Michelle Rhee and the unproven teacher evaluation

Via the LA Times

The debate -- and that’s putting it nicely -- over the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations has always confused me, because the answer seemed so simple. One of the things we ask of teachers -- but just one thing -- is to raise those scores. So they have some place in the evaluation. But how much? Easy. Get some good evidence and base the decisions on that, not on guessing. The quality of education is at stake, as well as people’s livelihoods.

Much to my surprise, at a meeting with the editorial board this week, Michelle Rhee agreed, more or less. As one of the more outspoken voices in the school-reform movement, Rhee is at least as polarizing as the topic of teacher evaluations, and her lobbying organization, Students First, takes the position that the standardized test scores of each teacher’s students should count for no less than 50% of that teacher’s rating on performance evaluations.

But asked where the evidence was to back up that or any other percentage figure, Rhee agreed quite openly that it’s lacking.

[readon2 url=",0,4487460.story"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

Education By the Numbers


Bloomberg's brain dead brainwave

Billionaire Mayor of New York, and wannabe corporate education reformer Mike Bloomberg has suggested a radically absurd idea

he said, “you would cut the number of teachers in half but you would double the compensation of them, and you would weed out all the bad ones and just have good teachers.

“Double the class size with a better teacher is a good deal for students.”

Bloomberg's opinion is based upon a misguided and factually wrong premise, one he continues to hold to

Karen Matthews, a reporter with The Associated Press, asked, via Twitter, whether the mayor saw one teacher and 62 children as a good model. The mayor’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, shot back: “Are you asking as a journalist, advocate, or mom?”

No doubts haunt the mayor. In 2008 he insisted that class-size research was “unambiguous.”

“I don’t even understand why the subject comes up anymore,” he said, adding that all that mattered was teacher quality.

Let's examine class sizes and see if they matter. Michael C. Morrison, Ph.D. has analyzed 9,000 school districts to determine the impact on class sizes and graduation. His findings are unambiguous.

District probabilities for above average graduation performance are inversely related to district pupil-teacher ratios. As class size increases district probability for above average graduation performance decrease, controlling for district per capita income (a proxy for district socio-economic status) and district total revenue per student (a district proxy for programs and services).

Here's the graph of results

This isn't the only study of course, it's a subject that has been well and extensively researched. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found

“We find that assignment to a small class increases the probability of attending college by 2.7 percentage points, with effects more than twice as large among blacks. Among those with the lowest ex ante probability of attending college, the effect is 11 percentage points. Smaller classes increase the likelihood of earning a college degree by 1.6 percentage points and shift students towards high-earning fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine), business and economics.”

Michael Morrison has detailed further studies on the subject, here.

As for Mayor Bloomberg, he doesn't practice what he is preaching

There’s a final oddity. Among the so-called meritocratic elite, low teacher-to-child ratios are beloved. The mayor’s daughters went to Spence, where classes hover from 10 to 15. Trinity, Dalton, Riverdale, Horace Mann: All charge $35,000 or more per year, and classes rarely exceed 12 in the lower grades.

Imagine if they packed those billionaire's kids into classrooms of 63!

Evaluations gone wild

Now that teacher evaluations are the latest education reform fad, all manner of crazy ideas are being put forward, and in some cases, being implements.

Local Teachers' Merit Pay Hinges on How Well They Engage with Parents

At Wendell High School, teachers will receive merit bonuses based on the percentage of parents who show up for the conferences.
Wendell Superintendent Greg Lowe said his district decided to base teacher bonuses on parent participation in high school conferences because it’s been a problem in the past.
Up to 70 percent of the possible bonus school employees can receive is based on how many parents show up for conferences throughout the year.

In order to earn the maximum bonus, 40 percent of parents must attend. Lowe said the percentage of parents who attended the first conference of the year was “way above that.”aaf1db459719.html#ixzz1btdJ5e6K

That may be one extreme example, but it is hardly the only one. We're also going to be using very young children to evaluate teachers, simply because, well, we can

D.C. public school second-graders will take the DC CAS for the first time this spring, part of an effort to expand the pool of teachers eligible to be evaluated on the “value-added” they bring to student test scores. Until recently, only grades 3 through 8 and high school sophomores took the exams.

Extending the CAS to second grade means that third-grade reading and math teachers will enter IMPACT’s “Group 1,” where half of their evaluation will be determined by their students’ ability to exceed projected levels of annual growth. DCPS needs second-grade test data to assemble a predictive model for the third-graders.

Teachers will now have to test their second grade students so that third grade teachers can be evaluated using test scores! It's like some circular logic of insanity.

Lost in all of this is whether it actually improves the quality of education, let alone the cost in time, money and moral. We really are in a period of reform gone wild.

SB5 could turn Gov. Kasich into a lame duck

A short while ago we published an analysis piece to determine which of the Senators who voted for SB5 would be up for reelection in 2012. A number of readers asked us to perform the same analysis for those House members who voted for SB5, so here it is.

The Ohio House of Representatives is made up of 99 districts. Currently the Republicans control 59 and the Democrats 40. The House is quite different from the Senate. Representatives are elected every 2 years, not every 4 and every district will be contested in 2012. Representatives become term limited after 4 terms. So with that basic understanding, let’s look at the SB5 roll call.

We can eliminate all of the Democrats from consideration as not a single one of them voted for SB5.

While SB5 was passed on a party line vote, some Republicans did cross the isle to vote no too. They were Randy Gardner (R), Ross W. McGregor (R), John Carey (R), Terry Johnson (R), and Casey Kozlowski (R). That reduces the potential total to 54 Republicans who voted for SB5.

Five of these Representatives will be term limited, they are Louis W. Blessing, Jr. (R), Courtney Combs (R), William P. Coley, II (R), Joseph W. Uecker (R) and Danny R. Bubp (R). So we’re down to 49.

One other Republican who is unlikely to be on the ballot next year is Rep Mecklenborg (R). He was recently arrested for a DUI in Indiana enjoying the company of a young woman purported to be an employee of a nearby adult entertainment establishment. It’s quite possible he won’t serve out his term, as calls for his resignation continue to grow.

That then, gives us 48 potential Republican Representatives who will be on the ballot in 2012 who voted for SB5. They are, sorted by their 2010 votes for percentage:

District Member Percentage vote for Percentage vote against
91 Bill Hayes (R) 47.06 52.94
41 Lynn Slaby (R) 49.9 50.1
21 Mike Duffey (R) 50.48 49.52
96 Al Landis (R) 51.04 48.96
42 Kristina Roegner (R) 51.69 48.31
18 Mike Dovilla (R) 52.41 47.59
1 Craig Newbold (R) 52.58 47.42
19 Anne Gonzales (R) 52.68 47.32
63 Ron Young (R) 53.14 46.86
93 Andy Thompson (R) 53.81 46.19
17 Marlene Anielski (R) 54.75 45.25
43 Todd McKenney (R) 54.99 45.01
81 Rex Damschroder (R) 55.31 44.69
85 Bob Peterson (R) 55.32 44.68
46 Barbara R. Sears (R) 56.34 43.66
86 Cliff Rosenberger (R) 59.46 40.54
16 Nan A. Baker (R) 60.19 39.81
50 Christina Hagan (R) 60.52 39.48
58 Terry Boose (R) 62.29 37.71
36 Michael Henne (R) 63.27 36.73
23 Cheryl L. Grossman (R) 63.41 36.59
34 Peter Stautberg (R) 64.81 35.19
38 Terry Blair (R) 67.49 32.51
98 Richard Hollington (R) 68.44 31.56
97 David Hall (R) 68.8 31.2
74 Bruce W. Goodwin (R) 69.01 30.99
51 Kirk Schuring (R) 69.2 30.8
71 Jay Hottinger (R) 69.31 30.69
84 Bob D. Hackett (R) 69.7 30.3
37 Jim Butler (R) 69.71 30.29
70 Jarrod B. Martin (R) 69.93 30.07
53 Timothy Derickson (R) 70.19 29.81
69 William G. Batchelder (R) 70.34 29.66
2 Andrew Brenner (R) 70.35 29.65
67 Peter Beck (R) 70.74 29.26
76 Robert Sprague (R) 70.78 29.22
75 Lynn R. Wachtmann (R) 72.05 27.95
90 Margaret Ann Ruhl (R) 72.26 27.74
4 Matt Huffman (R) 72.32 27.68
35 Ron Maag (R) 73.02 26.98
78 John Adams (R) 74.27 25.73
79 Richard N. Adams (R) 77.09 22.91
3 Ron Amstutz (R) 100 0
5 Gerald L. Stebelton (R) 100 0
77 Jim Buchy (R) 100 0
82 Jeffrey A. McClain (R) 100 0
83 David E. Burke (R) 100 0
94 Troy Balderson (R) 100 0

14 SB5 supporters could not survive a 5% swing from their margin of victory in 2010 (2 didn’t even reach the 50% threshold due to a third party taking significant support). With only a 10-seat margin to maintain control, it is quite possible that control of the Ohio House will swing away from the Republicans and back to the Democrats.

Such a swing, could put a halt to the Governors radical agenda and turn the remaining 2 years of his first term into a lame duck effort.

The Gates Foundation Exposed. Part I

If you are reading this article, it's likely you have heard of Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, maker of the Windows operating system for PCs. He's a multi-billionaire entrepreneur, turned philanthropist.

His charitable Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent millions of dollars on various causes including malaria and AIDS research, human rights, the environment, and also education. It's his efforts to apply corporate education reforms to US public education that we want to focus on in this series.

At a time when education budgets are being slashed, the Gates Foundation is wielding hundreds of millions of dollars to influence the education reform debate. In 2009 alone the Foundation spent $373 million on its education agenda, of which $78 million was devoted to corporate reform advocacy. This money was spread far and wide, to non-profits, PR firms, governments and education departments throughout the country.

Some might argue that this money could lead to improved schools, but many of the goals of the Foundation are based not on sound science, but ideology and gut instinct. Take for example an early initiative the Foundation pursued, to the tune of $2 billion - the Small Schools Initiative.

Based upon nothing more than a belief that breaking up low performing schools into much smaller student blocks would produce wildly improved student achievement, Gates set upon spending his money to convince schools to break up. But after billions of dollars and years of experimentation on students, Gates himself admits the endeavor has not produced the desired benefits

Now, Bill Gates has acknowledged that the results have been "disappointing" too. Gates shared the information. Here's what he said in his speech:

"In the first four years of our work with new, small schools, most of the schools had achievement scores below district averages on reading and math assessments. In one set of schools we supported, graduation rates were no better than the statewide average, and reading and math scores were consistently below the average. The percentage of students attending college the year after graduating high school was up only 2.5 percentage points after five years. Simply breaking up existing schools into smaller units often did not generate the gains we were hoping for."

The evidence is clear that smaller impersonal schools are no more effective than larger impersonal schools.

One can easily see that one man, with strong convictions and deep pockets, can have major impacts on public policy. Even when exercising the best of intentions, a little caution and humility should be assumed; else serious damage could be wrought.

In part II of our series, we'll look at some of the reforms Gates and his Foundation are now pursuing, which could have far more damaging consequences to schools, students and their teachers.

Part two can be read here.
Part three can be read here.