Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"Bloomberg to Tie Student Test Scores to Decisions on Teacher Tenure"

You can't say it more plainly than that so I reprinted the headline from this NY Times article.

Apparently NYC already uses test scores as a factor in teacher/principal bonus pay (yes, they have that too), for the grade a school gets (A-F) and for which schools are closed because of poor performance. A lot of this effort is to get Race to the Top money.

The article suggests that the Mayor (he just won his third term despite having said he would follow the law that he couldn't run again - he got that changed) may put forth his political capital to take on the teachers union.

And from the article of interest to us:

"The mayor also said the state should allow teacher layoffs based on performance rather than seniority, as they are now."

“The only thing worse than having to lay off teachers would be laying off great teachers instead of failing teachers,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “With a transparent new evaluation system, principals would have the ability to make layoffs based on merit — but only if the State Legislature gives us the authority to do it.”

Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, suggested that the mayor would not find satisfaction in Albany. “These are all contractual issues that should be dealt with at the bargaining table,” he said."

The head of the NYC teachers union, Michael Mulgrew, said that the tests have become too easy and lost their ability to gauge student improvement. So Mayor Bloomberg has hastily said that the state should adopt national standards and make the test harder.

"Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, called the issue of state tests the “Achilles’ heel of the accountability movement.”

“When you ask any teacher, even a good one, they tend to be pretty leery of being held accountable on these tests,” Ms. Walsh said. “These tests aren’t linked to the actual curriculum, and they have to be."

But, she said, they have “validity for making decisions at the extreme end: Teachers who are really talented tend to be in the top and teachers who are poor tend to be in the bottom year after year.”

This was an interesting quote:

"Teachers interviewed on Wednesday about the plan were universal in their condemnation. “It’s ridiculous,” said Kanayo Al-Broderick, a third-grade teacher at Public School 56 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, who is in her 22nd year of teaching. “It just means they did well on this test. Does it show we’ve built them to be lifelong readers, to love reading? That’s what all teachers want.”

Is that important and can it be measured? Meaning, the love of not just reading but of learning. I was in Bartell's the other day and on the same aisle as me was a mother and her about-4-year old son. He was so excited and pointed out everything of interest on the aisle. But it wasn't just , "Mommy, look at this." He was making specific comments about the value and use of the items he saw. I told his mom that that kind of interest in the world around him was going to be great when he got to school because he was just so energized to figure things out.

Fostering that need to know, to wonder, to explain is at the heart of learning. I think when parents, for whatever reason, don't have this happening at home, it makes the teacher's job much more difficult. But, we have all seen teachers who just made a subject come alive. If your child is engaged, happy to go to school and is making progress, how is that measured? Can a test measure that?

It is a very big question because again, are we looking to measure students or teachers? And if we are doing both at the same time, how large should a test figure?

I would be interesting to have a teacher survey asking what they see from their end about students coming into class. From the teachers you might ask how many students come ready to learn (awake, fed, mostly listening), how many students seem at grade level when they got to your class, does the back-up at home seem apparent? Not that you would have any names attached but how many teachers feel like they are fighting the tide when the kids just get to class because they aren't ready to learn?

I'm not suggesting any personalization to this and, of course, it would be just an interesting exercise but if we are grading teachers, student preparation (i.e. parents) are part of their challenge to teach.


SPS mom said...

Sigh...and again I ask, what is the primary purpose of the MAP testing? It's funded by the Gates Foundation and overseen by Broad hires. Let's connect the dots.

Charlie Mas said...

The one and only stated purpose of the MAP testing is as a formative assessment to inform instruction.

It has been suggested that the MAP would indicate gaps in student learning for individual students and, if it were to appear, for groups of students. It has been indicated during the discussion of the curricular alignment project that MAP test results could indicate if a teacher is covering each element of the curriculum. If a large number of the students in a class are missing some knowledge or skill, it could raise questions about whether the teacher is covering that element well enough - or at all. Either way, it is an indication to the teacher that the ground needs to be covered - for the first time or for a second time.

SPS mom said...

The MAP test is not necessarily aligned to the SPS curriculum, so is the test evaluating the teacher, the curriculum, or the student?

Anonymous said...

I will be providing testimony to the school board tonight. My comments will be as follows:

(This will be in two posts.)

You should have in front of you two documents, “An Open Letter to Arne Duncan” by Herb Kohl


and “The Rise of Venture Philanthropy and the Ongoing Neoliberal Assault on Public Education: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation” by Kenneth Saltman.


Both documents can be found on the website Seattle Education 2010


and tie into what is happening within our school system in terms of MAP testing.

My attention was drawn to the MAP testing when I understood that kindergarten students would be tested on computers twice, maybe three times a year, to evaluate their academic progress, an idea that I find ludicrous at best. The MAP test which stands for Measures of Academic Progress is to be used to determine a student’s progress grades K through 9 and it is my concern that this narrow measure of academic achievement will be used in short order to evaluate a teacher’s performance which would be tied into the concept of merit pay. I have read Directors Sundquist and De Bell’s remarks in the press about how the superintendent’s raise is an example of what they would like to see follow in terms of merit pay for all teachers and by that I am greatly alarmed.

Not only is this test simply a snapshot of one day in the life of a student, a day that might be fraught with hunger, fear or general malaise, it is at this point a false representation of a student’s level of understanding of various subjects.

I have read and heard that the students already know how to manipulate the test so that they get easier questions and can finish the test more quickly. These students have learned that if a series of questions appears to be too difficult for a student, the questions become easier. This was to be a hallmark of this test, the ability for the software to adjust to the level of a student’s understanding of the subject matter.

This, as with any test, is not an accurate measure of a student’s ability and yet I could see it being proposed as a basis for the evaluation of a teacher’s performance as is happening in many parts of the country under the guise of determining “teacher quality” and instituting “performance pay” and “merit pay” as a way to reward teachers on how well their students can take a test on a narrow set of academic parameters.

Anonymous said...

(Part 2)

With the MAP test used as well as the WASL, which many teachers already teach to narrowing their scope of academic understanding by the students of the subject, the idea of testing appears to be redundant and a waste of time and money.

Many of us understand that the $9M that the Gates’ Foundation provided to SPS for testing students was used to evaluate the MAP test and now administer it to our students. If that’s the case, wouldn’t that money have been better spent on decreasing the size of classes or providing additional enrichment programs for our students or keeping some of our schools open or our teachers in place last spring? I am not comfortable with the idea that the Gates Foundation provided this money because their emphasis is on student assessment testing and linking the results of those tests to merit pay for teachers. That is well documented and again information regarding that can be found at Seattle Education 2010.

As Herb Kohl states in his letter to Arne Duncan, “We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, ‘We are learning how to do good on the tests.’ They did not say they were learning to read."

"It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content of learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test."

seattle citizen said...

Regarding students coming "ready to learn" (excited, motivated, eager, interested...) versus teacher having to do all these things:

Quite a few students, one would suppose, are disinterested: unprepared, so they don't focus; unsupported, so they don't get that boost; parent/guardians not "excited" about discovery, etc, so students aren't either; distracted, by video, drugs, social scene...; antisocial, actually "playing" the system in school, actively oppositional; hopeless - culture of oppression, sense that nothing matters

What's the fix?
Things outside the school certainly, but also classroom efforts by teacher at motivating, exciting, opening doors to new worlds...

How is THIS measured? The RESULTS might be measured, qualitatively in narrative...if there were an identification of a students "eagerness factor" at beginning of class. But is this realistic? Teachers adapt to all sorts of factors, including all these (a student can BECOME any of these on a moment's notice) on the fly. How is it measured?

Maybe it's not important: It's not measured (except where addressing these needs somehow, who knows how, increases standardized scores), the only things measured now are ReadWriteMathScience: Students WILL learn these, as measured and defined by EALRs. Those who learn this ONLY will be prepared, perhaps, for mid-level positions following the directions of others. Those who DON'T learn these basics will suffer repercussions - regimentation, authority, ultimately maybe incarceration. Those who Are supported, engaged, inquisitive, enriched, with savvy parents and active imaginations will excel regardless, maybe suffer a little dumbing-down as classrooms focus only on RWMS but ultimately enriched enough elsewhere to move forward, exploring, providing benefits recognized culturally and economically.

No, you can't measure a teacher's ability to inspire, unless you know beforehand how engaged a student is, and even then the skill of adapting to classroom dynamics is (or SHOULD be) so fluid as to be immeasureable

This is a large part of teaching, and getting larger

SPS mom said...

MAP testing would provide the "student growth" data called for under "Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance" in the Race to the Top reform plan criteria.


"At the time the State submits its application, there must not be any legal, statutory, or regulatory barriers at the State level to linking data on student achievement (as defined in this notice) or student growth (as defined in this notice) to teachers and principals for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation."

An "Effective teacher" is defined as one "whose students achieve acceptable rates (e.g., at least one grade level in an academic year) of student growth"

A "Highly effective" is defined as one "whose students achieve high rates (e.g., one and one-half grade levels in an academic year) of student growth"

seattle citizen said...

Will "effective" and "highly effective" teachers get to share the same staff lounge?

gavroche said...

What makes Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the rest of the billionaire "education reform" dilettantes experts on education?

After having spent time in classrooms with teachers and seeing all that they do for our kids --often in their own time, with their own money--it is clear to me that the Venture Philanthropists and their Mayor for Life pal are utterly clueless about the teaching profession, the art of teaching and what makes a person choose that profession.

The teachers I know stay at work until 10 p.m. writing student evaluations or reading student work.

The teachers I know juggle all the demands of large classes of kids with many varying needs with grace and tenacity.

The teachers I know buy supplies for their students at their own expense.

The teachers I know use their bilingual skills to reach out to their English Language Learners.

The teachers I know help out other teachers and work collaboratively.

The teachers I know want their students to love learning, to be whole people and citizens, and not just test-taking machines.

The teachers I know do tireless, conscientious, creative work to help their students learn every single day and are underpaid and under-appreciated by the school district.

What do Messrs. Bloomberg, Broad and Gates know about teaching?

What do any of them know about public education?

Did any of them go to public schools? Have any of them sent their children to public schools?

I am sick to death of hearing these three stooges demean and demonize our teachers, or insinuate they are somehow slackers, when in fact most teachers, by and large, are doing good and difficult work with very little support and resources.

The MAP tests are a farce. Their results are unclear and difficult to read and absolutely inappropriate for kindergarteners. But they are also wasting precious school time and funding that could be better spent on creating smaller class sizes or buying better textbooks. Good teachers don't need computerized tests to tell them what their students do and don't know.

And despite what Supt. Goodloe-Johnson may have said at the last School Board meeting, yes it is a blatant conflict of interest for Seattle's School Superintendent to be on the board of directors of the enterprise (the Northwest Evaluation Association) that creates and sells the trademarked product known as MAP tests to Seattle Public Schools. (http://www.nwea.org/about-nwea/our-leadership)

It doesn't matter whether she is directly paid or not, how can she not be biased in favor of NWEA and their product when NWEA gives her the honor of being on its board?

As for Bloomberg, what credibility does this pocket megalomaniac have when his idea of democracy is to buy public office with his own wealth ($102 million this time round) and change the laws so he can run for mayor again?

Mayor Bloomberg Breaks Spending Record

One last question: If Bloomberg, Broad and Gates were not insanely wealthy, would anyone give a damn what their opinion is on education?

wseadawg said...

I could go on for days, but won't. First, MAP testing is not the same as "high stakes testing" like the WASL, etc. At least not yet, in practice. Will MAP scores become the barometer of a good teacher someday? Maybe, and that will be a very, very sad day.

To those who supported NCTQ and their agenda, I can only say, NICE WORK!! I hope that comes across as sarcastically as I intended it. People need to wake up and connect the dots between all the phony grass roots groups that all lead back to Gates, Broad, and other know-it-all privatization freaks. It's not complicated. In the end, it's all about money and power, as usual. Where is Kurt Vonnegut when we really need him? And so it goes...

Bloomberg doesn't give a tinker's damn about the teachers or the kids. It's all hot air. Like a money grubbing preacher stealing money from an old widow, it's not about the kids. It's about his ego and his agenda.

High stakes testing is the end of education as we've known it since it's beginning. It's the mechanizing, corporatizing, automated delivery system, the ultimate goal of which is to de-personalize and de-humanize children, turning them into little robots who will spit out what we put into them, instead of demonstrating real intelligence, thought, creativity and compassion.

The Right has succeeded in framing the education issue as a result-oriented process by which success or failure is determined by standardized test data. Congratulations to those who think all kids knowing the same inane information will help them in future job markets, rather than condemning them to a life where too many people know the same thing, and not enough people have the ability to learn what they don't know, in order to function within a diverse environment.

Keep narrowing the curriculum by focusing on standardized testing as the be-all-and-end-all, and that's what you'll get.

Ugh, when is enough enough?

Lori said...

From NY Times article: "Mr. Bloomberg said that banning the use of student achievement in tenure decisions is “like saying to hospitals, ‘You can evaluate heart surgeons on any criteria you want — just not patient survival rates.’"

I have been a fan of Mayor Bloomberg for his commitment to public health (eg, smoking bans in NYC, providing large sums of money to my alma matter for public health research), but this quote shows that he doesn't understand how you evaluate performance in health care or in schools. You actually can't assess an individual surgeon using post-op survival rates because of what's known as the patient case mix. Some surgeons operate on sicker patients; they may be excellent surgeons but they took on high-risk patients who were likely to die, with or without surgery. Other surgeons may have wonderful survival outcomes but perhaps they only take on good-risk cases.

In medicine, we use other metrics to measure quality of care. You can assess the infrastructure, the processes, or the outcomes. Process measures that tie to the outcome are ideal. So you don't evaluate an oncologist by how many of his lung cancer patients die, but rather by how many with certain features receive chemotherapy within x months of diagnosis, because we know that that intervention affects survival for appropriate patients. So the question really is whether or not the doctor is using the right processes to get the desired outcome. The final outcome is influenced by so many other factors that you cannot really use it to assess any one individual involved in the case.

I would think this same principle applies to education. The teacher doesn't control his or her own "case mix" and can't necessarily be held accountable for the ultimate outcome (test score?!). But, there must be processes that can be measured to gauge if a teacher is doing the "right things" in the classroom. This is clearly not my area of expertise, but surely someone out there is studying what makes a teacher effective? What are the processes that should be followed in the classroom to maximize learning? That's what I'd want to evaluate. Because as others have said, the teacher can't control whether or not the child comes to school hungry or whether the parents provide a nurturing environment. All the teacher can control is the classroom environment, so we need to find a way to assess those things, and only those things, that the teacher really controls, that are also tied to the desired outcome.

Can anyone offer ideas of what those process measures are?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"What makes Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Bill Gates and the rest of the billionaire "education reform" dilettantes experts on education?"

Amen. They made a lot of money and so they know everything about everything (or can hire the right people)? Witness the first head of the Gates Education Foundation who had been...a business guy turned superintendent (not Olchefske). How did that work for them?

They are not elected nor appointed. Having the money to sway the direction of education in this country cannot be the fate for public education.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of NCTQ, a little birdy told me that every teacher in at least one Seattle school received in their school mailbox today a plush, expensive copy of the NCTQ Report from the Alliance for Education. This 71 page publication, with heavy stock covers, color graphics, charts and graphs, and "twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us" (ha ha...that last line is from Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant, and isn't true...maybe..)

The report is titled, "Human Capital in Seattle Public Schools"

The accompanying letter from A4E, explaining this expensive mailing to each teacher, states that the purpose for sending teachers this is "to spark a community dialogue about the importance of recruiting and retaining the strongest teachers in our city's classrooms."

Further, "although the Alliance does not agree with all the recommendations in the report, we do feel that the report can be used for a tool to initiate community-wide conversation and raise the level of public debate on teacher quality, with teachers providing a lleading voice in the discussion..."

How nice of them! They will lead the discussion by commissioning this report on teacher quality and then let teachers lead the discussion on teacher quality! That's dang generous, and I'm sure teachers averywhere are offering loud "huzzahs!"

The weird thing is that the report, this birdy told me, has no indication of teacher input whatsoever. I guess teachers aren't that important in putting the report, this data-wonks...dream together, but they may lead discussion about it later.

For those who haven't seen the report it is here:

One would think they could have emailed teachers and asked if they wanted to check the report out online, but no, they blew a few thousand dollars, dollars gathered by donations at dinners and auctions around the city to "support our students," printing and mailing the report to every teacher in the district.

One might ask why.


Why IS the A4E involving itself in teacher quality issues? Is it a policy making body? Is it part of the district? Did it coordinate with the district to get these to teachers' mailboxes at school? Of course there are public records that tell them where each teacher is, and they can mail anything they want to teachers (as anybody can) but this is a group that exists, purportedly, to assist inj raising funds etc for schools...Did they ask the district about this? Did they coordinate? Today WAS the day the Supe was to maybe get her bonus...

Anyone have any idea why A4E would publish this report and put it every teacher's box? Dos anyone think that A4E is being all altruistic? Maybe I'm just cynical, but I don't believe it. I think there's an agenda, and I think we'll see more of it soon.

dan dempsey said...

My thoughts are that NYC, WA DC, and Seattle have too much "Broad" in common. NYC(Bloomberg & Joel Cohen) and WA DC (Michelle Rhee) pay very little attention to the use of proven instructional materials instead preferring to blame teachers for poor performance.

Here is the latest from the NY Times on NYC school test scores. It shows the giant disconnect between good State Scores and NAEP proficiency. Unlike NYC and WA DC ... Seattle has no NAEP.

The Superintendent's incentive pay in Seattle seems to be a preliminary step toward merit pay for teachers.

seattle citizen said...

Oh, and they A4E also tells teachers this:
"...some of the recommendations [www.alliance4ed.org] depend on changes to existing school administrative policies. We are currently communicicating with a range of individuals and organizations to identify which recommendations warrant our [whose? A4E? Citizens? Teachers? Broad?] attention. These organizations include SPS, the League of Education Voters, community-based organizations [un-named...inlcude Stand Four Children, no doubt] and parent groups [any parents out there been reached out to by A4E?]...
Over the next several weeks [of the holiday?!], the Alliance will set up focus groups with SPS faculty to discuss the issue of teacher quality. As we identify priority areas [as if they haven't already!], we invite you to be a part of the discussion through these focus groups or by commenting on the Alliance blog

Oh, and they wish teachers a wonderful holiday season.

dan dempsey said...

"Over the next several weeks [of the holiday?!], the Alliance will set up focus groups with SPS faculty to discuss the issue of teacher quality."

These folks need to look at instructional materials quality.

Give teachers inferior math materials, coach them in the use of inferior practices, and then talk about teacher quality.

What about Central Administrative quality?