On Chicago's streets and Hollywood's silver screens, education reform has been cast as a false dilemma between students and teachers. Reputable actresses and liberal mayors have both fallen prey. At the center of this drama lie teacher evaluations. A linchpin of the debate, they weigh especially heavily around the necks of educators like me.
Think: Shaky Foundation
With the arrival of spring, testing season is now upon us: America's new national pastime. I believe student results from standardized tests should not be used to evaluate teachers because the data are imprecise and the effects are pernicious. Including such inaccurate measures is both unfair to teachers and detrimental to student learning.
As a large body of research suggests, standardized test data are imprecise for two main reasons. First, they do not account for individual and environmental factors affecting student performance, factors over which teachers have no control. (Think: commitment, social class, family.) Second, high-stakes, one-time tests increase the likelihood of random variation so that scores fluctuate in arbitrary ways not linked to teacher efficacy. (Think: sleep, allergies, the heartache of a recent breakup.)
High-stakes assessments are also ruinous to student learning. They encourage, at least, teaching to the test and, at most, outright cheating. This phenomenon is supported by Campbell's law, which states statistics are more likely to be corrupted when used in making decisions, which in turn corrupts the decision making process itself. (Think: presidential campaigns.)
As a teacher, if my livelihood is based on test results, then I will do everything possible to ensure high marks, including narrowing the curriculum and prepping fiercely for the test. The choice between an interesting project and a paycheck is no choice at all. These are amazing disincentives to student learning. Tying teachers' careers to standardized tests does not foster creative, passionate, skillful young adults. It does exactly the opposite.
If the Tea Party are truly concerned about the influence of money in politics, then the "work place freedom" that is needed, is the freedom from corporations buying politicians and elections. This graph from opensecrets.org amply demonstrates how asymetric the situation is
Corporate political donations far outstrip any other kind, including labor organizations, and since the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision to allow even greater freedom for corporations to buy elections and politicians, that gap is growing significantly.
Results of a new poll by the National Education Association (NEA) show educators support stronger gun laws to prevent gun violence and keep children safe. The poll comes as the White House is scheduled today to make public the recommendations of a task force led by Vice President Biden. The poll of the nation’s teachers, faculty and education support professionals comes one month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults, including educators. NEA polled 800 of its members nationwide during the period of January 9-10, 2013.
“The senseless tragedy in Newtown was a tipping point and galvanization for action,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “As educators, we have grieved too long and too often—for the children killed, their families and heroic educators. Now more than ever we need to do what is necessary, including enacting stronger laws to prevent gun violence, to make sure every child in our nation’s public schools has a safe and secure learning environment.”
Educators overwhelmingly support stronger laws to prevent gun violence. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of NEA members polled feel gun laws in the U.S. should be made stricter, compared to 7 percent who believe they should be less strict.
NEA members polled support background checks and bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.
90 percent of NEA members favor a proposal to require background checks before people can buy guns at gun shows or from other private sellers, including 85 percent who strongly back this proposal.
76 percent of NEA members support a proposal to ban the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone except the police and military, including 70 percent who strongly favor this proposal.
69 percent of NEA members back a proposal to ban the sale and possession of high capacity magazine clips, which allow some guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before they need to be reloaded, including 64 percent who strongly support this proposal.
America’s educators resoundingly reject the notion of arming school employees. Only 22 percent of NEA members polled favor a proposal to allow teachers and other school employees to receive firearms training and allow them to carry firearms in schools, while 68 percent oppose this proposal (including 61 percent who strongly oppose it.)
With just one Presidential debate to go, and a little more than two weeks remaining, campaign 2012 continues to be a close affair. Real Clear Politics has the race essentially tied, with Obama favored to win 201 electoral college votes and Mitt Romney 206, with 131 up for grabs.
Over 8,000 teachers and eduction support professionals, elected by their peers to represent them, gathered in Washington D.C at the beginning of a hot July, to attend the 150th National Education Association (NEA) meeting, the 91st Representative Assembly (RA). This makes the gathering the world's largest democratic deliberative assembly.
We Educate America, wasn't just the theme, but the reality, emphasized throughout the almost week long event.
Support Association and member led school transformation efforts and pursue state and district policies that help create great public schools for all students;
Offer intensive support to struggling schools (including NEA Priority Schools) and share lessons learned at the local and state levels;
Work in partnership with parents, community organizations, and allied coalitions with the goal of improving student outcomes;
Lead efforts to fund and establish a coalition of teachers’ professional organizations, higher education professional associations and faculty, education support professional organizations, specialized instructional support personnel organizations (e.g. school social workers, psychologists etc.), and other organizations promoting standards of professional practice with the goal of identifying a universally accepted body of standards for all of the education professions;
Advocate for including educators and association leaders in all school and district decision-making bodies, including the areas of policy, personnel, and budgets. Use collective bargaining and other multi-party processes to help accomplish this goal;
Create a network of organizational advocates at the local, state, and national level to convey the over-arching goals and strategies as well as the actions, the desired outcomes, and the value propositions of leading the professions.
The second from last point being one we have repeatedly called for here at JTF. Their second order of business was to overwhelmingly reject the misuse of standardized tests
Call on governors, state legislatures, state education boards, administrators, and assessment system consortia or developers, to reexamine public school accountability systems in the state, and work with educators to improve them based on fair testing standards promulgated by experts in testing practice;
Call on states and districts to develop systems based on multiple forms of evidence of student learning that do not require extensive standardized testing, are used to support all students and improve schools; and are not used for purposes for which they have not been validated;
Share the NEA Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability with relevant stakeholders in order to inform conversations about the appropriate use of assessments in evaluation systems to support instruction and student learning.
Disseminate criteria regarding the validity of assessments and promote the productive use of high quality, valid, and reliable standardized assessments as part of robust, authentic accountability systems that include multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality designed:
to improve learning by identifying students’ strengths and challenges,
to identify successful practices in schools,
to support struggling schools, and
to inform educators’ practice.
Uphold our belief as stated in Resolution B-66 and shall support parents’/guardians’ rights to opt out of standardized testing.
Jill Biden also an educator, introducing her husband, the Vice President, captured the essence of the RA, “I know that you all understand. Being a teacher is not what I do, it’s who I am.”
The Vice-President then went on to capture the essence of the Presidential race, and more, “My Dad used to say ‘Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget,’” Biden told delegates, that obviously resonated with the Ohio delegation who are suffering from the worst budget assault Ohio public schools have ever seen, due to Governor Kasich and his legislature's budget.
Speaking of Ohio, educators at the RA had not forgotten about SB5
“If we want real change, lasting change, if we want back the power, the pride, the soaring achievement that is an exceptional public education, then the revolution begins with us.”
The Final day of the RA, saw, or rather heard from President Obama, who made a surprise call while on a campaign trip through Ohio.
He told the more than 8,000 cheering educators gathered, “You can’t help the American people without helping education,” he went on to comment that Mitt Romney’s vision of education is a system that only benefits the richest Americans. “Michelle and I wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for great parents, great grandparents, and a great education.”
After the call, the huge convention center erupted into chants of "4 more year, 4 more years".
If public education is to remain a basic right for every child, rather than a privilege for only the wealthy, educators will have to lead their profession not just in their schools but in their communities and in political campaigns. That was the recurring message from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Teacher of the Year Rebecca Mieliwocki, and the more than 8,000 educators at the 2012 National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly