Gross miscalculation

On his Sociological Eye on Education blog for the Hechinger Report, Aaron Pallas writes that in April 2011, Carolyn Abbott, who teaches mathematics to seventh- and eighth-graders at the Anderson School, a citywide gifted-and-talented school in Manhattan, received startling news. Her score on the NYC Department of Education's value-added measurement indicated only 32 percent of seventh-grade math teachers and 0 percent of eighth-grade math teachers scored worse than she. According to calculations, she was the worst eighth-grade math teacher in the city, where she has taught since 2007.

Here's the math: After a year in her classroom, her seventh-grade students scored at the 98th percentile of city students on the 2009 state test. As eighth-graders, they were predicted to score at the 97th percentile. Yet their actual performance was at the 89th percentile of students across the city, a shortfall -- 97th percentile to 89th percentile -- that placed Abbott near the rock bottom of 1,300 eighth-grade mathematics teachers. Anderson is an unusual school; the material on the state eighth-grade math exam is taught in the fifth or sixth grade. "I don't teach the curriculum they're being tested on," Abbott explained. "It feels like I'm being graded on somebody else's work." The math she teaches is more advanced, culminating in high-school level work and the New York State's Regents exam in Integrated Algebra. Of her students taking the Regents in January, all passed with flying colors, more than a third achieving a perfect score of 100.

This summer, the state will release a new iteration of the Teacher Data Reports. For Abbott, these will be a mere curiosity. She has decided to leave the classroom, and is entering the Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.

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Do Politicians Know Anything About Schools and Education? Anything?

Diane Ravitch poses a dozen piercing questions on education and school policy. Some of them turn conventional thinking on its ear, and each could be a starting point for reporting on elections, from the presidency on down to local school boards

1. Both Republican candidates and President Obama are enamored of charter schools - that is, schools that are privately managed and deregulated. Are you aware that studies consistently show that charter schools don't get better results than regular public schools? Are you aware that studies show that, like any deregulated sector, some charter schools get high test scores, many more get low scores, but most are no different from regular public schools? Do you recognize the danger in handing public schools and public monies over to private entities with weak oversight? Didn't we learn some lessons from the stock collapse of 2008 about the risk of deregulation?

2. Both Republican candidates and President Obama are enamored of merit pay for teachers based on test scores. Are you aware that merit pay has been tried in the schools again and again since the 1920s and it has never worked? Are you aware of the exhaustive study of merit pay in the Nashville schools, conducted by the National Center for Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt, which found that a bonus of $15,000 per teacher for higher test scores made no difference?

3. Are you aware that Milwaukee has had vouchers for low-income students since 1990, and now state scores in Wisconsin show that low-income students in voucher schools get no better test scores than low-income students in the Milwaukee public schools? Are you aware that the federal test (the National Assessment of Educational Progress) shows that - after 21 years of vouchers in Milwaukee - black students in the Milwaukee public schools score on par with black students in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana?

4. Does it concern you that cyber charters and virtual academies make millions for their sponsors yet get terrible results for their students?

5. Are you concerned that charters will skim off the best-performing students and weaken our nation's public education system?=

6. Are you aware that there is a large body of research by testing experts warning that it is wrong to judge teacher quality by student test scores? Are you aware that these measures are considered inaccurate and unstable, that a teacher may be labeled effective one year, then ineffective the next one? Are you aware that these measures may be strongly influenced by the composition of a teacher's classroom, over which she or he has no control? Do you think there is a long line of excellent teachers waiting to replace those who are (in many cases, wrongly) fired?

7. Although elected officials like to complain about our standing on international tests, did you know that students in the United States have never done well on those tests? Did you know that when the first international test was given in the mid-1960s, the United States came in 12th out of 12? Did you know that over the past half-century, our students have typically scored no better than average and often in the bottom quartile on international tests? Have you ever wondered how our nation developed the world's most successful economy when we scored so poorly over the decades on those tests?

8. Did you know that American schools where less than 10% of the students were poor scored above those of Finland, Japan and Korea in the last international assessment? Did you know that American schools where 25% of the students were poor scored the same as the international leaders Finland, Japan and Korea? Did you know that the U.S. is #1 among advanced nations in child poverty? Did you know that more than 20% of our children live in poverty and that this is far greater than in the nations to which we compare ourselves?

9. Did you know that family income is the single most reliable predictor of student test scores? Did you know that every testing program - the SAT, the ACT, the NAEP, state tests and international tests - shows the same tight correlation between family income and test scores? Affluence helps - children in affluent homes have educated parents, more books in the home, more vocabulary spoken around them, better medical care, more access to travel and libraries, more economic security - as compared to students who live in poverty, who are more likely to have poor medical care, poor nutrition, uneducated parents, more instability in their lives. Do you think these things matter?

10. Are you concerned that closing schools in low-income neighborhoods will further weaken fragile communities?

11. Are you worried that annual firings of teachers will cause demoralization and loss of prestige for teachers? Any ideas about who will replace those fired because they taught too many low-scoring students?

12. Why is it that politicians don't pay attention to research and studies?

Add end And another question that came to mind after the initial posting of this article:

13. Do you know of any high-performing nation in the world that got that way by privatizing public schools, closing those with low test scores, and firing teachers? The answer: none.

Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a distinguished historian of American education.

Delivering lower costs, higher quality

Innovation Ohio recently published a study that showed that states, like Ohio, that had collective bargaining for educators produced lower costs and higher quality than states that had weaker collective bargaining laws.

In fact, research shows that eliminating or effectively crippling the state’s collective bargaining system will be as likely to add to state and local budget woes as cure the
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Ohio’s kindergarten, elementary, middle school and high school teachers saw their salaries, on average, drop 3.8% between 2008 and 2009, the latest year BLS’s Occupational Employment Statistics are available. The national average was a 2% increase.
Even though states that limit teachers’ rights to collectively bargain make up less than one-third of all the states, they make up half of the top 10 salary increases in the contiguous 48 states, with reduced teachers’ rights states taking the top three spots (Wyoming at 11.2%, Texas at 7% and Louisiana at 5.9%).
In Education Week’s annual K-12 Student Achievement rankings, NO reduced teachers’ rights states scored in the top 10 states. In fact, the top 13 K-12 Achievement states were all states that require collective bargaining for its teachers. Meanwhile, Ohio scored better than 75% of the reduced teachers’ rights states on the K-12 Achievement measure.

While none of the top 10 achieving states were reduced teachers’ rights states, they did make up 7 of the bottom 10 K-12 Achievement states. That means that almost half of all reduced teachers’ rights states ranked in the bottom 10 states on their students’ achievement.

The results revealed by this report should come as no surprise to anyone who has been involved in, or observed, the collective bargaining process across Ohio's school districts. Teachers and education support professionals have consistently demonstrasted a commitment not only to delivering a quality education to their students, but to the communities they serve. Eliminating this important voice eliminates the ability to deliver these results.