Teacher Evaluation Systems “At Issue” Across U.S. Courts

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As you have likely noticed, lawsuits continue to emerge whereby (typically) state’s “new and improved” teacher evaluation systems, based in part on value-added model (VAM) output, are at legal issue.

If you have lost track, Education Week just published an article with all lawsuits currently filed, underway, or completed across the nation. In sum, there have been 14 cases filed thus far across seven states: Florida n=2, Louisiana n=1, Nevada n=1, New Mexico n=3, New York n=3, Tennessee n=3, and Texas n=1.

While I won’t try to recreate Education Week‘s user-friendly chart for this particular post, I do suggest that you click here to read more about each lawsuit, as well as the charges or alleged allegations per lawsuit, who has filed each one, and each lawsuit’s current status.

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New Mexico’s Teacher Evaluation Lawsuit: Day Four

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Unfortunately I could not attend “Day Four” of the New Mexico’s Teacher Evaluation Lawsuit yesterday (Tuesday, October 6th) in Santa Fe, but for those of you following, tomorrow (Thursday, October 8th) closing remarks are scheduled. Originally, only two days of testimony were scheduled to secure an injunction stopping the state’s teacher evaluation system, but the judge, stating that “the material under consideration is complex” will end with a five-day hearing on Thursday.

But as for what happened in court yesterday, here is an article with a short video (compliments of local news station KOB4) capturing at least some of the day:


Here is another article capturing another reporter’s views of the hearing, as per The Albuquerque Journal, who notes that “Tuesday’s testimony highlighted the state witnesses’ stance that the new [evaluating system is] a big improvement over the previous approach, which rated 99 percent of teachers effective.”

Perhaps most important to the hearing was the testimony of Matthew Montaño, Educator Quality Division, New Mexico Public Education Department (PED), who “testified at length about the creation of the new teacher evaluation system, which PED instituted administratively in 2012.”

Most interesting to come Thursday will be his cross-examination, for reasons impossible to list in both length and his history as per his role and position within the state.

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U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan Resigning in December

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In case you have not yet heard, U.S. “Education Secretary Arne Duncan [is] stepping down” from his President Obama-appointed post. As per an article in CNN: “President Barack Obama praised Arne Duncan’s service as secretary of education on Friday [October 2, 2015], hours after Duncan said he would step down in December. “He’s done more to bring our education system — sometimes kicking and screaming — into the 21st century more than anybody else…America is going to be better off for what he’s done.”

Is that a fact…

Obama continued that Duncan’s record is one “that I truly believe that no other education secretary can match…Arne bleeds this stuff. He cares so much about our kids. And he’s been so passionate about this work.”

See also other another article on Duncan’s resignation in The New York Times in which Duncan was positioned as “the subject of criticism from both parties, angering Democrats by challenging teachers’ unions and infuriating Republicans by promoting national academic standards.” See also other another article in The Washington Post.

Obama has selected Deputy Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. to replace him. As per The Washington Post, “King is a Brooklyn native who often credits teachers with guiding him toward a successful path after he was orphaned at age 12. A former charter school leader in Boston and New York, he joined the Education Department in January after a turbulent tenure as commissioner of education for the state of New York. In that role, he was a key architect of new teacher evaluations tied to test scores and played a key role in pushing New York to adopt new tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards years before other states did the same.

The Network for Public Education (NPE) announced their reaction to both Arne Duncan’s resignation and John King as Duncan’s replacement. “The Network for Public Education assigned an “F” to the selection of John King as a replacement to Arne Duncan,” who according to Diane Ravitch (among others) did more harm than good during his time in this position. Perhaps Obama’s remarks were not entirely on base.

Under Duncan’s (and Obama’s) watch, “The policies of the US Department of Education have inflicted immeasurable harm on American public education. The blind faith in standardized testing as the most meaningful measure of students, teachers, principals, and schools has distorted the true meaning of education and demoralized educators. Punitive policies have created teacher shortages across the nation, as well as a precipitous decline in the number of people preparing to become teachers. The Race to the Top preference for privately managed charter schools over public schools has encouraged privatization of a vitally important public responsibility.”

Regarding the appointment of King, The Executive Director of the NPE Fund and former New York State principal, Carol Burris, noted that, “John King’s tenure in New York State was a disaster [as] he alienated teachers, parents, and principals. He was the first Commissioner of Education in New York to receive a vote of ‘no confidence’ by the New York State Teachers Union, and referred to parents as ‘a special interest group.’ Not only was his implementation of the Common Core standards rushed and chaotic, but the horrific state exams that were given during his tenure resulted in over 200,000 students opting out of the exam last spring. It is difficult to imagine a worse choice to run the US Department of Education.”

To read more from the NPE click here.


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New Mexico’s Teacher Evaluation Lawsuit: Day Three

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As per my last post about the second day in court in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I was purposefully ambiguous about one of the two articles written in The Santa Fe New Mexican regarding my testimony. The first article titled, “Experts differ on test-based evaluations at NM hearing,” I felt fairly captured the events of the second day in court, but the second article titled, “Professor’s testimony: Teacher eval system ‘not ready for prime time,” did not. But that is about all that I said, being purposefully ambiguous for two reasons that I can now (more or less) share.

The first reason was that the author of this article (in my opinion) unfairly captured my four hours of testimony, by primarily positioning me as an “expert witness” who did not know really anything about the New Mexico teacher evaluation model. Just to be clear, during my testimony I explained that I had not analyzed the actual data from New Mexico. I also argued (but this was unfortunately not highlighted in this particular article), that I could not find anything about the New Mexico model’s output (e.g., indicators of reliability or consistency in terms of teachers’ rankings over time, indicators of validity as per, for example, whether the state’s value-added output correlated, or not, with the other “multiple measures” used in New Mexico’s teacher evaluation system), pretty much anywhere given my efforts.

I testified that this, in and of itself, was problematic, given much of what should have been accessible and retrievable, for example, via the website of New Mexico’s Public Education Department (PED), via the internet in general (e.g., about developer Pete Goldschmidt’s value-added model), and via my attempts through contacts throughout New Mexico to gather the particular information for which I was looking, was not available to the public via any of these means. This, in and of itself, as I also testified, was problematic, especially given New Mexico Governor Martinez’s claims about “Ensuring Transparency and Ethics in our Government.”

Also not explained in this article was that I also analyzed New Mexico’s model using the documents made available via the exhibits submitted for this case, by both the plaintiffs and the defense. What I did not do, however, was conduct any direct analyses of any of the state’s actual data, yet, and for a variety of reasons (e.g., these data are a part of a lawsuit, and I am on the “wrong side,” there are standard data procedural and confidentiality agreements that take considerable time to secure, there is a certain timeline in place). This was also not explained.

I wrote a letter to the editor of The Santa Fe New Mexican in response, but not to my surprise, I never received a response, nor was this letter published. The goal of this letter, though, was to give those in Santa Fe, but also others throughout the state of New Mexico, not only a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of my testimony, but more a note about how the taxpayers of New Mexico have a right to know much, much more about their state’s teacher evaluation model, as well as the model’s output (i.e., to see how the model is actually functioning as claimed).

As I also testified, one of my goals (and I believe this to also be a goal of the plaintiffs’ writ large) is to (a) get the state of New Mexico to release the data to an external evaluator to evaluate the models’ functionality (this person certainly does not have to be me) or (2) release the data to the “expert witnesses” on both the plaintiffs’ side (i.e., me) and the defendants’ side (i.e., Thomas Kane of Harvard), so that we can both examine these data independently, and then come back to the court with our findings and overall assessments regarding the model’s overall strengths and weakness, as per the actual data. 

This brings me to my second reason for being purposefully ambiguous throughout my prior post: The defendants’ “expert witness” Thomas Kane of Harvard. I wanted to wait to be 100% certain that Thomas Kane had not examined any state data before I commented that he would eventually be critiqued for not having done so. But having witnessed his 5.5 hours of testimony yesterday, let me just say it was an interesting 5.5 hours, that (in my opinion) did not work in the defendants’ favor.

Kane, like me, had not examined any of New Mexico’s actual data. This was surprising in the sense that he was actually retained by the state, and his lawyers could have much more likely, and literally, handed him the state’s dataset as their “expert witness,” likely regardless of the aforementioned procedures and security measures (but perhaps not the timeline). Also surprising, though, was that Kane had clearly not examined any of the exhibits submitted for this case, by both the plaintiffs and the defense, either. He was essentially in attendance, on behalf of the state as their “expert witness,” to “only speak to [teacher] evaluations in general.” As per an article in The Albuquerque Journal, he “stressed that numerous studies [emphasis added] show that teachers make a big impact on student success,” expressly contradicting the American Statistical Association (ASA) on the stand, while also (only) referencing (non-representative) studies of primarily his econ-friends (e.g. Raj Chetty, Eric Hanushek, Doug Staiger) and studies of his own (e.g, as per his Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) studies). For more information in general, though, see the full articles in both The Albuquerque Journal and The Santa Fe New Mexican.

As also highlighted in both of these articles is that as one of the defendants’ witnesses, the Superintendent of the Roswell Independent School District testified in favor of the state’s model. As as highlighted in the The Santa Fe New Mexican, he testified that he viewed the new system as “an improvement over past practices [namely the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures written into No Child Left Behind (NCLB)] because [he believed the new system gave] him more information about his teachers.” He did not, however, testify as to how value-added output gave him this information, as the information about which he spoke was primarily about the observational system now in place, and the conversations surrounding such data, although districts also used similar observational systems prior.

He also testified that, as per the article in The Santa Fe New Mexican, “he had renewed licenses for teachers who received low ratings, despite the state Public Education Department’s protocol…[for one reason being]…he has too few teachers and can’t afford to lose any” due to this system. Related, as per the article in The Albuquerque Journal he continued testifying that “I am down teachers. I don’t need teachers, number 1, quitting over this and, number 2, I am not going to be firing teachers over this.” His district of about 600 teachers currently has approximately 30 open teaching positions, “an unusually high number;” hence, “he would rather work with his current staff than bring on substitutes” in compliance. So while he testified on behalf of the state, he also testified he was not necessarily in favor of the consequences being attached to the state’s teacher evaluation output, even if as currently being positioned by the defense as “low-stakes.”

It was more than an interesting day in court indeed. Stay tuned for Day Four (although due to prior conflicts, I will not be in attendance). I will still report on it, though, as best I can.

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Florida’s Superintendents Have Officially “Lost Confidence” in the State’s Teacher and School Evaluation System

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In an article written by Valerie Strauss and featured yesterday in The Washington Post, school superintendents throughout the state of Florida have officially declared to the state that they have “lost confidence” in Florida’s teacher and school evaluation system (click here for the original article). More specifically, state school superintendents submitted a letter to the state asserting that “they ‘have lost confidence’ in the system’s accuracy and are calling for a suspension and a review of the system” (click here also for their original letter).

This is the evaluation model instituted by Florida’s former governor Jeb Bush, whom we all also identify as the brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H. W. Bush. Former President GW Bush was also the architect of what most now agree is the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, that former President GW Bush put forth as federal policy given his “educational reforms” in the state of Texas in the late 1990s. Beyond this brotherly association, however, Jeb is also currently a running candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and via his campaign he is also (like his brother, pre-NCLB) touting his “educational reforms” in the state of Florida, hoping to take these reforms also to the White House.

It is Jeb Bush’s “educational reforms” that, without research evidence in support, also became models of “educational reform” for other states around the country, including states like New Mexico. In New Mexico, the state in which its current evaluation system, as based on the Florida model, is at the core of a potentially significant lawsuit (see prior posts about this lawsuit here, here, here, and here). Not surprisingly, one of Jeb Bush’s protégés – Hanna Skandera, who is currently the state of New Mexico’s Secretary of its Public Education Department (PED) – took Bush’s model to even more of an extreme, making this particular model one of the most arbitrary and capricious of all such models currently in place throughout the U.S. (as also defined and detailed more fully here).

Hence, it should certainly be of interest to those in New Mexico (and other states) that the teacher and school evaluation model upon which their state model was built, is now apparently falling apart, at least for now.

“The superintendents [in Florida] are calling for the state to suspend the system for a year – meaning that the scores from this spring’s administration of the [state’s] exams will not be used in [the state-level] evaluations [of teachers or schools].” The state school superintendents are also calling for “a full review” of the system, which certainly seems warranted in Florida, New Mexico, and any other state for that matter, in which similar evaluation models are being paid for using taxpayer revenues, without much if any research evidence to support that they are working as intended, and sold, and paid for.

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No Longer in Washington State are Test Scores to be Tied to Teachers’ Evaluations

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You might recall from a prior post that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pulled the state of Washington’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver because the state did not met the U.S. Department of Education’s timeline for tying teacher evaluations to student test scores (i.e., using growth or value-added modeling). Washington was the first to lose its waiver, but hopefully not the last.

Teachers in Washington achieved yet another victory in this regard.

As per a recent article in The Seattle Times (see also a related post here), it looks like “After four months of negotiations, a five-day [teachers] strike and one final all-night [negotiations] talk, the Seattle teachers union and Seattle Public Schools reached a tentative contract agreement,” that is (if it is ultimately finalized), will:

  • Remove test scores from playing any role in teacher evaluations;
  • Give teachers significantly more say in how often students are tested;
  • Secure for teachers pay increases of 9.5 percent over three years, in addition to the state cost-of-living adjustment of 4.8 percent over two years;
  • Pay teachers for the longer school days they are to teach (longer school days are forthcoming);
  • Lower special-education student-teacher ratios;
  • Lower teacher specialists’ caseloads;
  • Allow for guaranteed recesses for students; etc.

As also noted in this article, this is certainly “groundbreaking,” especially given the federal politics and policies surrounding, as most pertinent to followers of this blog, using test scores to evaluate teachers (see bullet #1 above).

Hopefully other states can, and will follow suit…

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New Mexico’s Teacher Evaluation Lawsuit Underway: Day Two

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Following up on my most recent post, about the “Lawsuit in New Mexico Challenging [the] State’s Teacher Evaluation System,” I testified yesterday for four hours regarding the state’s new teacher evaluation model. As noted in both articles linked to below, I positioned this state’s model as one of the most “arbitrary and capricious” systems I’ve seen across all states currently working with or implementing such systems, again, as incentivized via President Obama’s Race to the Top program and as required if states were to receive (and are to keep) the waivers excusing them from not meeting the previous requirement written into President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2011, that all children would be academically proficient by the year 2014.

I positioned this teacher evaluation model as one of the most “arbitrary and capricious” systems I’ve seen across all states in that this state, unlike no other I have ever seen, because the state has worked very hard to make 100% of its teachers value-added eligible, while essentially pulling off-the-shelf, criterion- and norm-referenced tests and also developing (yet not satisfactorily vetting or validating) a series of end-of-course exams (EoCs) to do this. This also includes early childhood teachers using, for example, the norm-referenced DIBELS. Let us just say, for purposes of brevity, this (and many other of the state’s educational measurement actions in this regard) defy the Standards for Educational & Psychological Testing.

Nonetheless, the day’s testimony also included testimony from one high school science teacher who expressed his concerns about his evaluation outcomes, as well as the evaluation outcomes of his high school, science colleagues. The day ended with two hours of testimony given by the state’s model developer – Pete Goldschmidt – who is now an Associate Professor at California State University Northridge. Time ran out, however, before cross-examination.

For more information, though, I will direct you all to two articles that capture the main events or highlights of the day.

The author of the first article titled, “Experts differ on test-based evaluations at NM hearing,” fairly captures the events of the day, as well as the professional and collegial agreements and disagreements expressed to the judge by both Pete Goldschmidt and me.

The author of the second article titled, “Professor’s testimony: Teacher eval system ‘not ready for prime time,” however, was less fair. Nonetheless, for purposes of transparency, I include both articles for you all here, to also see how polarizing this topic can be (as many of us already know). I will say, though, that I liked the picture included in this latter article. Very Santa Fe-ish 😉

Day three of this trial will occur in Santa Fe next Thursday, during which Thomas Kane, an economics professor from Harvard University who also directed the $45 million worth of Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) studies for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and who has also been the subject of prior posts (see, for example, here, here and here) will testify. Also to testify will be Matthew Montaño, Educator Quality Division, New Mexico Public Education Department (PED).

Will keep you posted, again…

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New Mexico’s Teacher Evaluation Lawsuit Underway

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You might recall, from a post last March, that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), joined by the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, filed a “Lawsuit in New Mexico Challenging [the] State’s Teacher Evaluation System.” Plaintiffs are more specifically charging that the state’s current teacher evaluation system is unfair, error-ridden, harming teachers, and depriving students of high-quality educators (see the actual lawsuit here).

Well, testimonies started yesterday in Santa Fe, and as one of the expert witnesses on the plaintiffs’ side, I was there to witness the first day of examinations. While I will not comment on my impressions at this point, because I will be testifying this Monday and would like to save all of my comments until I’m on the stand, I will say it was quite an interesting day indeed, for both sides.

What I do feel comfortable sharing at this point, though, is an article that The New Mexican reporter Robert Nott wrote, as he too attended the full day in court. His article, essentially about the state of New Mexico “Getting it Right,” captures the gist of the day. I say this duly noting that only witnesses on the plaintiffs’ side were examined, and also cross-examined yesterday. Plaintiffs’ witnesses will continue this Monday, and defendants’ witnesses will continue thereafter, also this Monday, and likely one more day to be scheduled thereafter.

But as for the highlights, as per Nott’s article:

  • “Joel Boyd, [a highly respected] superintendent of the Santa Fe Public Schools, testified that ‘glaring errors’ have marred the state’s ratings of teachers in his district.” He testified that “We should pause and get it right,” also testifying that “the state agency has not proven itself capable of identifying either effective or ineffective teachers.” Last year when Boyd challenged his district’s 1,000 or so teachers’ rankings, New Mexico’s Public Education Department (PED) “ultimately yielded and increased numerous individual teacher rankings…[which caused]..the district’s overall rating [to improve] by 17 percentage points.”
  • State Senator Bill Soules, who is also a recently retired teacher, testified that “his last evaluation included data from 18 students he did not teach. ‘Who are those 18 students who I am being evaluated on?’ he asked the judge.”
  • One of the defendant’s attorneys later defended the state’s data, stating “education department records show that there were only 712 queries from districts regarding the accuracy of teacher evaluation results in 2014-15. Of those, the state changed just 31 ratings after reviewing challenges.” State Senator Soules responded, however, that “a [i.e., one] query may include many teachers.” For example, Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) purportedly put in one single query that included “hundreds, if not thousands” of questions about that district’s set of teacher evaluations.

In fact, most if not all of the witnesses who testified not only argued, but evidenced, how the state used flawed data in their personal, or their schools’/districts’ teachers’ general evaluations, leading to incorrect results.

Plaintiffs and their witnessed also argued, and evidenced, that “the system does not judge teachers by the same standards. Language arts teachers, as well as educators working in subjects without standardized tests, are rated by different measures than those teaching the core subjects of math, science and English.” This, as both the plaintiff’s witnesses and lawyers also argued, makes this an arbitrary and capricious system, or rather one that is not “objective” as per the state’s legislative requirements.

In the words of Shane Youtz, one of two of the plaintiff’s attorneys, “You have a system that is messed up…Frankly, the PED doesn’t know what it is doing with the data and the formula, and they are just changing things ad hoc.”

“Attorneys for the Public Education Department countered that, although no evaluation system is perfect, this one holds its educators to a high standard and follows national trends in utilizing student test scores when possible.”

Do stay tuned….

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“Efficiency” as a Constitutional Mandate for Texas’s Educational System

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The Texas Constitution requires that the state “establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools,” as the “general diffusion of knowledge [is]…essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people.” Following this notion, The George W. Bush Institute’s Education Reform Initiative  recently released its first set of reports as part of its The Productivity for Results Series: “A Legal Lever for Enhancing Productivity.” The report was authored by an affiliate of The New Teacher Project (TNTP) – the non-profit organization founded by the controversial former Chancellor of Washington DC’s public schools Michelle Rhee; an unknown and apparently unaffiliated “education researcher” named Krishanu Sengupta; and Sandy Kress, the “key architect of No Child Left Behind [under the presidential leadership of George W. Bush] who later became a lobbyist for Pearson, the testing company” (see, for example, here).

Authors of this paper review the economic and education research (although if you look through the references the strong majority of pieces come from economics research, which makes sense as this is an economically driven venture) to identify characteristics that typify enterprises that are efficient. More specifically, the authors use the principles of x-efficiency set out in the work of the highly respected Henry Levin that require efficient organizations, in this case as (perhaps inappropriately) applied to schools, to have: 1) Clear objective outcomes with measurable outcomes; 2) Incentives that are linked to success on the objective function; 3) Efficient access to useful information for decisions; 4) Adaptability to meet changing conditions; and 5) Use of the most productive technology consistent with cost constraints.

The authors also advance another series of premises, as related to this view of x-efficiency and its application to education/schools in Texas: (1) that “if Texas is committed to diffusing knowledge efficiently, as mandated by the state constitution, it should ensure that the system for putting effective teachers in classrooms and effective materials in the hands of teachers and students is characterized by the principles that undergird an efficient enterprise, such as those of x-efficiency;” (2) this system must include value-added measurement systems (i.e., VAMs), as deemed throughout this paper as not only constitutional but also rational and in support of x-efficiency; (3) given “rational policies for teacher training, certification, evaluation, compensation, and dismissal are key to an efficient education system;” (4) “the extent to which teacher education programs prepare their teachers to achieve this goal should [also] be [an] important factor;”  (5) “teacher evaluation systems [should also] be properly linked to incentives…[because]…in x-efficient enterprises, incentives are linked to success in the objective function of the organization;” (6) which is contradictory with current, less x-efficient teacher compensation systems that link incentives to time on the job, or tenure, rather than to “the success of the organization’s function; (6), in the end, “x-efficient organizations have efficient access to useful information for decisions, and by not linking teacher evaluations to student achievement, [education] systems [such as the one in Texas will] fail to provide the necessary information to improve or dismiss teachers.”

The two districts highlighted as being most x-efficient in Texas, and in this report include, to no surprise: “Houston [which] adds a value-added system to reward teachers, with student performance data counting for half of a teacher’s overall rating. HISD compares students’ academic growth year to year, under a commonly used system called EVAAS.” We’ve discussed not only this system but also its use in Houston often on this blog (see, for example, here, here, and here). Teachers in Houston who consistently perform poorly can be fired for “insufficient student academic growth as reflected by value added scores…In 2009, before EVAAS became a factor in terminations, 36 of 12,000 teachers were fired for performance reasons, or .3%, a number so low the Superintendent [Terry Grier] himself called the dismissal system into question. From 2004-2009, the district
fired or did not renew 365 teachers, 140 for “performance reasons,” including poor discipline management, excessive absences, and a lack of student progress. In 2011, 221 teacher contracts were not renewed, multiple for “significant lack of student progress attributable to the educator,” as well as “insufficient student academic growth reflected by [SAS EVAAS] value-added scores….In the 2011-12 school year, 54% of the district’s low-performing teachers were dismissed.” That’s “progress,” right?!?

Anyhow, for those of you who have not heard, this same (controversial) Superintendent, who pushed this system throughout his district is retiring (see, for example, here).

The other district of (dis)honorable mention was Dallas Independent School district; it also uses a VAM called the Classroom Effectiveness Index (CIE), although I know less about this system as I have never examined or researched it myself, nor have I read really anything about it. But in 2012, the district’s Board “decided not to renew 259 contracts due to poor performance, five times more than the previous year.” The “progress” such x-efficiency brings…

What is still worrisome to the authors, though, is that “[w]hile some districts appear to be increasing their efforts to eliminate ineffective teachers, the percentage of teachers dismissed for any reason, let alone poor performance, remains well under one percent in the state’s largest districts.” Related, and I preface this one noting that this next argument is one of the most over-cited and hyper-utilized by organizations backing “initiatives” or “reforms” such as these, that this “falls well below the five to eight percent that Hanushek calculates would elevate achievement to internationally competitive levels” “Calculations by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University show that removing the bottom five percent of teachers in the United States and replacing them with teachers of average effectiveness would raise student achievement in the U.S. 0.4 standard deviations, to the level of student achievement in Canada. Replacing the bottom eight percent would raise student achievement to the level of Finland, a top performing country on international assessments.” As Linda Darling-Hammond, also of Stanford would argue, we cannot simply “fire our way to Finland.” Sorry Eric! But this is based on econometric predictions, and no evidence exists whatsoever that this is in fact a valid inference. Nontheless, it is cited over and over again by the same/similar folks (such as the authors of this piece) to justify their currently trendy educational reforms.

The major point here, though, is that “if Texas wanted to remove (or improve) the bottom five to eight percent of its teachers, the current evaluation system would not be able to identify them;” hence, the state desperately needs a VAM-based system to do this. Again,  no research to counter this or really any claim is included in this piece; only the primarily economics-based literatures were selected in support.

In the end, though, the authors conclude that “While the Texas Constitution has established a clear objective function for the state school system and assessments are in place to measure the outcome, it does not appear that the Texas education system shares the other four characteristics of x-efficient enterprises as identified by Levin. Given the constitutional mandate for efficiency and the difficult economic climate, it may be a good time for the state to remedy this situation…[Likewise] the adversity and incentives may now be in place for Texas to focus on improving the x-efficiency of its school system.”

As I know and very much respect Henry Levin (see, for example, an interview I conducted with him a few years ago, with the shorter version here and the longer version here), I’d be curious to know what his response might be to the authors’ use of his x-efficiency framework to frame such neo-conservative (and again trendy) initiatives and reforms. Perhaps I will email him…

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A Labor Day Tribute to NY Teacher Sheri Lederman

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As per the U.S. Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

There is no better day than today, then, to honor Sheri Lederman – the Long Island, New York teacher who by all accounts other than her 1 out of 20 VAM score is a terrific 4th grade and now 18 year veteran teacher, and who along with her attorney husband, Bruce Lederman, is suing the state of New York to challenge the state’s teacher evaluation system…and mainly it’s value-added component (see prior posts about Sheri’s case herehere and here). I’m serving as one of the expert witnesses, also, on this case.

Anyhow, Al Jazeera America just released a fabulous 3:41 video about Sheri, her story, and VAMs in general. Columbia Professor Aaron Pallas is featured speaking on Sheri’s behalf, and a study of mine is featured at marker 2:41 (i.e., the national map illustrating what’s happening across the nation; see also “Putting growth and value-added models on the map: A national overview.

Do give this a watch. It’s well worth honoring and respecting Sheri’s achievements, thus far, and especially today.


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