“We’re asking the court to at least hold the Legislature in contempt, to prohibit any more unfunded or underfunded mandates on our schools, and to impose even more serious sanctions if the Legislature does not reconvene and obey the court’s orders by Dec. 31 of this year,” Ahearne wrote.
In his written response to the Legislature’s report to the Supreme Court, Ahearne said lawmakers do not seem to understand that the Supreme Court was issuing an order, not making a suggestion.
“The State did what it had been ordered to not do. It offered promises about trying to submit a plan and take significant action next year — along with excuses for why the State’s ongoing violation of kids’ constitutional rights and court orders should be excused this year,” he wrote.
He also believes that the Court compelling the Legislature to act would not violate the separate of powers.
Two stories from the LA Times.
One is the non-partisan race for state superintendent of public instruction for California which may be a foretelling of what may be coming for Washington State. In LA, there is the incumbent, Tom Torlakson, who champions teachers and dislikes the ever-growing number of standardized tests. He also calls for more funding. California also refused to establish rules about linking test scores to teacher's evaluations.
His challenger, Marshall Tuck, is a darling of big-money ed reformers and former head of a charter chain of schools, who wants to limit job security for teachers and says before any new revenue, he would find ways to spend current school dollars better.
"These fights are very much playing out in the states, between the union wing and the education-reform wing," said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.
The second item from the LA Times is an editorial that came to my attention via Director Peters' Board comments last night. The editorial is titled, "Casting doubt on linking teacher evaluations to test scores."
A new study out of USC and the University of Pennsylvania finds that value-added measurements — a way of using student test scores to evaluate teacher performance — aren't a very good way of judging teacher quality. This isn't the first study to cast doubt on what has become a linchpin educational policy of the Obama administration but there's an interesting element that lends its findings extra weight: It was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a well-known supporter of using test scores in teacher evaluations. There's a YouTube video about the findings.
The Obama administration is pulling Washington State's waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements, solely because the state didn't follow through with this one aspect of its reform plan. Education policy is supposed to follow well-established research, not the other way around.
Fredrick Hess also speaks up in his column at EducationNext where he asked teacher and blogger, John Thompson, to talk to the Gates Foundation about using VAM measures. From a conversation Thompson had with Steve Cantrell, the Senior Program Officer for Research and Data at the Foundation, he expressed the following concerns.
- I explained why the predictable result of value-added evaluations, even when balanced by “multiple measures,” would be driving talent out of the most challenging schools. When a basic research study is x% inaccurate for individuals, that may be a huge success. But, who would commit to a teaching career where such a chance PER YEAR could damage or destroy it.
- The policy issue, however, is how will they be used, constructively and destructively. How, I asked, can teachers not oppose reforms that can be beneficial before concrete checks and balances for the inevitable misuses are nailed down? Teachers must fight, politically and legally, against evaluations where the administrators who set policies unilaterally determine whether it was the fault of those policies or the individual teacher for not meeting test score growth targets.
- Teaching effectiveness measures have great potential to provide teachers with feedback as they work to hone their craft and to help school system leaders understand where support for better teaching and learning is needed, whether that support is effective, and, ultimately, how to design a system of supports to get better results.
- John is primarily concerned about error. He believes the new evaluation systems are in the hands of administrators (and statisticians) who through intent or incompetence inaccurately judge teachers in ways that negatively impact their careers. John mentioned the need to put safeguards in place before teaching effectiveness measures are used for consequences. I couldn’t agree more. But while I certainly don’t want to see effective teachers labeled ineffective, it would be a grave mistake to simply abandon teaching effectiveness measures.
- To address this fear, we should ensure that efforts to identify ineffective teachers are not overzealous. It is dangerous to exaggerate ineffectiveness by assuming teachers within the bottom quartile or bottom quintile of performance are ineffective. We found in the MET project and in subsequent implementations of new evaluation systems, that the real number of truly ineffective teachers hovers around 5 percent.
- In the end, I believe John shares my deep concern that the great potential of feedback and evaluation systems to improve the quality of teaching will be lost if their sole purpose becomes teacher accountability.
"We really haven't received any money until this year, this is the last year," said Ellicottville superintendent Mark Ward.
Ward says a measly $17,490 -- during the last year of the program was received.
What has Ellicottville spent to implement new learning standards? 20 times what it received from the government.
In Fredonia, state mandates forced the school district to add staff, so programs could be implemented.
"Because of the new teacher evaluation system, the district was forced to hire two additional assistant principals, one in our elementary school, one in our middle school, just to cover the staff evaluations," said Joseph Reyda, the director of curriculum for Fredonia Schools.
How much has Fredonia spent in added costs? Upwards of $750,000, while only getting $55,000 from Race to the Top.
We questioned Congressman Brian Higgins about why many school districts have seen a lack of Race to the Top funding. When the funds came to the state, Higgins hailed the infusion of dollars as a good investment.
"Clearly the federal government underestimated the costs associated with designing and implementing these programs in the individual states," Higgins said, and that, there is no more funding to help districts unless Congress approves the money.