Why Test Scores CAN'T Evaluate Teachers

From the National Education Policy Center. the entire post is well worth a read, here's the synopsis

The key element here that distinguishes Student Growth Percentiles from some of the other things that people have used in research is the use of percentiles. It's there in the title, so you'd expect it to have something to do with percentiles. What does that mean? It means that these measures are scale-free. They get away from psychometric scaling in a way that many researchers - not all, but many - say is important.

Now these researchers are not psychometricians, who aren't arguing against the scale. The psychometricians as who create our tests, they create a scale, and they use scientific formulae and theories and models to come up with a scale. It's like on the SAT, you can get between 200 and 800. And the idea there is that the difference in the learning or achievement between a 200 and a 300 is the same as between a 700 and an 800.

There is no proof that that is true. There is no proof that that is true. There can't be any proof that is true. But, if you believe their model, then you would agree that that's a good estimate to make. There are a lot of people who argue... they don't trust those scales. And they'd rather use percentiles because it gets them away from the scale.

Let's state this another way so we're absolutely clear: there is, according to Jonah Rockoff, no proof that a gain on a state test like the NJASK from 150 to 160 represents the same amount of "growth" in learning as a gain from 250 to 260. If two students have the same numeric growth but start at different places, there is no proof that their "growth" is equivalent.

Now there's a corollary to this, and it's important: you also can't say that two students who have different numeric levels of "growth" are actually equivalent. I mean, if we don't know whether the same numerical gain at different points on the scale are really equivalent, how can we know whether one is actually "better" or "worse"? And if that's true, how can we possibly compare different numerical gains?

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Education News for 03-15-2012

Statewide Education News

  • Gov. John Kasich rolls out mini-budget with tax, education initiatives taking center stage (Plain Dealer)
  • COLUMBUS - As Gov. John Kasich rolled out a mid-term budget blueprint highlighted by an income tax cut for Ohioans but a hike in oil and gas taxes, the sales job began to skeptical lawmakers. Kasich's pitch to majority-party Republicans: Make sure Ohioans benefit from the oil and gas dollars expected to flow from the shale boom, not those in faraway area codes. "What we're saying is every Ohioan ought to benefit from this wealth," he told reporters at an afternoon news conference to announce his initiatives. Read More…

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture to let schools decide whether to feed pink slime to students (WEWS 5 ABC)
  • CLEVELAND - The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it will allow schools to choose whether to buy ground beef patties made with or without the pink slime making headlines. They said they will make the announcement Thursday that could affect the food in schools. According to them, the pink slime filler is a low cost ingredient made from fatty bits of meat left over from other cuts and is treated with ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria. Most of us had never heard about this pink slime until weeks ago when some fast food restaurants decided to stop using it. Read More…

  • Superintendents say proposed school grading system gets F (Morning Journal)
  • ELYRIA — The proposed new Ohio school district grading scale isn’t getting enthusiastic support by some local superintendents. “I don’t understand what our state is trying to do to our public schools,” Elyria City Schools Superintendent Paul Rigda said. “What do they want from us?” The new proposed grading scale will grade districts on an A through F scale, as opposed to the excellent with distinction through academic emergency scale in place now. Elyria schools, which were rated as effective, would have received a D under the new grading scale. Read More…

Local Issues

  • City schools to change gifted programs (Dispatch)
  • Many parents are wary of a Columbus City Schools plan to change its gifted and talented program next school year, but others are encouraged that the new format will serve more than double the number of gifted students. Superintendent Gene Harris explained the changes to an overflow crowd of more than 100 parents and district staff members at a meeting last night at the Downtown High School. Read More…

  • Parent posts threat on Facebook (Newark Advocate)
  • BLACKLICK - Licking Heights West has lifted increased security measures it implemented after a parent reportedly threatened a teacher on Facebook. The threat was made Monday night, district officials said, and West responded immediately, implementing its lowest-level security provisions Tuesday. The security provisions continued at the start of the school day Wednesday, but they were lifted by 10 a.m. Read More…

  • After cuts, Lakota focus is severance (Journal-News)
  • LIBERTY TWP. — The Lakota Board of Education, which slashed its budget by $10.5 million and cut 141 jobs Monday, is now turning its attention to severance pay. Individual employees cut for the 2012-13 school year will be based on seniority and licensing, said Treasurer Jenni Logan. “Our hope is to have that process firmed up and to formally take action on all of that at our final board meeting in April,” she said, to give those affected as much time as possible to seek employment elsewhere. Read More…

  • Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board decides not to pursue open enrollment for 2012-13 (Sun News)
  • UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS - The Cleveland Heights-University Heights school board recently reached a consensus not to pursue open enrollment as a district policy for the 2012-13 school year. At a work session Feb. 21, Superintendent Doug Heuer presented information to the board about inter-district open enrollment, which allows a student to attend school tuition-free in a district other than where his or her parents reside. He said each year, the district’s administration must inform the Ohio Department of Education what its position will be on open enrollment. Read More…

  • Ax to fall on 16 at East Holmes (Times Reporter)
  • BERLIN — Sixteen full-time teachers or staff members in the East Holmes Local School District are targeted to lose their jobs in the wake of last week’s narrow defeat of a 3.77-mill emergency operating levy. Affected employees formally were notified Wednesday by Superintendent Joe Edinger, with the board of education expected to take action on the recommendation Monday. The 11 teachers, with 75 years of experience, are paid a total of $445,421. The five classified staff, with 15 years of experience, make a combined $42,599. That’s a total of $488,020. Read More…


  • Support Reform In Ohio Schools (News-Register)
  • If Ohio Board of Education members are reluctant to take a stand on reforming one of the worst school districts in the state, how likely are they to address less serious but still important problems elsewhere? Gov. John Kasich did something unusual a few days ago. He appealed personally to board members to support a plan by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to improve his city's schools. Board members agreed to discuss the plan next month. For years, Cleveland Municipal Schools have chewed through taxpayers' money at an alarming rate, delivering little in return. Read More…

  • Youngstown schools system can do without disruptions (Vindicator)
  • While we have long URGED com- munity participation in the academic and financial rebuilding of the Youngstown City School District, we are strongly opposed to the threat by a community group to peel away a sizeable number of students just because of a perceived slight. The ongoing effort by many sincere, committed individuals to stabilize the district’s finances and improve its academic performance is too important to be undermined by the Community High Commission led by Jimma McWilson. Read More…

Education News for 03-13-2012

Statewide Education News

  • How the state will rank school spending (Dispatch)
  • Among the slew of school rankings we'll see on this year's report cards is a best-to-worst efficiency ranking based on per-pupil spending. The rankings will be based entirely on operational expenditures -- money spent to run the school district. So no facilities spending will be included. Read More…

  • Group wants students to withdraw (Vindicator)
  • Youngstown - A community group plans to target the city school district’s 1,500 lowest-performing students, asking their parents to withdraw them from the schools. Jimma McWilson of the Community High Commission declined to specify how those students would be targeted, or during what time frame. The commission, which McWilson says includes about 50 members plus several affiliated groups, called a news conference Monday at the East Side branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County. Read More…

  • Kasich hails Cleveland school plan (Dispatch)
  • Gov. John Kasich is praying and begging for support for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to overhaul the city’s schools, saying it’s a model that could be used in urban districts across Ohio. “I’m begging you as human beings to not let this go down the drain,” Kasich told the State Board of Education at its monthly meeting yesterday in Columbus. The governor urged the 19-member board to back the plan, which might be included in a mid-biennium review of the state budget that Kasich plans to unveil on Wednesday. Read More…

  • State to lower ratings of area schools (Findlay Courier)
  • Almost every area school district that received an "excellent" rating on last year's state-issued report card would see that rating demoted if a new, tougher evaluation system is used. Arcadia, Findlay City, Liberty-Benton, McComb and Van Buren schools were all given excellent ratings, the equivalent of an A, for the 2010-11 school year. Had the new evaluation system been in place, all five districts would have instead received an "effective" rating, the equivalent of a B. The state plans to begin using the new system this year. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson unveils draft legislation to support schools plan (Plain Dealer)
  • CLEVELAND - Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson hopes to line up a legislative sponsor for his schools plan yet this month and is aiming for the necessary changes in state law by May and a tax increase this fall. Read More…

  • New school rating system would reduce grades (Coshocton Tribune)
  • COSHOCTON - All county schools would drop a grade level if judged by a new system the state plans to put in place. "They're increasing the rigor, and it's nothing that we haven't anticipated," said Rick Raach, Ridgewood Local School District superintendent. Read More…

  • School district grades drop under new rating system (Times-Recorder)
  • Three Muskingum County schools were rated excellent on the last state report card, but none of them would have achieved that rating under the state's new evaluation system. In fact, almost every Ohio school district rated excellent or higher on the state's 2011 report card -- the equivalent of an A -- would drop to a B or lower under proposed changes to the rating system. Read More…

  • State gives Lorain Schools a ‘D’; Under new grading scale, not one district in Lorain County earned an ‘A’ (Morning Journal)
  • Under the proposed changes in how the state grades school districts, not one district in Lorain County would receive a top mark from the state. Under the new A to F grading scale, the highest grade a Lorain County school would receive is a B, according to the Ohio department of Education. Read More…

  • Resident praises embattled principal (Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin)
  • OLD FORT - During an Old Fort Local Board of Education meeting Monday evening, a district resident spoke out in support of an administrator who was suspended without pay Feb. 27. After the board spent 20 minutes in executive session, Anna Alexander described Tom Weaver, principal of grades 7-12 and athletic director, as a wonderful person and decent man. Read More…

  • New Riegel board learns of new grading system for school districts (Advertiser-Tribune, Tiffin)
  • New Riegel Board of Education members learned a new accountability system may go into effect that would change the school's state report card significantly. Superintendent Elaine Nye said the Ohio Department of Education has submitted a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education for the new system. Read More…

  • Parents set up experiments (Vindicator)
  • Canfield - Students at Hilltop Elementary are spending the week playing with science. On Monday, Hilltop fourth-graders took turns with hands-on science, technology, engineering and math experiments that were designed and organized by about 50 parent volunteers over the course of several months, said Principal Cathy Mowry. Throughout the week, the other grade levels also will participate. Mowry said the experiments were created with the kids in mind. Read More…

  • Willoughby-Eastlake Schools proposes new grading scale (News-Herald)
  • While many supporters are still celebrating the passage of the Willoughby-Eastlake School levy, the school board got back to work and had its first meeting at Kennedy Community School on Monday night since the election. A revision to the district's grading scale was proposed that would put Willoughby-Eastlake more in line with other schools, Superintendent Steve Thompson said. "What we have found is that our grading scale is higher than almost every school district around," Thompson said. Read More…

  • Lakota schools' budget ax falls (Enquirer)
  • LIBERTY TWP. — When Lakota students start next school year, they will see fewer teachers, staff specialists and have fewer course options, thanks to about $10.5 million in sweeping budget cuts approved Monday night by the district’s school board. The Lakota board voted to accept some of the deepest budget reductions in the 18,000-student district’s 55-year history. The district is running out of money after voters have rejected three tax hikes in two years. Read More…

  • Spring Valley to close, saves district $300K annually (Morning Journal)
  • ELYRIA — Spring Valley Early Childhood Center will close at the end of the year, sending young students to other buildings in a move that will save the district $300,000 annually, according to Superintendent Paul Rigda. Kindergarten students now attending Spring Valley will attend Windsor Elementary School, 264 Windsor Drive, in the fall, and Spring Valley’s preschool classes, for developing students and special-needs children, will be at the district’s Administration Building, 42101 Griswold Road. Read More…


  • Use caution with open enrollment (Tribune Chronicle)
  • Now that Liberty Local Schools has approved open enrollment, the district has a fighting chance of escaping state fiscal oversight sooner rather than later, improving its academic standing and avoiding another levy request on a community beleaguered by an extraordinary tax rate. The Board of Education last month unanimously approved reinstating open enrollment. This is noteworthy because so many parents attended the meeting to oppose the decision, and the district closed enrollment two years ago in answer to parental protests. Read More…

  • Enhanced degree (Dispatch)
  • Any way that students can get a head start on a quality college education — and at a discount — is welcome. Reynoldsburg City Schools students soon might get the opportunity to graduate with both a diploma and an associate’s degree, through a partnership being considered by the district and Columbus State Community College. Officials still are working out details, including how much the high-school students would have to pay for the college credit, but a Columbus State spokesman says the cost will be “dramatically less” than the $79 per college credit hour that other students pay. Read More…

Straight Talk on Teaching Quality

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University recently published a paper titled "Straight Talk on Teaching Quality: Six Game-Changing Ideas and What to Do About Them" , described this guide as being "about game-changing strategies for improving teacher effectiveness".

The six headlines (organized around "The problem, what needs to happen, who is doing something good, and what can I do) are:

  • Follow Your Bliss: Career Pathways for Teachers
  • Evaluation Nation: Multiple Ways of Measuring Performance
  • Support for Teachers, Not Just Rewards and Sanctions: Why Firing Teachers Won't Lead to Large-Scale Improvement
  • Environmentally Friendly: Why School Culture and Working Conditions Matter
  • No Teacher is an Island: the Importance of In-School Partnerships and Teacher Collaboration
  • No School Is an Island: Partnerships with Parents and Community

It's a short read, and worth the time.

Straight Talk on Teaching Quality: Six Game-Changing Ideas and What to Do About Them

Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has just published their report "Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009"

This research looked at the following issues

How do states’ 2009 standards for proficient performance compare with one another when mapped onto the NAEP scale? There is wide variation among state proficiency standards.
Most states’ proficiency standards are at or below NAEP’s definition of Basic performance.

How do the 2009 NAEP scale equivalents of state standards compare with those estimated for 2007 and 2005? For those states that made substantive changes in their assessments between 2007 and 2009 most moved toward more rigorous standards as measured by NAEP.
For those states that made substantive changes in their assessments between 2005 and 2009, changes in the rigor of states’ standards as measured by NAEP were mixed but showed more decreases than increases in the rigor of their standards.

Does NAEP corroborate a state’s changes in the proportion of students meeting the state’s standard for proficiency from 2007 to 2009? From 2005 to 2009? Changes in the proportion of students meeting states’ standards for proficiency between 2007 and 2009 are not corroborated by the proportion of students meeting proficiency, as measured by NAEP, in at least half of the states in the comparison sample.
Results of comparisons between changes in the proportion of students meeting states’ standards for proficiency between 2005 and 2009 and the proportion of students meeting proficiency, as measured by NAEP, were mixed.

The full report can be found here (PDF). We've pulled out some of the graphs that show Ohio's performance vs the rest of the country for each of the 4th and 8th grade reading and math achievement levels.

4th grade reading

8th grade reading

4th grade math

8th grade math