So just what district is it that you all are dreaming about? And exactly who do you think the principals answer to? MGJ, that's who. And they have a union too. So they walk the razor's edge between teachers and the administration, depending on what hat they're wearing that day. But, go ahead, take their word for it that its just too hard to fire bad teachers. But do not, under any circumstances take EPI's word. No! That goes against your gut instincts and anecdotal evidence.

Like WMD in Iraq, some folks here are convinced that we just have to burn the current system down and change it, because, heck, we've gotta do something to keep those fat, lazy union pigs from not bailing out our poor parenting or the lack of follow up from weak principals!

If you've got a "bad teacher", get your kid transferred out of their class. Most principals will do that at the drop of a hat to avoid complaints and controversy. All this systematic change nonsense is like Republicans whose only mantra and belief is that tax cuts are the answer to everything. I.e., unions are the reason for everything bad in the US. Bah! Give it a rest.

The current system works just fine for most kids, so the question ought to be, how can we strengthen and improve it, and not, how can we make it easier to weaken it?

wseadawg said...

Josh: You're correct. The "reason" train left the station long ago. That's not in MGJ & Co's DNA.

Many people here have their collective heads up their arses. Who in their right mind would try some untested, unproven method of improving the current situation, and pledging millions to do it, when it is going on elsewhere, but the jury is still out on whether it makes a tinkers damn worth of difference? Idiots and morons, that's who.

Rosie, you can toss the baby out with the bathwater at your school, but keep your hands off of mine. Because SOME kids aren't getting what they need, or, more likely, aren't getting parental support at home, or doing their homework, lets go after those Go#$amn unions! Sure! Great idea! Along with the notion that principals should have all the power to staff their schools, blah, blah, blah. Good luck! MGJ was brought in as a strong central administrator to do just the opposite and reign in rogue principals and eliminate site-based management. So just what district is it that you all are dreaming about? And exactly who do you think the principals answer to? MGJ, that's who. And they have a union too. So they walk the razor's edge between teachers and the administration, depending on what hat they're wearing that day. But, go ahead, take their word for it that its just too hard to fire bad teachers. But do not, under any circumstances take EPI's word. No! That goes against your gut instincts and anecdotal evidence.

Like WMD in Iraq, some folks here are convinced that we just have to burn the current system down and change it, because, heck, we've gotta do something to keep those fat, lazy union pigs from not bailing out our poor parenting or the lack of follow up from weak principals!

If you've got a "bad teacher", get your kid transferred out of their class. Most principals will do that at the drop of a hat to avoid complaints and controversy. All this systematic change nonsense is like Republicans whose only mantra and belief is that tax cuts are the answer to everything. I.e., unions are the reason for everything bad in the US. Bah! Give it a rest.

The current system works just fine for most kids, so the question ought to be, how can we strengthen and improve it, and not, how can we make it easier to weaken it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know at least one is out of the district. I don't know about the two others.

"2. Add additional teacher collaboration time -- but 2/3 of it should be teacher driven (with approval of the principal) and only 1/3 should be either District or principal driven. All collaboration efforts should be subject to review and evaluation by the participants, with a view towards making it more useful to teachers."

Yes to this. Just talking about this very thing today. The collaboration should be between the TEACHERS and should be teacher-driven.

Rosie said...

I'll be fascinated to see that tentative agreement tomorrow.

seattle citizen said...

Here's a link to the Times article that came out minutes ago. Not much to say; details later, evidently.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.
com/html/localnews/2012764865_teachercontract31m.html

An interesting factoid from the article is that the district negotiator quoted was one Eric Aanderson, who is also on the Research and Assessment team at district, and is a MAP trainer. I suspect, but am not sure, that he is one of the Broad interns. Oops, he's not, I went to the Broad wesbite and checked their list...at least he's not on it as an almuni...

But what WAS interesting in that little excursion was WHERE these Broad residents are going. Check it out:

http://broadresidency.org/
residents/alumni.html

More interesting stuff I just found in that search is that Dallas is/was up in arms about the meddling by Broad...These Broad people are ALL over the country, including a bunch in Dept of Ed.

dan dempsey said...

Dr Eric Anderson is the District's Gates Data Fellow. He has done some good work, which I see as being quality stuff. He tends to focus on a complete range of data sets and goes looking for answers, in stark contrast to the usual SPS cherry-pickers.

Joan NE said...

(Dan - a nitpicky point: If you are referring to Eric's report "Correlates of high performing schools," there is a pretty serious problem with this report.)

Josh Hayes said...

that's a good point, wseadawg, that principals have their own union. When is their contract up? I'd forgotten that they're not covered under the same contract as rank and file teachers.

I wonder if it'd be a good idea to push for principals to be assessed based on how well their teachers are assessed based on student test performance -- and then take that final step, and have the superintendent assessed based on how well the principals...etc, etc.

seattle citizen said...

And assess parent/guardians and society on how well students do on the test. Publish those results.

Also, in fifteen years, assess a scoiety based on test scores on what we had before.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Joan NE,

You said:
""Correlates of high performing schools," there is a pretty serious problem with this report."

Yes that is the report to which I referred.

I think that while many may find the short coming to which you refer problematic, this shortcoming still hardly places Anderson's report in with the usual "Toadie Productions" coming out of the SPS Central Administration.

Here is the link to Anderson's NTN memo of Jan 29, 2010.

dan dempsey said...

Josh,

I believe Principals Contract is under negotiation right now. I have not heard anything about it.

I do know from conversations much earlier this year that DeBell wanted substantial changes made to it. Michael feels that principals have tremendous impact on schools and shuffling the inept rather than dismissing them is a huge problem.

It is my understanding that Seattle's Principal contract is unlike any other in the state.

It will be interesting to see what comes out of the Principal Contract negotiations.

Maureen said...

Dan, do you know what the timeline is for the principals' contract? I wonder why we aren't hearing anything about it at all?

dan dempsey said...

Maureen,

I have no idea. I thought it was the same as the Teacher contract situation in that it needed to get done for 2010-2011 school year.

dan dempsey said...

As the Charter School train needs national slowing ... let us not all be wild about the apparent greener grass on the other side of the fence.
=========
From Vanderbilt University .....

Another magic bullet misses the target... New study — paid for by the U.S. Department of Education! — shows that charter schools churn teachers and make claims that are untrue:

www.vanderbilt.edu/schoolchoice/documents/stuit_smith_ncspe.pdf

Teacher Turnover in Charter Schools .. by
David A. Stuit
Thomas M. Smith
of Vanderbilt University

Reports that Charters Have Higher Teacher Turnover

from the report:

"The data lend minimal support to the claim that turnover is higher in charter schools because they are leveraging their flexibility in personnel policies to get rid of under-performing teachers. Rather, we found most of the turnover in charter schools is voluntary and dysfunctional as compared to that of traditional public schools."

========
This new study conducted by Vanderbilt University researchers shows that charter schools have more chronically inexperienced teachers and raises questions about other claims being made for charter schools as the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary of Education Arne Duncan claims that charter schools are the major site of what he calls "innovation" to improve on what they call the failure of public schools.

=====
Hey Arne ....

Please, please check the relevant data ... before trying to spread your BS any further.

Like most of RttT the innovation claims are bogus ... if innovation means to produce improvement.

RttT is big on disruption but who could believe RttT Disruption is likely to create a positive return on the RttT investment?

The RttT legacy will be "Billions Blown" by poor unresearched directives ... our leaders have made use victims of RttT extortion.

dan dempsey said...

In the summer of 2003 I moved to Los Angeles to teach at The Accelerated School, previously rated as "The Time Magazine School of the Year".

I taught summer school and left before the start of the regular school year as this place was highly dysfunctional.

When hired I was to have major control of mathematics instructional materials at the 6,7,8,9 grade levels.

Then they did a top down adoption of Everyday Math and Connected Math Project materials...... and I left.

Their math scores despite large infusions of "Philanthropic Cash" in particular "Annenberg Foundation cash" have been less than spectacular.

The summer I was there they were planning to send several kids to Cal State LA for math ... largely because it would look good. The students were not prepared to enter the Cal State LA math program.

A lot of the "hype" around reform depends on "Press Releases" not reality.