Friday, August 27, 2010

Open Friday

I had an epiphany today.

I suddenly realized why the Education Reform movement is so focused on the teacher contract. Their Vision for education is a highly commodified product with a standardized delivery. They want to reduce teaching from an art to a craft - no, a skill. All signs point here: to the super-industrialization of public education.

Let's start with the teachers - just like the Reformers. Instead of people who are responding to the unique set of factors presented by each student with an improvisation based in knowledge, experience, expertise, art, and passion, the Reformers want functionaries who will deliver the lesson as planned and written by the central administration with fidelity of implementation. Since no real art is required, the training can be radically shortened to the crash course provided to Teach for America volunteers. Also, since no experience is needed (or desired), and since senior employees would expect higher salaries, the Reform agenda is to remove all benefits from seniority. This will discourage anyone from continuing in the job for more than a few years and keep all salaries low. A few mentor teachers will be retained an paid a pittance more to provide the on-the-job training for the revolving door of the bulk of the teaching staff. They will instruct the newbies in the handful of tricks and techniques needed to navigate the lesson scripts and the bureaucracy.

These untrained teachers won't be able to create their own lesson plans, but the Reformers don't want them to anyway. That would be non-standard. The central administration will write the lessons; the teachers are just supposed to deliver them as written. Not only is that more efficient - why keep re-inventing the wheel over and over in every classroom? - but this standardization will assure equity and curricular alignment. You never have to worry that students in some other school are getting better lessons than your student. Both the teachers and the students will be interchangable parts in the education machine. Any teacher or student could be dropped into any class and find the same activity and lesson for the day.

The incentives for teachers wouldn't work for the career teachers now on the job - the ones with creativity and passion - but they will work perfectly for the instructors envisioned by the Reform movement. These people aren't applying any art, just delivering the product.

Have you noticed how, in the business world, the onus for service is shifting from the business to the customer? Instead of going to a teller you use an ATM, essentially doing the teller's work for yourself. You check yourself in for your flight. When you buy things online you fill out the order slip yourself. That post-modern oxymoron, self-service, is showing up everywhere. Now it has come to education. In constructivist math class, the students teach themselves. In Writer's Workshop they teach themselves. In Project Based Learning, they teach themselves. When de-skilling the teachers, it is necessary to move the work onto the students.

So here's the thing. This can't possibly work, can it? How can de-skilling the teacher corps and commodifying the lessons improve outcomes for students? We can pretend it does by instituting AP-for-all rules and setting ever-higher graduation requirements, but who is going to help the kids who show up in the classroom completely unprepared for the lesson? How will this address the needs of students working two or three grade levels below Standards? How can the super-indutrialization of education and the hyper-institutionalization of schools improve outcomes for students? I just don't see it. What am I missing here?

Sure, affluent communities that value education will be okay. They will definitely be poorer for this, but they will be okay so long as they have that peer group and the parental forces. A lot of things have been done to diminish Roosevelt, for example, but the students there continue to achieve at an acceptable level, and it will continue to look good - relative to other public high schools. Motivated students should find a way no matter where they are enrolled. There is no school so bad that a motivated student can't wrestle an education away from it.

But what about the unmotivated and the unsupported? How is this better for them? I'm not seeing it. How will they be served when they are getting a standard fifth grade curriculum in the fifth grade - delivered with near-perfect fidelity of implementation and curricular alignment - when they are working at a third-grade level and just aren't ready or able to engage the lesson or do the work? Won't they act out? And really, the same question for the student who is working at the seventh grade level.

Or could it be that this something much more sinister and cynical? Is the plan to just dramatically reduce the cost of public education to ease the burden on tax-payers? Is the plan to totally ruin public education so that families seek private alternatives? Is it to ruin public education so that the community runs to Charters seeking rescue?

33 comments:

Maureen said...

I think you have hit on it Charlie (except your last paragraph--I don't think we are quite there yet).

Here's a link to a paper that exactly reflects what you are saying. It's by Paul Hill at CRPE: the title is Curing Baumol’s Disease: In Search of Productivity Gains in K–12 Schooling.

The point is that productivity gains have decreased costs in most areas over time, but in labor intensive industries (like education and haircuts) there is less opportunity for productivity increases and thus cost decreases. (Super-simplistically:) Since everything else ($4 t-shirts at Old Navy!) gets cheaper, education seems to get more and more expensive. (Slightly less simplistically: the marginal return to educated labor has increased so teachers have to be paid more (or the quality of teachers has to fall). And we need just as many (or more, given ELL and IDEA) teachers as we used to so the cost of education keeps going up.)

I haven't finished the paper, but a quick read implies that reformers want to sub technology and some specialists and fill in with low paid babysitters. That will bring education in line with other industries, or, alternatively, allow us to educate a given number of kids with the same limited budget citizens are willing to support.

I would love to hear some feedback from someone with a public finance background who is following along. (Robin are you lurking out there?) If that is you, please read the paper, pick an alias and jump in!

By the way Charlie--I wouldn't call this an Open Thread, since you gave it a topic--could you add a another one please?!

chunga said...

This sounds very similar to what Marion Brady wrote recently WaPo's The Answer Sheet column - http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/curriculum/how-ed-reformers-push-the-wron.html.

Maureen - Paul Hill's paper sounds pretty interesting. Thanks.

-Demian

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, this is pretty much (in terms of privatizing) what my husband has said for years. They have to figure out new ways to make money and it's health care and now public education.

Now do I think everyone in education and government and the business world thinks this way? Nope but you have got a serious group of them lined up saying this is the salvation for public education.

Do you note that it is almost single-minded in affixing most of the responsibility on teachers AND saying charters are the answer?

What about early education?
Community schools?
Outreach efforts for the unmotivated and unsupported (a la the Everett school district)?

I think those three things would have a far greater impact on changing the graduation rate in this country than anything else. Even teachers. And I say that not because I don't agree that within the school framework (and hey the district says this in their own letter to parents), the teacher, a good teacher, is the most important thing.

I believe we need to nurture our new teachers and recognize our veteran teachers. I think we need to stop scaring them and start supporting them and they would be better teachers (and getting rid of the bad ones shouldn't be so hard).

Jan said...

Charlie, I think you are correct. This is exactly what is happening -- and it is why it seems to make so much sense to "business folks" who want everything reduced to commodities, widgets, etc. from which a profit (less expense going out than income coming in) can flow.

The REAL "trick" is that this model won't, can't work for many kids, as you note. And when it fails, the ed reform answer is/will be "charter schools." And then, voila! -- we swap management (public for private) and recipients of the profit (highly paid superintendants and their staffs/consultants/contract paries for national charters -- but the educational product will be the same thing -- commoditized "standard widget" education, using labor as cheap as they can find, and "rejecting" (through expulsion or failure) "widgets" that do not fit in the system -- but there will be less oversight, and it will be easier to direct more of the "dollars" to the highly paid managers and sales people in the charter companies and the "charter management" companies, and the "testing" companies -- as opposed to using those dollars to pay teachers and publicly employed school administrators. So, even though many kids will lose (twice -- once when their public schools "fail them" and again when the private charters that replace those public schools "fail them" again --) someone out there in charter company/educational testing/charter management land, who has packaged all this up and is paying its senior executives and its "sales staff" big bucks for managing all the mediocre (or worse) stuff going on below -- makes a lot of "low/no risk" money. Because AFTER this experiment is done and has failed -- the profit is all theirs to keep, and the risk is all ours -- and our childrens'.

Gail said...

Absolutely possible. I woke up this morning with similar thoughts. Complete Standardization is contrary to my view of teaching. Teaching is both an art and a science, involving complex relationships. Today we are compelled to follow extraordinary discoveries in neuroscience about how humans learn. We are becoming enlightened as we learn more about the field of physical and emotional development, and we are growing in awareness of how cultural diversity influences human behavior .
The film, "Babies" is an eye opener. Different philosophies and environments set the scene for parenting.
The film is a study in human observation, with scenes that capture moments that demonstrate the universal child's curiosity and zeal for self education. So much of this rush for standardization causes parental and societal angst.

Some students may not seem to have abilities equal to the standards set forth for them. They become discouraged. When discouraged, their behavior reflects their feelings.
Our society seems to insist on pushing pills for success. Instead of seeking answers to the deeper question, the standard trend is to take a short cut. If instead, we ponder the very deep questions about learning differences, and build and sustain a variety of ways for all children to achieve success, this mono- system will continue to fail.
Parents, teachers and mentors who care about guiding children's intelligence to achieve greater knowledge and understanding are deeply interested in approaches that inspire student success and strengthen the developing mind.

Andrew Davidson said...

"A lot of things have been done to diminish Roosevelt..."

Could you explain what you mean by that, for a newcomer?

seattle citizen said...

So with teachers having to vote on their contract next Thursday, and the ONLY serious sticking point being SERVE, can we do ANYTHING to get word out to parent/guardians about this?

Next Thursday is the cusp: If teachers vote to approve a contract with SERVE in it, that's the beginning of the end. Teachers, I believe, do NOT want this. NOT because of money, teachers, I think, understand that they are paid...as well as can be expected, particularly in these times. It's NOT about "accountability": Most teachers welcome the opportunity to improve (if a proposed change is an improvement), they welcome observation and critique, and while no one really anticipates evaluation (do any of us?) they understand accountability as it is in the real world.

Teachers, I think, believe that they should be evaluated on how well they teach. There is a mechanism already in place for this; I personally believe it to be too weak. Teachers, I believe, overwhelmining do NOT want to be evaluated on student learning, and the main reason, given the passion of most of them for kids, is that they know this will hurt students. Yes, it would impact teaching negatively, too, which also would impact students, but the system of tying teacher evals to student learning REQUIRES a narrowing of curriculum and the assignment of simplistic scores as representative of student learning.

Teachers know this. They want to stand firm against it. But the media, and public perception, have been turned to "teacher quality" as some sort of be-all and end-all of how to "fix failed schools" (?!) I believe many parent/guardians believe teachers are being obstinate, greedy, they're union lackeys or whatever...Many parent/guardians believe the propaganda we read in the Times almost every day.

If teachers strike, will the public support them? Will parents and guardians join them on the picket lines?

If they won't, teachers might well have to bow to the pressure. How could they strike (the strike itself hurting students) if they know the district can count on public opinion? How can they fight this massive "reform" alone?

I hope that anyone who believes this SERVE to be the danger it is will contact ALL their friends, and make sure THEY contact ALL their friends, all throughout the city. The citizenry must support the teachers in standing against SERVE: It's not about the teachers, it's about the kids. There's less than a week. Can this city stand for children by standing for their teachers, for rich curriculum, and against those who would turn students into little numbers on the data sheet, data manipulated to meet the business prospectus of a dishonest reform movement?

I hope we can rally in the streets this next week to protest this incredible travesty and support our city's teachers. I hope we can spend the next week calling everyone and spreading the word.

I hope anyone with influence can use it, anyone with a pen can lift it, anyone with knowledge can share it. Teachers NEED parents and guardians to be informed. Call the PTSA, hold emergency sessions, meet late into the night, this is a crisis. The union can't and hasn't done the job of educating our citizenry. Can we?

This is NOT a union screed; this is TRULY about our kids, and next Thursday's vote will decide their future.

Anonymous said...

CRPE...Is this the reinvention of "CREEP" of Watergate fame?

And, "Baumol's Disease" (!!??) Have I been suffering from Rip Van disease and slept through the "committee to reduce personal empathy" reinventing customer service as a disease? I bet George Orwell is tossing and turning in his grave missing out on such an opportunity to chronicle this!

I encourage everyone to take a little time and effort to read this BusinessWeek article about Costco vs Wal-Mart employee/customer service model:

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_15/b3878084_mz021.htm

Wall Street and the Broad/Gates/Wal-Mart Waltons consider the "Customer is King" model as an anochronism. So, now we should be treating our students as products on an assembly line, not as valued "customers" that will come back next year, or years later, to share how important we were in their lives.

Take note of how many Economists are writing Ed reform articles. They are so enamored with convoluted statistical analysis they don't see that it's psuedo-science. Go to page 31 of the paper that Tim Burgess sites as a major influence on his thinking (I would copy & paste; but, alas, the mathematical equation, I would call it psuedo-equation, won't copy):

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2006/04education_gordon/200604hamilton_1.pdf
ken berry

Maureen said...

Andrew, re Roosevelt. I expect much of it is as good or better than it has ever been (drama, sports, the physical space).

My personal issue with RHS is that they seem committed to decreasing rigor in the name of increasing access. About half of sophomores used to take AP European History, that was cancelled and replaced with AP Human Geography for ALL sophomores (whether they want it or not). Same with replacement of Language Arts Electives with AP LA/Composition. Also ALL freshmen have to take 9th grade science now--no way to go straight to Bio as a freshman like you can at Garfield and Ballard (no matter what kind of science you had in middle school). There are no separate Honors classes (except in math) -- If you want LA Honors can you take the same class as everyone else and do extra work, no Honors at all in science (and SS I think). Math has been great, but the adoption of Discoving is undermining that as well.

Just my (no doubt warped) perception. Note that I am a huge fan of increased access to rigorous work--but I think that there should be some choice involved and that it shouldn't mean that kids who want to be challenged are held back.

Andrew Davidson said...

Maureen, thanks for the observations about RHS.

I am interested because I am starting there this fall. I'll be teaching computer science and digital media. The tentative plan is to offer the AP Computer Science A course at Roosevelt in 2011-12.

Dorothy Neville said...

Now a *positive* thing that the district did to Roosevelt was to put in a decent principal -- not retired, not interim, but an honest to goodness regular principal and let him stay.

Mr Vance started getting rid of the egregiously bad teachers right away. One was gone at the end of his first year. Two or three more have been shown the door since then. I spoke with a teacher there who was pleased and as far as he knew, these folks were really gone from the district and not just shuffled around. I do not have corroboration on that though.

(But I agree with everything Maureen said.)

Eric M said...

Teachers will NOT approve a contract with SERVE in it. It's not going to happen.

More than that, teachers will vote no-confidence in Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. I would be surprised if that passes by less than 95 %.

On Charlie's questions: Yup. That's where the Billionaire Boys Club is trying to take this.
Deprofessionalize public education and create revenue streams fro entrepeneurs.

Charlie Mas said...

For those who think that teaching cannot be de-professionalized, think again. I have seen any number of jobs which used to be regarded as professional replaced with call centers and self-service.

Look at financial services, and you will see Loan-by-phone, online loan applications, online stock trading, and even call centers for trust accounts.

The fact is that the standard version of things works well enough for about two-thirds to three-quarters of any given population. Most of us can buy our clothes off the rack.

That's not to say that the standard version is OPTIMAL for even those folks, but it is servicable. Once we have diminished everyone's expectations enough they will be perfectly satisfied with it. When no one expects to be able to take a Shakespeare class in their junior year of high school, no one will miss it. When no one expects teachers to be creative and create tailored lessons for students, no one will miss it.

I took college classes in lecture halls with 400 students. I wasn't expecting any individualized instruction, and I didn't miss it.

karyn king said...

As a bit of weekend relief, enjoy Tom Chapin's take on using standarized tests to measure kids & teachers...Maybe someone could make this more public? Eric?
http://www.myspace.com/notonthetest

dan dempsey said...

Link to article on the Billionaire Boys and their packaging plan.

Really interesting thoughts from a Colorado fellow HERE follow:

"Colorado, which finished 17th among 19 finalists, had been widely viewed as the top contender in the competition, and Mr. Duncan said Tuesday that he wished he could have funded the state. Dwight Jones, Colorado Commissioner of Education, said he was "shell-shocked" that his state didn't win and he pointed to the lack of teacher union support as one reason."

Extortionists clearly practicing extortion.

"The union withdrew support in the second round after lawmakers passed a teacher evaluation law that make it easier to get rid of low-performing teachers. "They want to blame us no matter what," she said."

"This whole process is indicative of how money is the cocaine in education circles. More money for education is the primary goal of everyone in education from the public schools to the education schools to the consultants and book publishers, and to the politicians whose campaigns are financed by education power groups."

"When it comes to improving things for our kids, throwing out the content-free curricula and replacing them with content-rich curricula tied to much more rigorous standards and achievement tests would have immensely bigger positive impact than firing some bad teachers. Am I saying that the bad teachers should be ignored? Of course not, but I am saying that the priorities of actions do not in any way match the power of the potential improvements to be gained. Fixing the curricula is the only thing that will substantially impact the achievement gap favorably."

============
I have ZERO confidence in the Board or the Superintendent to fix the instructional materials and instructional practices so that they have a content rich focus.

Seattle spends well in excess of $10,000 per student annually and yet for around $50/kid per year for at best four years ... these supposed leaders jump on a train to nowhere without even checking the destination.

Randy Dorn and Gov. Gregoire are still on board as well.

It is time for all these leaders to get off the train to nowhere.

Clearly logical thought processes based on evidence are not used by our leaders when it comes to educational decision-making.

kprugman said...

http://www.edexcellence.net/index.cfm/news_Ohio%20at%20the%20Crossroads

Hill (PhD Political Science) was lead author on the six-year, $6 million, Gates-funded, nationwide study Facing the Future: Financing Productive Schools. This report, issued in December 2008, is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, prepared by more than 40 economists, lawyers, financial specialists, and education policy makers. It was comprised of more than 30 separate studies, including in-depth looks at Ohio, North Carolina, Texas and Washington.


Much of Gov. Strickland's evidence-based approach to school funding runs counter to what the Gates report recommended in December. That study shows that "schools and systems that work best, especially for poor and disadvantaged youngsters, are not all alike: they use funds, teachers, students' time, materials, and technology very differently."


Hill provides four recommendations for improving the Governor's school funding plan:

•Drive funds to schools based on student numbers and needs through a process called weighted student funding.
•Encourage experimentation with the uses of funds and imaginative new instructional programs.
•Hold all schools and school districts to account for student performance and continuous improvement.
•Gather and use data on the uses of funds and the results produced, so that alternative methods of delivering instruction can be compared on cost and effectiveness.

Dora Taylor said...

As Albert Einstein said:

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

Dora Taylor said...

Part 1

Because this is an open thread I am assuming that I can post something that is in the same vein but a slightly different subject.

Below is a letter to President Obama that education activists and bloggers around the country signed onto. The name of the organization is Parents Across America and it is truly grassroots. We are also forming Parents Across Seattle in response to all that is going on in our city and state.

Anyway, below is the letter:

August 26, 2010

Dear President Obama:

Several weeks ago, we wrote to you about our concern that your proposed “Blueprint for Reform” did not acknowledge the critical role parents must play in any meaningful school improvement process. We also expressed our serious reservations about some of the Blueprint's strategies.

Our goal is simple – to ensure that our children receive the best possible education. As parents, we are the first to see the positive effects of good programs, and the first line of defense when our children's well-being is threatened. Our input is unique and essential.

Recently, Secretary Duncan announced that he would require districts that receive federal school improvement grants (SIG) to involve parents and the community in planning for schools identified for intervention. We appreciate this response as a first step; however, more needs to be done.

First, leadership must come from the top. We would like to see meaningful, broad-based parent participation not just in our local districts, but at the U.S. Department of Education, where critical decisions are being made about our children's education.


Second, we need more than rhetoric to feel confident that only educationally sound strategies will be used in our children's schools. The current emphasis on more charter schools, high-stakes testing, and privatization is simply not supported by research. Disagreement on these matters is not a result of parents clinging to the “status quo,” as you have recently asserted. No one has more at stake in better schools than we do – but we disagree with you and Secretary Duncan about how to get them.

We need effective, proven, common-sense practices that will strengthen our existing schools, rather than undermine them. These include parent input into teacher evaluation systems, fairly-funded schools, smaller class sizes and experienced teachers who are respected as professionals, not seen as interchangeable cogs in a machine. We want our children to be treated as individuals, not data points. And we want a real, substantial role in all decisions that affect our children’s schools.

More specifically, and urgently, we insist on being active partners in the formulation of federal school improvement policies. The models proposed by the U.S. Department of Education are rigid and punitive, involving either closure, conversion to charters, or the firing of large portions of the teaching staff. All of these strategies disrupt children’s education and destabilize communities; none adequately addresses the challenges these schools face.

We also insist on being active partners in reforms at the school level, with the power to devise our own local solutions, using research-based methods, after a collaborative needs assessment at each individual school.

Our voices must count. If you listen, you will make real changes in your School Improvement Grant proposals as well as your “Blueprint” for education reform.

We look forward to your response and a brighter future for our children and our nation.

Sincerely, Parents Across America (signatories attached)

Dora Taylor said...

Part 2

Signatories

Natalie Beyer, Durham Allies for Responsive Education (DARE), NC

Caroline Grannan, San Francisco public school parent, volunteer and advocate, CA

Pamela Grundy, Mecklenburg Area Coming Together for Schools, NC

Leonie Haimson, Class Size Matters, New York, NY

Sharon Higgins, public school parent, Oakland, CA

Susan Magers, Parent Advocate, FL

Mark Mishler, active public school parent, former president, Albany City PTA*, NY

Bill Ring, TransParent®, Los Angeles, CA

Lisa Schiff, San Francisco public school parent, board member of Parents for
Public Schools*, member of Parents for Public Schools of San Francisco*,
"School Beat" columnist for BeyondChron, CA

Rita M. Solnet, President, CDS, Inc.; Director, Testing is Not Teaching, FL

Dora Taylor, Parent and co-editor of Seattle Education 2010, WA

Julie Woestehoff, Parents United for Responsible Education, Chicago, IL


I'll let you know if we receive a response.

Dora Taylor said...

Linda Shaw is at it again.

I can't believe how ignorant this woman chooses to be about what is going on in Seattle.

No wonder newspapers dont sell anymore.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2012751141_teachercontract29m.html

Brita Butler-Wall said...

My daughter, who graduated 4.0 from Garfield and is now in a Ph.D. program, pointed out that basing teacher evals. on student test scores will also give a falsely positive picture of weak teachers whose students do well in spite of them. Students and parents know who they are. More food for thought.

Dora Taylor said...

Part 1:

This report was released this morning from EPI, the Economic Policy Institute.

In the report, leading educational testing experts caution against heavy reliance on the use of test scores in teacher evaluation.

Below is a synopsis of the report.

"Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, even with the addition of value-added modeling (VAM), a new Economic Policy Institute report by leading testing experts finds. Though VAM methods have allowed for more sophisticated comparisons of teachers than were possible in the past, they are still inaccurate, so test scores should not dominate the information used by school officials in making high-stakes decisions about the evaluation, discipline and compensation of teachers.

The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt laws that use student test scores as a significant component in evaluating teachers, and a number of states have done so already. The Los Angeles Times recently used value-added methods to evaluate teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District based on the test scores of their students, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supported the paper’s decision to publicly release this information, asserting that parents have a right to know how effective their teachers are. But the conclusions of the expert co-authors of this report suggest that neither parents nor anyone else should believe that the Los Angeles Times analysis actually identifies which teachers are effective or ineffective in teaching children because the methods are incapable of doing so fairly and accurately.

The distinguished authors of EPI’s report, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers, include four former presidents of the American Educational Research Association; two former presidents of the National Council on Measurement in Education; the current and two former chairs of the Board of Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; the president-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management; the former director of the Educational Testing Service’s Policy Information Center and a former associate director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress; a former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education; a former and current member of the National Assessment Governing Board; and the current vice-president, a former president, and three other members of the National Academy of Education.

The co-authors make clear that the accuracy and reliability of analyses of student test scores, even in their most sophisticated form, is highly problematic for high stakes decisions regarding teachers . Consequently, policymakers and all stakeholders in education should rethink this new emphasis on the centrality of test scores for holding teachers accountable.

Analyses of VAM results show that they are often unstable across time, classes and tests; thus, test scores, even with the addition of VAM, are not accurate indicators of teacher effectiveness. Student test scores, even with VAM, cannot fully account for the wide range of factors that influence student learning, particularly the backgrounds of students, school supports and the effects of summer learning loss. As a result, teachers who teach students with the greatest educational needs appear to be less effective than they are. Furthermore, VAM does not take into account nonrandom sorting of teachers to students across schools and students to teachers within schools.

Dora Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dora Taylor said...

Part 1:

A report from the Economic Policy Institute, EPI just came out this morning regarding the heavy reliance on the use of test scores in teacher evaluation

Below is a summation of that report:

"Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, even with the addition of value-added modeling (VAM), a new Economic Policy Institute report by leading testing experts finds. Though VAM methods have allowed for more sophisticated comparisons of teachers than were possible in the past, they are still inaccurate, so test scores should not dominate the information used by school officials in making high-stakes decisions about the evaluation, discipline and compensation of teachers.

The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt laws that use student test scores as a significant component in evaluating teachers, and a number of states have done so already. The Los Angeles Times recently used value-added methods to evaluate teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District based on the test scores of their students, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supported the paper’s decision to publicly release this information, asserting that parents have a right to know how effective their teachers are. But the conclusions of the expert co-authors of this report suggest that neither parents nor anyone else should believe that the Los Angeles Times analysis actually identifies which teachers are effective or ineffective in teaching children because the methods are incapable of doing so fairly and accurately.

The distinguished authors of EPI’s report, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers, include four former presidents of the American Educational Research Association; two former presidents of the National Council on Measurement in Education; the current and two former chairs of the Board of Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; the president-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management; the former director of the Educational Testing Service’s Policy Information Center and a former associate director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress; a former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education; a former and current member of the National Assessment Governing Board; and the current vice-president, a former president, and three other members of the National Academy of Education.

The co-authors make clear that the accuracy and reliability of analyses of student test scores, even in their most sophisticated form, is highly problematic for high stakes decisions regarding teachers . Consequently, policymakers and all stakeholders in education should rethink this new emphasis on the centrality of test scores for holding teachers accountable."

Dora Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dora Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dora Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

That's an excellent point, Brita. Success in teaching to the test (whether it was the classroom teacher or the whole school (as schools focus more and more on test scores) will mask other weaknesses.

And its corollary: "Good" teachers will be those who can teach to (or prepare the students for) a narrow test. So much for a rich curriculum and vibrant learning...

But of course this is just way too obvious for the Broad foundation folks.

Dora Taylor said...

Part 1

A report from the EPI, the Economic Policy Institute was released this morning about the
heavy reliance on the use of test scores in teacher evaluations.

A summary of the report is below:

"Student test scores are not reliable indicators of teacher effectiveness, even with the addition of value-added modeling (VAM), a new Economic Policy Institute report by leading testing experts finds. Though VAM methods have allowed for more sophisticated comparisons of teachers than were possible in the past, they are still inaccurate, so test scores should not dominate the information used by school officials in making high-stakes decisions about the evaluation, discipline and compensation of teachers.

The Obama administration has encouraged states to adopt laws that use student test scores as a significant component in evaluating teachers, and a number of states have done so already. The Los Angeles Times recently used value-added methods to evaluate teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District based on the test scores of their students, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan supported the paper’s decision to publicly release this information, asserting that parents have a right to know how effective their teachers are. But the conclusions of the expert co-authors of this report suggest that neither parents nor anyone else should believe that the Los Angeles Times analysis actually identifies which teachers are effective or ineffective in teaching children because the methods are incapable of doing so fairly and accurately."

Dora Taylor said...

Part 2:

"The distinguished authors of EPI’s report, Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers, include four former presidents of the American Educational Research Association; two former presidents of the National Council on Measurement in Education; the current and two former chairs of the Board of Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; the president-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management; the former director of the Educational Testing Service’s Policy Information Center and a former associate director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress; a former assistant U.S. Secretary of Education; a former and current member of the National Assessment Governing Board; and the current vice-president, a former president, and three other members of the National Academy of Education.

The co-authors make clear that the accuracy and reliability of analyses of student test scores, even in their most sophisticated form, is highly problematic for high stakes decisions regarding teachers . Consequently, policymakers and all stakeholders in education should rethink this new emphasis on the centrality of test scores for holding teachers accountable.

Analyses of VAM results show that they are often unstable across time, classes and tests; thus, test scores, even with the addition of VAM, are not accurate indicators of teacher effectiveness. Student test scores, even with VAM, cannot fully account for the wide range of factors that influence student learning, particularly the backgrounds of students, school supports and the effects of summer learning loss. As a result, teachers who teach students with the greatest educational needs appear to be less effective than they are. Furthermore, VAM does not take into account nonrandom sorting of teachers to students across schools and students to teachers within schools."

Dorothy Neville said...

Brita, exactly one of my points as well. The plan will not be useful at all to suss out weak teachers in advanced classes, weak math teaching in schools where kids get tutored at home, or other similar cases.

What I suspect might happen is that some kids, especially middle and high school kids, will figure this out and get low scores on purpose to try to spite teachers they don't like or don't think are doing a good job.

My son got a 4 on the 10th grade Reading Wasl that he took in 9th grade. However, his 9th and 10 grade Language Arts teachers were by far the weakest teachers he had in high school. (And if he were in this system, I am pretty sure he'd be willing to purposefully do poorly on the HS Wasl Equivalent in order to ding his 10th grade LA teacher. Having to take the exam over again to graduate would have been worth it, in his estimation.)

In fact, can you see frustrated parents of elementary school kids, who have to teach or reteach math at home, hinting or telling their kids to not necessarily do their best on the MAP.....?

Dora Taylor said...

Part 3:

There are further negative consequences of using test scores to evaluate teacher performance. Teachers who are rewarded on the basis of their students’ test scores have an incentive to “teach to the test,” which narrows the curriculum not just between subject areas, but also within subject areas. Furthermore, creating a system in which teachers are, in effect, competing with each other can reduce the incentive to collaborate within schools-and studies have shown that better schools are marked by teaching staffs that work together. Finally, judging teachers based on test scores that do not genuinely assess students’ progress can demoralize teachers, encouraging them to leave the teaching field.

Evaluating teachers accurately is an extremely important piece of the effort to improve America’s schools, and VAM methods are appealing in that they seem to offer an objective and simplified way of comparing one teacher with another. However, as EPI’s report makes clear, “There is simply no shortcut to the identification and removal of ineffective teachers.” The authors conclude that that, “Although standardized test scores of students are one piece of information that school leaders may use to make judgments about teacher effectiveness, test scores should be only a small part of an overall comprehensive evaluation.”

Dora Taylor said...

Part 4:

The report’s co-authors are:

Eva L. Baker, Professor of education at UCLA and Co-Director of the National Center for Evaluation Standards and Student Testing (CRESST)

Paul E. Barton, former Director of the Policy Information Center of the Educational Testing Service

Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of education at Stanford University, former President of the American Educational Research Association

Edward Haertel , Professor of education at Stanford University, former President of the National Council on Measurement in Education, Chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment, former Chair of the committee on methodology of the National Assessment Governing Board

Helen F. Ladd, Professor of public policy and economics at Duke University, President-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

Robert L. Linn, professor emeritus at the University of Colorado, former President of the National Council on Measurement in Education and of the American Educational Research Association, former Chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Testing and Assessment

Diane Ravitch, Research Professor at New York University and historian of American education

Richard Rothstein, Research Associate of the Economic Policy Institute

Richard J. Shavelson, Professor of Education (Emeritus), former dean of the School of Education at Stanford University, and former president of the American Educational Research Association

Lorrie A. Shepard, Dean and professor at the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, former President of the American Educational Research Association, immediate past President of the National Academy of Education

The report is available at: http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/6276/

You can also make comments about this (or anything else about education) at:

http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

where this is posted with links.