Lawsuit filed over unfair teacher evaluations

The Washington Post is reporting on a lawsuit being filed by Florida teachers, that cold shake the foundations of a lot of teacher evaluation systems both in Florida, but across the country, including here in Ohio
A group of teachers and their unions filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Florida officials that challenges the state’s educator evaluation system, under which many teachers are evaluated on the standardized test scores of students they do not teach.

The seven teachers who filed the lawsuit include Kim Cook, who, as this post explains, was evaluated at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school where she works and was named Teacher of the Year last December. But 40 percent of that evaluation was based on test scores of students at Alachua Elementary, a school into which Irby feeds, whom she never taught.
Kim Cook's story is very unneverving
Here’s the crazy story of Kim Cook, a teacher at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school which feeds into Alachua Elementary, for grades 3-5, just down the road in Alachua, Fla. She was recently chosen by the teachers at her school as their Teacher of the Year.

Her plight stems back to last spring when the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 736, which mandates that 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student scores on the state’s standardized tests, a method known as the value-added model, or VAM. It is essentially a formula that supposedly tells how much “value” a teacher has added to a student’s test score. Assessment experts say it is a terrible way to evaluate teachers but it has still been adopted by many states with the support of the Obama administration.

Since Cook’s school only goes through second grade, her school district is using the FCAT scores from the third graders at Alachua Elementary School to determine the VAM score for every teacher at her school.

Alachua Elementary School did not do well in 2011-12 evaluations that just came out; it received a D. Under the VAM model, the state awarded that school — and Cook’s school, by default — 10 points out of 100 for their D.

In this school district, there are three components to teacher evaluations:
1. A lesson study worth 20 percent. In the lesson study, small groups of teachers work together to create an exemplary lesson, observe one of the teachers implement it, critique the teacher’s performance and discuss improvement.
2. Principal appraisal worth 40 percent of overall score.
3. VAM data (scores from the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores for elementary schools) worth 40 percent of the overall score.

Cook received full points on her lesson study: 100 x .20 (20%) = 20 points
Cook received an 88/100 from her former principal: 88/100 x .40 (40%) = 35.2 points
On VAM data — points awarded by the state for the FCAT scores at Alachua Elementary School: 10/100 x .40 (40%) = 4 points
Total points that she received: 59.2 (Unsatisfactory)
Here's a video of Kim speaking on this issue

We imaging this to be the first, not the last legal action against many of the provisions corporate education reformers are trying to cram into teacher evaluations.

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Substitute HB59 (budget bill) Analysis

The House finance committee moved their substitute budget bill out of committee yesterday along a party line vote. Few changes were made to the education funding and policy piece, leaving the House budget bill underfunding Ohio's public schools by about $200 million less than the Governor's widely panned funding plan.

The House budget bill continues to hand gifts to the private school and for-profit charter school movement. There is a massive expansion of vouchers, only limited by household income needing ot be below 200% of the federal poverty line (currently ~$46,000). This means that for the first time, high performing districts could lose students and dollars to private schools that likely underperform their public school counterparts.

Steve Dyer has a good run down of the giveaways to charter schools, and especially the catastrophically bad eschools.
Permits an e-school that serves at least grades one through eight to divide into two schools as long as the sponsor agrees and the division is accomplished in either the 2013 – 2014 or 2014 – 2015 school year.

My hunch is this will allow one or both of two things to happen: 1) e-Schools to separate out their higher and lower performing schools and 2) e-Schools to collect more money. I'm becoming more and more impressed with William Lager -- the head of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. He is fast becoming the state's new David Brennan, giving big checks to politicians accompanied by nice budget carve outs.
[...]
Provides that an e-school is eligible to receive career technical education funding in addition to the core opportunity grant and special education funding.

Once again, kudos to William Lager for getting e-School hands into another pot of public money! While Career-Tech money only constitutes about $120 million over the budget cycle, it will only add to e-School profits. I mean, what better way to learn woodworking than over a computer! I know watching those YouTube demonstrations of how to cut outside mitres have really helped my carpentry. Ask my wife!
[...]
Permits a community school to charge tuition to a student who is not an Ohio resident.
The addition to the Houses's budget bill that caught the most attention however was a move to criminalize the teacher of sex education
The sex education amendment would ban instructors from endorsing anything other than abstinence as acceptable behavior.

The measure also would prohibit handing out contraception on school property.

A parent could sue an instructor who violates the provision and receive damages and attorney fees. And a court could issue a civil fine against the instructor of up to $5,000.
[...]
Moments before taking a vote on the amended bill, committee Chairman Ron Amstutz assured the budget was not about ideology.

When asked what motivated GOP lawmakers to propose the sex education changes, Amstutz said he didn't "have much to offer," adding that he would have to take another look at the bill's language.

"There's been a lot of questions about that," Amstutz said.

The amendment's language prohibits instruction by those who endorse "non-abstinence" or "gateway sexual activity." It defines "gateway sexual activity" by citing the Ohio Revised Code's definition of "sexual contact" listed under the section on sexual offenses. It describes such activity as any touching of an erogenous zone for the purpose of sexual satisfaction.
Innovation Ohio has a good rundown of this ridiculous piece of legislation.
The language also states that class instruction in Ohio may not provide materials that condone sexual activity among unmarried students. It even allows a parent to sue if an educator violates the restrictive provisions in the law.

In short, the state budget now mandates that Ohio adopt an abstinence-only approach to sex education program.

But abstinence education doesn’t work. Research shows this. Teen pregnancies are highest in states with abstinence-only sex education. By contrast, teens who have had comprehensive sex education are 60 percent less likely to become pregnant.

In a state budget that already defunds Planned Parenthood and directs tax dollars to Crisis Pregnancy Centers that lie to women, Ohio lawmakers are moving the state in the wrong direction for Ohio’s women and young people.
Here's the Ohio Legislative Service Commissions document that compares the House version of the budget bill to that of the Governor's , in somewhat plain English

HB59 Comparison Document House

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Why are we investing more in a failed experiment?

By Maureen Reedy, former teacher of the year and candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives.

History seems to be repeating itself in the Statehouse. Once again, legislators are poised to pass a state budget bill that continues to take billions of our tax dollars out of traditional public schools to fund for-profit charters that have produced dismal results after two decades of experimentation in our state.

“Let the money follow the child,” is a favorite phrase of Gov. John Kasich and his fellow charter-school fans to craft legislation that diverts more and more of our public funds to charter schools each year.

For two decades, the money has been following Ohio’s children out of the doors of our public schoolhouses and through the doors of charter schools. Despite losing over $6 billion to charters during the past 15 years, traditional public schools continue to vastly outperform their charter-school counterparts.

While 77 percent of Ohio’s public schools were successful last year (rated Excellent with Distinction, Achieving or Effective), only 23 percent of Ohio’s charters were successful (rated Effective or Achieving). So 77 percent of Ohio’s public schools are receiving A’s, B’s and C’s while 77 percent of Ohio’s charter schools are receiving D’s and F’s. And the bottom 111 performing schools last year? All were charter schools.

Graduation rates also should give our legislators reason to put the brakes on funneling dollars to charters: 81 percent of Ohio’s students graduate from their public high schools as compared to a 30 percent to 40 percent high-school graduation rate for charter-school students.

“Following the money” also leads us to family-run charter-school operations with hefty salaries and few education credentials, including multimillion-dollar salaries for the CEOs of Ohio’s two largest charter-school chains, David Brennan of White Hat Management Co. and William Lager of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow. Our tax dollars also are going to pay for advertising campaigns to recruit students to attend their underperforming charter schools.

Also perplexing are the two sets of rules that seem to exist for public schools and charter schools. Apparently, once public money goes into a charter-school operation, it ceases to be public and belongs to the charter-school corporation.

Brennan of White Hat has refused to open his books to the state auditor for the third consecutive year. We are still waiting to hear exactly what percentage of public tax money is being spent on instructional resources and supports for educating children verses top-level multimillion-dollar administrative salaries, advertising and recruitment efforts in the corporate headquarters of White Hat.

In addition, while Lager of ECOT receives millions of dollars for his annual salary from public funding, his private software company has enjoyed profits of over $10 million in just a single year selling products to his ECOT schools, paid for by our public tax dollars.

Charter schools also are permitted to close their doors and shut down operations when cited for multiple violations, only to re-open the next day under a different sponsor, in a different building under a different name and continue to receive our tax dollars.

As charters close, oftentimes at mid-year, hundreds of children are shuffled back to their public schools without adequate records and a significant loss of instructional time. Just as tragic is the students’ loss of community and social connections, which contributes to academic deficits and delays.

As a parent, taxpayer and 30-year public-school teacher, I have to ask: Why are legislators proposing a budget that does nothing to restore funding for our public schools, but instead increases funding to charter schools? Why are we continuing to invest billions in a failed experiment that weakens our stronger-performing traditional school system and risks the future of Ohio’s children?

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Fordham hides from facts

UPDATE: Fordham has now published our comment on their site, for which we are grateful. See the comments to this article for their explanation.

The Fordham Foundation, one of Ohio's more vocal charter school boosters, has a post on their website defending the high number of failing charter schools. The piece is written by Aaron Churchill, someone we have observed stretching facts and the truth before (Fordham loses its bearings). Like his previous piece's error addled analysis, his latest defense of failing charter schools goes to great lengths to obfuscate hard truths using indefensible "statistical analysis".

Rather than write a post here on JTF, we tried to leave a long comment pointing out just some of the errors in the post. Fordham has decided they would rather that comment be hidden and not be published, so we are publishing it below, in response to a Fordham reader asking us to
Aaron states "The chart shows that a nearly equal number of charters reside in the state’s bottom 111 schools"

Let's just assume that is correct. What if utterly fails to recognize is that there are orders of magnitude more traditional public school buildings than charter schools - so the fact that so many charter school buildings appear in the bottom 111 should be disturbing to everyone, not glommed onto as a point of false equivalence. As an overall percentage of school buildings charter schools dominate the bottom rankings.

Let's look at another claim made by Aaron...

"The fact of the matter is that taxpayers spend less on each child in a charter school then is spent on their district peers."

That claim is contradicted by the Ohio Department of Education (link here:http://www.scribd.com/doc/117636411/ODE-Analysis-of-Per-Pupil-Cost-of-Charters-and-Publics).

"The average of total expenditure per pupil for public districts is $10,110.72.

The average expenditure per pupil for community schools is $9,064. When broken out: For e-schools it’s $7,027. For non-eschool community schools it’s $10,165.

So only when one combines the cost of the laughably cheap (and ludicrously underperforming) e-schools do Ohio's charters look inexpensive - and that's using ODE as a source.

Aaron did a good job, as all charter school boosters do, of obfuscating the facts - which is that the vast majority of Ohio's charter schools deliver a poor quality education at an inflated cost.

Let's close them down and concentrate our energy on the schools that 95% of Ohio's students go to, and maybe learn some things along the way from the few charter schools that are getting it right, instead of this constant non-debate and excuse making about the terrible charter schools we all know exist in very high numbers.
Fordham likes to hide behind their advocacy for charter school accountability and quality, but whenever they are pressed on this, they obfuscate the difficult facts and revert to defending the rotten and the failing. They may talk a good game, but in the end they are no less a charter school booster as White Hat owner, David Brennan. Mr. Churchill's post and decision to avoid a discussion on it are further proof of that.

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Bill Gates Dances Around the Teacher Evaluation Disaster He Sponsored

No one in America has done more to promote the raising of stakes for test scores in education than Bill Gates.

Yesterday, Mr. Gates published a column that dances around the disaster his advocacy has created in the schools of our nation.

You can read his words there, but his actions have spoken so much more loudly, that I cannot even make sense out of what he is attempting to say now. So let's focus first on what Bill Gates has wrought.

No Child Left Behind was headed towards bankruptcy about seven years ago. The practice of labeling schools as failures and closing them, on the basis of test scores, was clearly causing a narrowing of the curriculum. Low income schools in Oakland eliminated art, history and even science in order to focus almost exclusively on math and reading. The arrival of Arne Duncan and his top level of advisors borrowed from the Gates Foundation created the opportunity for a re-visioning of the project.

Both the Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers processes required states and districts to put in place teacher and principal evaluation systems which placed "significant" weight on test scores. This was interpreted by states to mean that test scores must count for at least 30% to 50% of an evaluation.

The Department of Education had told the states how high they had to jump, and the majority did so.

[readon2 url="http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2013/04/bill_gates_dances_around_the.html"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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On Teacher Evaluations, Between Myth And Fact Lies Truth

Controversial proposals for new teacher evaluation systems have generated a tremendous amount of misinformation. It has come from both “sides,” ranging from minor misunderstandings to gross inaccuracies. Ostensibly to address some of these misconceptions, the advocacy group Students First (SF) recently released a “myth/fact sheet” on evaluations.

Despite the need for oversimplification inherent in “myth/fact” sheets, the genre can be useful, especially about topics such as evaluation, about which there is much confusion. When advocacy groups produce them, however, the myths and facts sometimes take the form of “arguments we don’t like versus arguments we do like.”

This SF document falls into that trap. In fact, several of its claims are a little shocking. I would still like to discuss the sheet, not because I enjoy picking apart the work of others (I don’t), but rather because I think elements of both the “myths” and “facts” in this sheet could be recast as “dual myths” in a new sheet. That is, this document helps to illustrate how, in many of our most heated education debates, the polar opposite viewpoints that receive the most attention are often both incorrect, or at least severely overstated, and usually serve to preclude more productive, nuanced discussions.

Let’s take all four of SF’s “myth/fact” combinations in turn.

I’m almost tempted to leave this one alone. Putting aside the opinion-dressed-as-fact that “meaningful” evaluations must include “objective measures of student academic growth,” it’s fair to argue, with caution, that the value-added components of new teacher evaluations would not necessarily “penalize” teachers whose students begin the year far behind, as the models attempt to control for prior achievement (though the same may not be stated so strongly for other components, such as observations).

However, whether the models account for lower-scoring students covers only a small slice of the real issue here. Rather, as I’ve noted before, the better guiding question is whether they can to an acceptable degree account for all the factors that are outside of teachers’ control.

[readon2 url="http://shankerblog.org/?p=8093"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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