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.

Education News for 12-03-2012

State Education News

  • Group calls for charter crackdown (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • A national group of charter school sponsors is challenging states to crack down on failing charter schools…Read more...

  • E-schools: Innovative niche or educational bust? (Cincinnati Enquirer)
  • The Hingsbergen family of Fairfield Township is an e-school family. Four of the five Hingsbergen children went to high school at Ohio Connections Academy, a statewide online charter school…Read more...

  • Could state-law fixes help city’s schools? (Columbus Dispatch)
  • A 20- to 30-person commission on improving Columbus City Schools will be appointed by Mayor Michael B. Coleman…Read more...

  • Five states to try more time in school (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Open your notebooks and sharpen your pencils. School for thousands of public-school students is about to get quite a bit longer…Read more...

  • Local scores lower than state, higher than U.S. (Dayton Daily News)
  • Students at Miami Valley school districts scored slightly below the state average but solidly above the national mark on both the ACT and SAT, according to data for 2012…Read more...

  • Local superintendents weigh in on the replacing of Ohio Graduation Test (Willoughby News Herald)
  • High school students will be given more rigorous tests that are better aligned with their coursework beginning in 2014-15. The change is positive overall, but will require a bit of work to make the transition, according to local school officials…Read more...

  • Longer Days at School? (WJW)
  • Some 10 school districts in five states will add up to 300 hours to their calendars starting next fall. The effort, according to the New York Times, is to help underperforming students catch up on standardized tests…Read more...

Local Education News

  • 20 mph speed limit may apply even after school day (Columbus Dispatch)
  • The flashing signals that now warn drivers to slow down in school zones at the beginning and end of the school day would also blink during sports games…Read more...

  • Loss of farm subsidy may have doomed levies (Dayton Daily News)
  • Increased taxes on farms and a call for money to build and maintain a new school were issues that apparently hampered this township’s 2.7-mills general funds levy that failed by 164 votes in the last election…Read more...

  • Online learning gains students (Mansfield News Journal)
  • Once the Internet reached critical mass in our society in the late 1990s, it wasn’t long before one industry after another began to feel its powerful effects…Read more...

  • State budget cuts run deep (Newark Advocate)
  • Street lights were turned off in Mansfield. Teachers were cut in Oak Harbor. The number of families assisted in Licking County was cut by 90 percent…Read more...

  • Chinese students flock to area schools (Toledo Blade)
  • Ruihan Hu didn’t buy the Marina District or the Docks, but she’s as much the face of a growing tie between Toledo and China as are the businessmen who made those high- profile deals…Read more...

  • Columbus Parent Files Lawsuit Against Schools Over 'Data Scrubbing' Investigation (WBNS)
  • A Columbus City Schools parent has filed lawsuit against the school district in connection with alleged data scrubbing. The parent, Marvin Perkins, is now hoping to make the lawsuit a class-action suit so other parents can join him in his fight…Read more...

  • 9th Grade English Assignment Prompts Some Parents To Ask For Book Ban (WBNS)
  • An English assignment turned into controversy in one central Ohio school district. The book “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” is billed as a coming-of-age novel…Read more...

  • School mobility linked to test scores (Youngstown Vindicator)
  • Student mobility — students who move into and out of school districts for reasons other than promotion — is higher in urban districts such as Youngstown, linking to lower test scores, according to a recent study…Read more...


  • Grade acceleration (Akron Beacon Journal)
  • How much teaching and learning goes on in public schools is everybody’s business, and school rating…Read more...

Voters First - Issue 2 - ballot language

The Ohio ballot board, in a partisan split decision chose the following as the language that will appear as Issue 2 (Voters First) on the November 6th ballot.

Proposed Constitutional Amendment
Proposed by Initiative Petition
To add and repeal language in Section l,3,4,6,7,9 and 13 of Article XI, repeal Sections 8 and 14 of Article XI, and add a new Section 16 to Article XI of the Constitution of the State of Ohio

A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.

The proposed amendment would:

1. Remove the authority of elected representatives and grant new authority to appointed officials to establish congressional and state legislative district lines.

2. Create a state funded commission of appointed individuals from a limited pool of applicants to replace the aforementioned. The Commission will consist of 12 members as follows: four affiliated with the largest political party, four affiliated with the second largest political party and four not affiliated with either of the two largest political parties. Affirmative votes of 7 of 12 members are needed to select a plan.

3. Require new legislative and congressional districts be immediately established by the Commission to replace the most recent districts adopted by elected representatives, which districts shall not be challenged except by court order until the next federal decennial census and apportionment. In the event the Commission is not able to determine a plan by October 1, the Ohio Supreme Court would need to adopt a plan from all the plans submitted to the Commission.

4. Change the standards and requirements in the Constitution for drawing legislative and congressional districts.

5. Mandate the General Assembly to appropriate all funds as determined by the Commission including, but not be limited to, compensating:
1. Staff
2. Consultants
3. Legal counsel
4. Commision members

If approved, the amendment will be effective thirty days after the election.


Voters first has filed a lawsuit, claiming the ballot language is incomplete

The wording, for example, omits any references to requirements that the commission draw fair districts that reflect the political preferences of Ohio voters.

The ballot language "does not properly identify the substance of the proposal to be voted upon" and was written "to mislead, deceive or defraud the voters," the lawsuit says.

A summary of the initiative can be read, here.

Failing students, falling stock prices, and investor law suits

We've discussed the sorry state of Ohio's virtual schools before, and noted that for-profit virtual school operator K12 is the fastest growing in the state

Despite taking $58,944,956 from the state to run their Virtual academy, and despite packing their classrooms at a student teacher ratio of 51:1, their stock price has been falling rapidly

Shares of online education provider K12 Inc. LRN +1.86% were down 4% Wednesday, touching a one-year low earlier in the session at $20.29 after declining sharply on Tuesday. A New York Times article this week said that one of K12's main charter schools frequently failed to graduate students on time, and fell short of grade-level standards in math and reading.

Now the company is being sued by shareholders for being misleading

A shareholder in Virginia-based K12 Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the virtual-schools operator in federal court, alleging that the firm violated securities law by making false statements to investors about students’ poor performance on standardized tests.
The lawsuit comes after a spate of national news stories — including in The Washington Post — raised questions about the effectiveness of virtual schools, K12’s in particular. The firm’s stock has since plummeted.

Key among those stories was a New York Times investigation published Dec. 12 that found a mismatch between K12 student achievement and statements made by chief executive Ronald J. Packard.

During one investment conference call, the Times reported, Packard said that test results at one of the company’s largest online schools — Agora Cyber Charter — were “significantly higher than a typical school on state administered tests for growth.”

In fact, the article said: “Weeks earlier, data had been released showing that 42 percent of Agora students tested on grade level or better in math, compared with 75 percent of students statewide. And 52 percent of Agora students had hit the mark in reading, compared with 72 percent statewide. The school was losing ground, not gaining it.”

Despite failing students, falling stock prices, and investor law suits, K12, Inc. CEO Ronald J. Packard earns a windfall

Ronald J. Packard, the chief executive of Herndon-based education company K12 Inc., earned a total compensation package worth $5 million in fiscal 2011, according to an amended annual report filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That’s nearly twice the $2.67 million Packard earned in 2010. It includes $551,000 in cash, $4.2 million in stock awards and about $290,000 in other compensation.

A awful lot of that fat paycheck came out of the pockets of Ohio tax payers, and some complain about teachers pay.