Posts tagged ‘teacher evaluation’

September 18, 2014

‘Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable’

by Grace

In New York, the rushed implementation of Common Core Standards combined with the new method of evaluating teachers have produced bizarre results that seem to offer no value in the effort to improve schools.

In Scarsdale, regarded as one of the best school systems in the country, no teacher has been rated “highly effective” in classroom observations. It is the only district in the Lower Hudson Valley with that strict an evaluation. In Pleasantville, 99 percent of the teachers are rated as “highly effective” in the same category.

“Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable,” said Charlotte Danielson, a Princeton, New Jersey-based educational consultant who has advised state education departments around the country. Danielson’s model for evaluating teachers via classroom observations, Framework for Teaching, is one of the best-known models in the country and believed to be the basis for New York’s evaluation system.

The new method for evaluating teachers is as flawed as the old method.

The fact that 80 percent of the evaluation is based on local measures can inject a lot of subjectivity into the process, critics say. A look at the teacher evaluation data by the state Education Department shows that districts have the most leeway in the classroom observation portion of the rubric, which accounts for 60 percent of the evaluation.

“The local administrators know who they are evaluating and are often influenced by personal bias,” Danielson said. “What it also means is that they might have set the standards too low.”

Administrators feel they must game the system to protect their teachers.

Pleasantville schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter defended her district’s classroom observation scores, which use the Danielson model — saying the state’s “flawed” model had forced districts to scale or bump up the scores so “effective” teachers don’t end up with an overall rating of “developing.”

“It is possible under the HEDI scoring band (which categorizes teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective”) to be rated effective in all three areas and yet end up as developing,” Fox-Alter said, adding that she understood Danielson’s concern.

“Danielson has said that teachers should live in “effective” and only visit “highly effective’,” said Fox-Alter, president of the Southern Westchester Chief School Administrators.

But adhering to that philosophy might put her teachers in jeopardy, she said.

The use of tests to measure teacher effectiveness is not without controversy, but as usual our public schools have compounded the problematic aspects with their sloppy implementation.  The result is a thorny mess that falls short of achieving previously stated goals.

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Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, “Teacher evaluations: Subjective data skew state results”, lohud.com, September 15, 2014.

April 10, 2013

Quick Links – College tuition rises while state subsidies increase; teachers are all above average; attracting top students to teaching

by Grace

◊◊◊  Sometimes tuition hikes occurred even while state subsidies were increasing.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Pace of college tuition hikes outpacing incomes. “Georgia’s public colleges and universities say they have raised tuition to make up for the Georgia Legislature holding back on taxpayer funds. But even in years when the legislature has fully funded the University System of Georgia’s requests, the Board of Regents still boosts tuition.”

Related: UNH tuition: It’s about costs, not subsidies. “University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston last week blamed UNH’s rising tuition costs on declining state subsidies. That is the party line within the entire University System of New Hampshire. If it were true, then tuition would have been declining in the years before the last budget, the years when state subsidies to the university system were going up. Tuition then did not decline; it rose.”

◊◊◊  Teachers All Above Average, Students Still Failing (Via Meadia)

In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations. In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.”

In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.

Advocates of education reform concede that such rosy numbers, after many millions of dollars developing the new systems and thousands of hours of training, are worrisome.

Setting test score bars too low and questionable management by principals seem to be issues in evaluations that produce dubious teacher evaluation outcomes.

Grover J. Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, said variations in teacher quality had been proven to affect student academic growth. If an evaluation system is not finding a wider distribution of effectiveness, “it is flawed,” he said.

“It would be an unusual profession that at least 5 percent are not deemed ineffective,” he added.

◊◊◊  McKinsey teacher report on ‘Attracting and retaining top third graduates to a career in teaching’

What would it take to systematically attract and retain top students to a teaching career in the United States?

Improving teacher effectiveness to lift student achievement has become a major theme in U.S. education. Most efforts focus on improving the effectiveness of teachers already in the classroom or on retaining the best performers and dismissing the least effective. Attracting more young people with stronger academic backgrounds to teaching has received comparatively little attention.

McKinsey’s experience with school systems in more than 50 countries suggests that this is an important gap in the U.S. debate. In a new report, “Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to Careers in Teaching ,” we review the experiences of the top-performing systems in the world—Singapore, Finland, and South Korea. These countries recruit, develop, and retain the leading academic talent as one of their central education strategies, and they have achieved extraordinary results. In the United States, by contrast, only 23 percent of new teachers come from the top third, and just 14 percent in high poverty schools, where the difficulty of attracting and retaining talented teachers is particularly acute. The report asks what it would take to emulate nations that pursue this strategy if the United States decided it was worthwhile.

The paper explores several “cost-effective” strategies that are not “necessarily inexpensive”.

In one scenario, for example, the U.S. could more than doubled the portion of top-third+ new hires in high-need schools, from 14% today to 34%, without raising teacher salaries.  In this scenario, the teachers would not pay for their initial training; high-need schools would have  effective principals and offer ongoing training comparable to the best professional institutions; districts would improve shabby and sometimes unsafe working conditions; the highest-performing teachers would receive performance bonuses of 20%; and the district or state would benefit from a marketing campaign promoting teaching as a profession….

Simply raising all teacher salaries is not the solution.

December 11, 2012

Wisconsin law supporting phonics instruction will be better for students and teachers

by Grace

Sandra Stotsky writes that Wisconsin’s “Read to Lead” education reform law enacted earlier this year will have benefits for both students and teachers.  Among other provisions, this law steers education schools to provide instruction on the most effective methods of early reading instruction.  The expected benefits will be improved reading levels for students and more objective evaluations for teachers.

Education schools have been slow to include phonics as part of training new teachers.

Imagine a physics program that won’t teach the theory of relativity. Or an English department that shuns Shakespeare. That would be equivalent to how U.S. schools of education treat the most effective method for teaching beginning reading.

That method is called decoding, the shorthand word for the scientifically tested techniques for teaching children the relationships between symbols and sounds, often just called phonics. Reformers have fought for generations to have decoding skills taught systematically and directly, but schools of education will have none of it.

Instead, the education establishment prefers to teach beginning readers to guess at the identification of a written word using its context — the so-called whole-language approach. The people who run education schools hate the “code” because they say it requires a repetition of boring exercises — “drill and kill” — turning children off and discouraging them from “reading with meaning.” There has never been evidence for this view, however.

Wisconsin joins a few states, including Massachusetts, in making changes that require new teachers to pass the MTEL Foundations Of Reading Test, an exam that tests their knowledge of phonics instruction.

… The state Legislature passed a bill that will help ensure that teachers no longer receive inadequate training in their preparation and professional development. The Wisconsin Reading Coalition, the Wisconsin branch of the International Dyslexia Association, and a group of parents, educators, psychologists and other professionals supported the measure….

Supported by their state Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin’s legislators followed the path taken first by Massachusetts, then by Connecticut in 2008, and most recently by Minnesota in 2011, to require the tests. Several other states are considering the requirement, as well.

The new law has positive implications for evaluating teachers.

Their efforts have broad implications. Many states are looking for objective ways to evaluate teachers at all levels. But the efforts by federal education officials to prod states into working out sound teacher-evaluation plans seem to be missing an important connection.

The policy makers in Washington want states to develop an appropriate professional way to determine which teachers are ineffective — a reasonable goal. But they have not made it clear that such evaluations need to judge whether a lack of adequate progress in children’s beginning-reading skills is the result of teacher incompetence or of deficient training….

Once the bill is signed into law and begins to affect training, Wisconsin will be able to evaluate teachers of beginning reading on their skills without worrying if they lack professional knowledge that could easily have been taught in their coursework. Let’s hope the work of the reformers in Wisconsin spreads to most other states.

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The introduction in recent years of “balanced literacy” to replace whole language instruction has been a step in the right direction, but limited in that it does not offer “systematic and explicit phonics instruction“.

Education schools whose coursework was once limited to whole-language approaches now have to explain the research support for a code-emphasis method and what systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics means in practice. The schools have done this grudgingly, limiting their effort to test preparation workshops or including it as a small part of a “balanced literacy” approach that allows teachers to teach phonics but only in context, thereby ensuring that it can’t be taught systematically.

Related:

March 22, 2012

New York’s flawed teacher evaluations are a step towards a ‘choice-based educational system’

by Grace

Many school principals and teachers are protesting the new teacher evaluation system scheduled to be phased in this year in New York State, believing it has been rushed into place.  They have concerns that it is flawed and that its introduction has been “confusing, contradictory and, frankly, disastrous.”  From what I’ve seen, I would agree there are serious problems, ranging from questionable state test data to the diversion of scarce resources for implementation.  However, I wonder if many parents are like me, willing to go with this flawed system because we’re so frustrated with things as they are, including the tenure system and the practice of laying off teachers based solely on seniority.

Walter Russell Mead writes about the growing public pressure.

But just because current methods of teacher evaluation are, to say the least, imperfect, doesn’t mean teachers can escape growing public pressure to show results. Teacher unions would like for virtually all teachers to have lifetime tenure and for evaluation to play little or no role in their lives. Principals don’t want parents nosing into administrative decisions or complaining that their kids are getting stuck with subpar math teachers. Pointing to the deep and real flaws in everything from standardized tests to score students to individual teacher assessments is, among other things, a way to stave off public pressure for more accountability in the schools.

The public wants a look inside the “black box” of the American school. Some parents are too ignorant, too dysfunctional or just too laid back to care, but increasingly parents want to make sure that their kids are getting the best available teachers—or at least avoiding the turkeys.

This pressure isn’t going away; school districts and teachers are going to have to live with it. Demand for parental choice is growing, and it will grow further as more educational opportunities arise. Between charter schooling, homeschooling, and new forms of online education, there are now opportunities that simply weren’t available thirty years ago.

He predicts this is one step on the road to school choice.

Ultimately most parents are going to insist on the right to choose which schools their children attend. Schools will have to provide information about their teachers and their success in order to attract pupils. Today’s crude and often unfair bureaucratic evaluation methods are a baby step in the direction of a choice-based educational system. More and better steps will come.

Change will come, but I’d really like to know how many generations will it take.

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