Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher Evaluations

A letter, signed by 88 educational researchers from 16 universities was recently sent to the Mayor of Chicago regarding his plans to implement a teacher evaluation system. Because of some of the similarities of the Chicago plan to that of Ohio, we thought we would reprint the letter here.

In what follows, we draw on research to describe three significant concerns with this plan.

Concern #1: CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.” For Type I or Type II assessments, CPS must identify the assessments to be used, decide how to measure student growth on those assessments, and translate student growth into teacher-evaluation ratings. They must determine how certain student characteristics such as placement in special education, limited English-language proficiency, and residence in low-income households will be taken into consideration. They have to make sure that the necessary technology is available and usable, guarantee that they can correctly match teachers to their actual students, and determine that the tests are aligned to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

In addition, teachers, principals, and other school administrators have to be trained on the use of student assessments for teacher evaluation. This training is on top of training already planned about CCSS and the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, used for the “teacher practice” part of evaluation.

For most teachers, a Type I or II assessment does not exist for their subject or grade level, so most teachers will need a Type III assessment. While work is being done nationally to develop what are commonly called assessments for “non-tested” subjects, this work is in its infancy. CPS must identify at least one Type III assessment for every grade and every subject, determine how student growth will be measured on these assessments, and translate the student growth from these different assessments into teacher-evaluation ratings in an equitable manner.

If CPS insists on implementing a teacher-evaluation system that incorporates student growth in September 2012, we can expect to see a widely flawed system that overwhelms principals and teachers and causes students to suffer.

Concern #2: Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher-evaluation approaches that use Value-Added Models (VAMs).

Chicago already uses a VAM statistical model to determine which schools are put on probation, closed, or turned around. For the new teacher-evaluation system, student growth on Type I or Type II assessments will be measured with VAMs or similar models. Yet, ten prominent researchers of assessment, teaching, and learning recently wrote an open letter that included some of the following concerns about using student test scores to evaluate educators[1]:

a. Value-added models (VAMs) of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers. For example, different statistical models (all based on reasonable assumptions) can yield different effectiveness scores. [2] Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test. [3]

b. There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. In order to determine if there is a relationship, researchers recommend small-scale pilot testing of such systems. Student test scores have not been found to be a strong predictor of the quality of teaching as measured by other instruments or approaches. [4]

c. Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth. [5] Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations.

Concern #3: Students will be adversely affected by the implementation of this new teacher-evaluation system.

When a teacher’s livelihood is directly impacted by his or her students’ scores on an end-of-year examination, test scores take front and center. The nurturing relationship between teacher and student changes for the worse, including in the following ways:

a. With a focus on end-of-year testing, there inevitably will be a narrowing of the curriculum as teachers focus more on test preparation and skill-and-drill teaching. [6] Enrichment activities in the arts, music, civics, and other non-tested areas will diminish.

b. Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, or students suffering from emotional issues. Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors. [7]

c. The dynamic between students and teacher will change. Instead of “teacher and student versus the exam,” it will be “teacher versus students’ performance on the exam.”

d. Collaboration among teachers will be replaced by competition. With a “value-added” system, a 5th grade teacher has little incentive to make sure that his or her incoming students score well on the 4th grade exams, because incoming students with high scores would make his or her job more challenging.

e. When competition replaces collaboration, every student loses.

You can read the whole letter below.

Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher and Principal Evaluation

Time to occupy the education reform

The education reform movement sweeping the country with its emphasis on standardized testing may be impacting the future of the nation by stifling ingenuity, intuition and creativity in student learning. In his recent biography, "Steve Jobs," author Walter Isaacson points out that the genius of Jobs was that he was an intuitive thinker. Jobs was able, according to Isaacson, " to connect artistry to technology, poetry to processors." Steve Jobs' ability and genius to apply creativity to technology is what set him apart from his competition and what made Apple the leading technology company of the world.

One has to wonder with the emphasis today in most schools on standardized testing in which the diminished role of teachers is to simply "teach to the test," how many creative, intuitive and original thinkers will emerge from this sterile learning environment prevalent in most schools today? It is obvious that the so-called education reformers in the country, most of whom are non-educators, and who basically utilize a punitive "test and punish" strategy in every classroom in the country are devoid of any educational research whatsoever. They know nothing, for example, of early educational icons such as Jean Piaget, who has had a profound impact on educational pedagogy. Over the years, psychologists and educational researchers have built upon the pioneering work of Paiget in understanding that learning is not a simple matter of pouring information into the heads of students but, rather, that learning is an act in which people construct new understandings of the world through active exploration, experimentation, discussion and reflection.

Diane Ravitch, author of the "Death and Life of the Great American School System," has a brilliant description of so-called education reformers in this country in which she describes them as people who believe "that schools can be improved by more testing, more punishment of educators, (also known as "accountability"), more charter schools, and strict adherence to free-market principles in relation to teachers and students." Hence, one has to wonder in this type of school classroom in which accountability is the primary goal whether our students will ever become the type of free thinking, creative, intuitive adults that our society needs for leadership and progress.

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November 2011 School Levy Results

Here are the results of the November8th 2011 school levy elections.

Type Failed Passed Pass Rate
New 83 33 28.4%
Renewal 8 62 88.6%
All Levies 92 95 50.8%

11/9/2011 Ohio School Levy Results

Let's Say You're a Teacher

So--let's say you're a teacher.

Not "just a teacher," but one of those special teachers we hear about in news and policy discussions-- the supposedly rare educator who has passionate disciplinary expertise, a toolbag full of teaching strategies and genuine caring for their students. You're in education because you want to make a difference, change the world, raise the bar. You actually love teaching, finding it endlessly variable and challenging. You plan to spend a long time in the classroom.

So you begin pursuing a graduate degree in education. You notice that getting a masters degree in education is scorned in policy world as having little impact on student learning. A few of your classes are tedious. But some of them are genuinely interesting and valuable, pushing you to think more deeply about the work you do and increasing your content knowledge. Even though pundits declare your advanced degree does not correlate with increased student achievement, you press on. You're enjoying the intellectual stimulation and--let's face it-- accruing credits is another way to increase your salary and you need the money.

You're fascinated by new instructional strategies and curriculum ideas. You're eager to learn. But your district--which just replaced all its computers in the past two years--has no money for professional development. So you burn two of your business days, pay your own registration fee and mileage, and travel with three colleagues to a conference across the state, where--being a teacher type--you attend every single session and collect tons of free stuff to take back to your classroom in a canvas bag (which you will later give to a student as a reward for reading 25 books). The four of you share the $200 hotel room, and split a pizza. The high life.

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NYCS abandons merit pay failure

From the NYT, as the largest school district in the country abandons teacher merit pay because it didn't work, Ohio is about to adopt it

A New York City program that distributed $56 million in performance bonuses to teachers and other school staff members over the last three years will be permanently discontinued, the city Department of Education said on Sunday.

The decision was made in light of a study that found the bonuses had no positive effect on either student performance or teachers’ attitudes toward their jobs.

Study after study finds that student test scores do not improve because teachers are compensated with bonus's and merit pay. Instead what we are seeing as these corporate education reforms spread is more corporate type behaviors, such as pressure to cheat.