Value-added: How Ohio is destroying a profession

We ended the week last week with a post titled "The 'fun' begins soon", which took a look at the imminent changes to education policy in Ohio. We planned on detailing each of these issues over the next few weeks.

Little did we know that the 'fun' would begin that weekend. It came in the manner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and NPR publishing a story on the changing landscape of teacher evaluations titled "Grading the Teachers: How Ohio is Measuring Teacher Quality by the Numbers".

It's a solid, long piece, worth the time taken to read it. It covers some, though not all, of the problems of using value-added measurements to evaluate teachers

Those ratings are still something of an experiment. Only reading and math teachers in grades four to eight get value-added ratings now. But the state is exploring how to expand value-added to other grades and subjects.

Among some teachers, there’s confusion about how these measures are calculated and what they mean.

“We just know they have to do better than they did last year,” Beachwood fourth-grade teacher Alesha Trudell said.

Some of the confusion may be due to a lack of transparency around the value-added model.

The details of how the scores are calculated aren’t public. The Ohio Education Department will pay a North Carolina-based company, SAS Institute Inc., $2.3 million this year to do value-added calculations for teachers and schools. The company has released some information on its value-added model but declined to release key details about how Ohio teachers’ value-added scores are calculated.

The Education Department doesn’t have a copy of the full model and data rules either.

The department’s top research official, Matt Cohen, acknowledged that he can’t explain the details of exactly how Ohio’s value-added model works. He said that’s not a problem.

Evaluating a teacher on a secret formula isn't a practice that can be sustained, supported or defended. The article further details a common theme we hear over and over again

But many teachers believe Ohio’s value-added model is essentially unfair. They say it doesn’t account for forces that are out of their control. They also echo a common complaint about standardized tests: that too much is riding on these exams.

“It’s hard for me to think that my evaluation and possibly some day my pay could be in a 13-year-old’s hands who might be falling asleep during the test or might have other things on their mind,” said Zielke, the Columbus middle school teacher.

The article also performs analysis on several thousands value add scores, and that analysis demonstrates what we have long reported, that value-add is a poor indicator of teacher quality, with too many external factors affecting the score

A StateImpact/Plain Dealer analysis of initial state data suggests that teachers with high value-added ratings are more likely to work in schools with fewer poor students: A top-rated teacher is almost twice as likely to work at a school where most students are not from low-income families as in a school where most students are from low-income families.
Teachers say they’ve seen their value-added scores drop when they’ve had larger classes. Or classes with more students who have special needs. Or more students who are struggling to read.

Teachers who switch from one grade to another are more likely to see their value-added ratings change than teachers who teach the same grade year after year, the StateImpact/Plain Dealer analysis shows. But their ratings went down at about the same rate as teachers who taught the same grade level from one year to the next and saw their ratings change.

What are we measuring here? Surely not teacher quality, but rather socioeconomic factors and budget conditions of the schools and their students.

Teachers are intelligent people, and they are going to adapt to this knowledge in lots of unfortunate ways. It will become progressively harder to districts with poor students to recruit and retain the best teachers. But perhaps the most pernicious effect is captured at the end of the article

Stephon says the idea of Plecnik being an ineffective teacher is “outrageous.”

But Plecnik is through. She’s quitting her job at the end of this school year to go back to school and train to be a counselor — in the community, not in schools.

Plecnik was already frustrated by the focus on testing, mandatory meetings and piles of paperwork. She developed medical problems from the stress of her job, she said. But receiving the news that despite her hard work and the praise of her students and peers the state thought she was Least Effective pushed her out the door.

“That’s when I said I can’t do it anymore,” she said. “For my own sanity, I had to leave.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer and NPR then decided to add to this stress by publishing individual teachers value-added scores - a matter we will address in our next post.

Education News for 02-05-2013

State Education News

  • Ohio offers school funding details (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • COLUMBUS: Gov. John Kasich on Monday released the first details of his proposed budget for schools, and the picture remains as murky as it did last week when he unveiled some of his general ideas to school officials…Read more…

  • IN OUR SCHOOLS: Budget overhauls educational funding (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • K-12 education is one of the biggest priorities in Gov. John Kasich’s $63 billion biennial budget. It’s the second-largest chunk, accounting for almost a quarter of spending. It’s one of only a few categories that saw an increase...Read more…

  • Local educators wait for funding details (Springfield News-Sun)
  • Local superintendents say they remain optimistic as new details of Gov. John Kasich’s education plan emerge but need their individual district’s funding projections — expected later this week — before making final determinations about the changes...Read more…

Local Education News

  • Pickaway County sheriff, schools mapping common response plan (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The Pickaway County sheriff’s office and the county’s school superintendents are developing a common playbook for responding to classroom emergencies...Read more…

  • Logan County school bus rolls; no one seriously hurt (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Some Logan County students had a scary moment when their school bus veered off an icy road and tipped onto its side yesterday afternoon, authorities say...Read more…

  • Galion City Schools tout safety for students on social media (Mansfield News Journal)
  • Police say there is no merit to a second accusation of inappropriate teacher-student relations at Galion schools — days after police arrested a high school teacher on sex charges...Read more…

  • City’s online school expects to grow (Springfield News-Sun)
  • In its first year, Springfield’s online school has about 50 full- and part-time students with hopes to double or triple that number...Read more…

  • Medina City Schools' Claggett Middle School lifts lockdown after bullet was found (Sun Newpapers)
  • A lockdown at Claggett Middle School in Medina was lifted early this afternoon, hours after first issued by district Superintendent Randy Stepp when a .22 caliber bullet was found in the hallway of the school...Read more…

  • Officials discuss school safety (Warren Tribune Chronicle)
  • BOARDMAN - How to prevent tragedies in schools was the topic of discussion Monday among state officials, law enforcement, teachers and school officials...Read more…

  • Officials lead school safety roundtable for area educators (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Area educators try to identify potential problem students and rely on school resources and technology to make schools safe but acknowledge that nothing will prevent a school shooting tragedy from ever happening...Read more…

  • Chardon high shooting: Judge still not willing yet to move T.J. Lane's trial (Willoughby News Herald)
  • The decision on whether or not to change the location of the trial for accused Chardon High School shooter Thomas Lane III will still be made after an attempt to seat a jury, a judge has ruled...Read more…

New School Year - New Cuts in Funding

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) have just issued a report that details the sad fact that most states have begun the new school year with more cuts to funding.

States have made steep cuts to education funding since the start of the recession and, in many states, those cuts deepened over the last year. Elementary and high schools are receiving less state funding in the 2012-13 school year than they did last year in 26 states, and in 35 states school funding now stands below 2008 levels — often far below.

Ohio has fared particularly poorly under current Governor John Kasich, with the 7th largest per student cut in the nation

The “cuts-only approach” hasn’t worked, and many municipalities will have to raise revenue or cut needed services, said Jon Shure, the center’s director of state fiscal strategies. “What you’re seeing is that the jurisdiction-of-last-resort is now the one that has to honestly confront the situation because the buck has been passed.”

We're now seeing tax increases in local government to offset the local budget raid perpetrated by the Governor to balance his own budget. A website, details a county-by-county breakdown of effects the budget has had. For example, in Cuyahoga county - where Cleveland schools reside, the cuts dwarf the $65 million budget hole the district is trying to plug

With rising tax revenues and the ability to close loopholes, there is no reason the Governor and his legislature cannot reverse this harmful trend, and use the next biennium budget to increase funding for Ohio's public school to adequate levels.

U.S. School Shootings data, 1979-2011

Via Jessie Klein, The Bully Society: school shootings and the crisis of bullying in America’s schools, this graph deserves attention

The report details all the incidents, and provides some insight into motives and demographics.

Data on School Shootings

The NEA has a very useful crisis guide, which can be found here, detailing steps that can be taken before, during and after a crisis.

ESEA Flexibility- more details from the Dept of Ed.

The US Department of Education has produced a page with further information about their ESEA Flexibility plan. The page itself is here. Below is a copy of the main document detailing the different aspects of the NCLB waivers

Esea Flexibility