Tennessee’s Senator Lamar Alexander to “Fix” No Child Left Behind (NCLB)

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In The Tennessean this week was an article about how Lamar Alexander – the new chairman of the US Senate Education Committee, the current US Senator from Tennessee, and the former US Secretary of Education under former President George Bush Senior – is planning on “fixing” No Child Left Behind (NCLB). See another Tennessean article about this last week as well, here. This is good news, also given this is coming from Tennessee – one of our states to watch given its history of  value-added reforms tied to NCLB tests.

NCLB, even though it has not been reauthorized since 2002 (despite a failed attempt in 2007) is still foundational to current test-based reforms, including those that tie federal funds to the linking of students’ (NCLB) test scores to students’ teachers to measure teacher-level value-added. To date, for example, 42 states have been granted NCLB waivers for not getting 100% of their students to 100% proficiency in mathematics and reading/language arts by 2014, as long as states adopted and implemented federal reforms based on common core tests and began tying test scores to teacher quality using growth/value-added measures. This was in exchange for the federal educational funds on which states also rely.

Well, Lamar apparently believes that this is precisely what needs fixing. “The law has become unworkable,” Alexander said. “States are struggling. As a result, we need to act.”

More specifically, Senator Alexander wants to:

  • take power away from the US Department of Education, which he often refers to as our country’s “national school board.”
  • prevent the US Department of Education from further pressuring schools to adopt certain tests and standards.
  • prevent current US Secretary of Education Duncan from continuing to hold “states over a barrel,” forcing them to do what he has wanted them to do to avoid being labeled failures.
  • “set realistic goals, keep the best portions of the law, and restore to states and communities the responsibility to decide whether schools and teachers are succeeding or failing.” Although, Alexander has still been somewhat neutral regarding the future role of tests.

“Are there too many? Are they redundant? Are they the right tests? I’m open on the question,” Alexander said.

As noted by the journalist of this article, however, this is the biggest concern with this (potentially) big win for education in that “There is broad agreement that students should be tested less, but what agency wants to relinquish the ability to hold teachers, administrators and school districts accountable for the money we [as a public] spend on education?” Current US Secretary of Education Duncan, for example, believes if we don’t continue down his envisioned path, “we [will] turn back the clock on educational progress, 15 years or more.” This from a guy who has built his political career on the fact that educators have made no educational progress; hence, this is the reason we need to hold teachers accountable for the lack of progress thereof.

We shall see how this one goes, I guess.

For an excellent “Dear Lamar” letter, from Lamar Alexander’s former Assistant Secretary of Education who served under Lamar when he was US Secretary of Education under former President Bush Senior, click here. It’s a wonderful letter written by Diane Ravitch; wonderful becuase it includes so many recommendations highlighting that which could be at this potential turning point in federal policy.

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Your Voice Also Needs to Be Heard

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Following up “On Rating The Effectiveness of Colleges of Education Using VAMs” – which is about how the US Department of Education wants teacher training programs to track how college of educations’ teacher graduates’ students are performing on standardized tests (i.e., teacher-level value-added that reflects all the way back to a college of education’s purported quality), the proposal for these new sanctions is now open for public comment.

Click here on Regulations.gov, “Your Voice in Federal Decision-Making” to read more, but also to post any comments you might have (click on the “Comment Now!” button in blue in the upper right hand corner). I encourage you all to post your concerns, as this really is a potential case of things going from bad to worse in the universe of VAMs. The deadline is Monday, February 2, 2015.

I pasted what I submitted below, as taken from an article I published about this in Teachers College Record in 2013:

1. The model posed is inappropriately one-dimensional. More than 50% of college graduates attend more than one higher education institution before receiving a bachelor’s degree (Ewell, Schild, & Paulson, 2003), and approximately 60% of teacher education occurs in general liberal arts and sciences, and other academic departments outside of teacher education. There are many more variables that contribute to teachers’ knowledge by the time they graduate than just the teacher education program (Anrig, 1986; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003).

2. The implied assumptions of the aforementioned linear formula are overly simplistic given the nonrandomness of the teacher candidate population…If teacher candidates who enroll in a traditional teacher education program are arguably different from teacher candidates who enroll in an alternative program, and both groups are compared once they become teachers, one group might have a distinct and unfair advantage over the other…What cannot be overlooked, controlled for, or dismissed from these comparative investigations are teachers’ enduring qualities that go beyond their preparation (Boyd et al., 2006; Boyd, Grossman, Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2007; Harris & Sass, 2007; Shulman, 1988; Wenglinsky, 2002).

3. Teachers are nonrandomly distributed into schools after graduation as well. The type of teacher education program from which a student graduates is highly correlated with the type and location of the school in which the teacher enters the profession (Good et al., 2006; Harris & Sass, 2007; Rivkin, 2007; Wineburg, 2006), especially given the geographic proximity of the program…Without randomly distributing teachers across schools, comparison groups will never be adequately equivalent, as implied in this model, to warrant valid assertions about teacher education quality (Boyd et al., 2006; Good et al., 2006). It should be noted, however, that whether the use of students’ pretest scores and other covariates can account or control for such inter- and intra-classroom variations is still being debated and remains highly uncertain (Ballou, Sanders, & Wright, 2004; Capitol Hill Briefing, 2011; Koedel & Betts, 2010; Kupermintz, 2003; McCaffrey, Lockwood, Koretz, Louis, & Hamilton, 2004; J. Rothstein, 2009; Tekwe et al., 2004).

4. Students are also not randomly placed into classrooms…Students’ innate abilities and motivation levels bias even the most basic examinations in which researchers attempt to link teachers with student learning (Newton et al., 2010; Harris & Sass, 2007; Rivkin, 2007)…the degree to which such systematic errors, often considered measurement biases, [still] impact value-added output is [still] yet highly unsettled (Ballou et al., 2004; Capitol Hill Briefing, 2011; Koedel & Betts, 2010; Kupermintz, 2003; McCaffrey et al., 2004; J. Rothstein, 2009; Tekwe et al., 2004).

5. A student’s performance is also empirically compounded by what teachers learn “on the job” post-graduation via professional development (see, for example, Greenleaf et al., 2011). If researchers are to measure the impact of a teacher education program using student achievement, and graduates have received professional development, mentoring, and enrichment opportunities post-graduation, one must question whether it is feasible to disentangle the impact that professional development, versus teacher education, has on teacher quality and students’ learning over time. Graduates’ opportunities to learn on the job, and the extent to which they take advantage of such opportunities, introduces yet another source of construct irrelevant variance (CIV) into, what seemed to be, the conceptually simple relational formula presented earlier (Good et al., 2006; Harris & Sass, 2007; Rivkin, 2007; Yinger, Daniel, & Lawton, 2007). CIV is generally prevalent when a test measures too many variables, including extraneous and uncontrolled variables that ultimately impact test outcomes and test-based inferences (Haladyna & Downing, 2004) [and the statistics, no matter how sophisticated they might be, cannot control for or factor all of this out].

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Is Combining Different Tests to Measure Value-Added Valid?

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A few days ago, on Diane Ravitch’s blog, a person posted the following comment, that Diane sent to me for a response:

“Diane, In Wis. one proposed Assembly bill directs the Value Added Research Center [VARC] at UW to devise a method to equate three different standardized tests (like Iowas, Stanford) to one another and to the new SBCommon Core to be given this spring. Is this statistically valid? Help!”

Here’s what I wrote in response, that I’m sharing here with you all as this too is becoming increasingly common across the country; hence, it is increasingly becoming a question of high priority and interest:

“We have three issues here when equating different tests SIMPLY because these tests test the same students on the same things around the same time.

First is the ASSUMPTION that all varieties of standardized tests can be used to accurately measure educational “value,” when none have been validated for such purposes. To measure student achievement? YES/OK. To measure teachers impacts on student learning? NO. The ASA statement captures decades of research on this point.

Second, doing this ASSUMES that all standardized tests are vertically scaled whereas scales increase linearly as students progress through different grades on similar linear scales. This is also (grossly) false, ESPECIALLY when one combines different tests with different scales to (force a) fit that simply doesn’t exist. While one can “norm” all test data to make the data output look “similar,” (e.g., with a similar mean and similar standard deviations around the mean), this is really nothing more that statistical wizardry without really any theoretical or otherwise foundation in support.

Third, in one of the best and most well-respected studies we have on this to date, Papay (2010) [in his Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures study] found that value-added estimates WIDELY range across different standardized tests given to the same students at the same time. So “simply” combining these tests under the assumption that they are indeed similar “enough” is also problematic. Using different tests (in line with the proposal here) with the same students at the same time yields different results, so one cannot simply combine them thinking they will yield similar results regardless. They will not…because the test matters.”

See also: Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., Ravitch, D., Rothstein, R., Shavelson, R. J., & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute.

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A Pragmatic Position on VAMs

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Bennett Mackinney, a local administrator and former doctoral student in one of my research methods courses, recently emailed me asking the following: “Is a valid and reliable VAM theoretically possible? If so, is the issue that no state is taking the time and energy to develop it correctly? Or, is it just impossible? I need to land on a pragmatic position on VAMs. Part of the problem is that for the past decade all of us over here at Title I schools [i.e., schools with disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students] have been saying “[our state test] is not fair…. our kids come to us with so many issues… you need to measure us on growth not final performance….”  I feel like VAM advocates will come to us and say, “fine, here’s a model that will meet your request to be fairly measured on growth…”

I responded with the following: “In my research-based opinion, we are searching and always will be searching for a type of utopia in this area, one that will likely be out of our research forever UNLESS these PARC, etc. tests come through with miracles [which, as history is likely to repeat itself, is highly unlikely]. However, at the end of the day, [we] can be confident that this is better than the snapshot measures used before (I.e., before growth measures), particularly for analyses of large-scale trends, but certainly not for teacher evaluation and especially not for high-stakes teacher evaluation purposes. Regardless of the purpose, though, NEVER should [VAMs] be used in isolation of other measures and NEVER should they be used without a great deal of human judgment re: what the VAM estimates in reality and in context demonstrate, in light of what they can and just cannot do.”

For more on this, see my prior post about the position statement recently released by the American Statistical Association (ASA), or the actual statement itself.

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A Really Old Oldie but Still Very Relevant Goodie

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Thanks to a colleague in Florida, I recently read an article about the “Problems of Teacher Measurementpublished in 1917 in the Journal of Educational Psychology
by B. F. Pittenger. As mentioned, it’s always interesting to take a historical approach (hint here to policymakers), and in this case a historical vies via the perspective of an author on the same topic of interest to followers here through an article he wrote almost 100 years ago. Let’s see how things have changed, or more specifically, how things have not changed.

Then, “they” had the same goals we still have today, if this isn’t telling in and of itself. From 1917: “The current efforts of experimentallists in the field of teacher measurement are only attempts to extract from the consciousness of principals and supervisors these personal criteria of good teaching, and to assemble and condense them into a single objective schedule, thoroughly tested, by means of which every judge of teaching may make his [sic] estimates more accurate, and more consistent with those of other judges. There is nothing new about the entire movement except the attempt to objectify what already exists subjectively, and to unify and render universal what is now the scattered property of many men.”

Policymakers continue to invest entirely on an ideal known then also to be (possibly forever) false. From 1917: “There are those who believe that the movement toward teacher measurement is a monstrous innovation, which threatens the holiest traditions of the educational profession by putting a premium upon mechanical methodology…the phrase ‘teacher-measurement,’ itself, no doubt, is in part responsible for this misunderstanding, as it suggests a mathematical exactness of procedure which is clearly impossible in this field [emphasis added]. Teacher measurement will probably never become more than a carefully controlled process of estimating a teacher’s individual efficiency…[This is]…sufficiently convenient and euphonious, and has now been used widely enough, to warrant its continuation.”

As for the methods “issues” in 1917? “However sympathetic one may be with the general plan of devising schedules for teacher measurement, it is difficult to justify many of the methods by which these investigators have attacked the problem. For example, all of them appear to have set up as their goal the construction of a schedule which can be applied to any teacher, whether in the elementary or high school, and irrespective of the grade or subject in which his teaching is being done. “Teaching is teaching,” is the evident assumption, “and the same wherever found.” But it may reasonably be maintained that different qualities and methods, at least in part, are requisite…In so far as the criteria of good teaching are the same in these very diverse situations, it seems probable that the comparative importance to be attached to each must differ.” Sound familiar?

On the use of multiple measures, as currently in line with the current measurement standards of the profession, from 1917: “students of teacher measurement appear to have erred in that they have attempted too much. The writer is strongly of the opinion that, for the present at least, efforts to construct a schedule for teacher measurement should be confined to a single one of the three planes which have been enumerated. Doubtless in the end we shall want to know as much as possible about all three; and to combine in our final estimate of a teacher’s merit all attainable facts as to her equipment, her classroom procedure, and the results which she achieves. But at present we should do wisely to project our investigations upon one plane at a time, and to make each of these investigations as thorough as it is possible to make it. Later, when we know the nature and comparative value of the various items necessary to adequate judgment upon all planes, there will be time and opportunity for putting together the different schedules into one.” One-hundred years later…

On prior teachers’ effects: “we must keep constantly in mind the fact that the results which pupils achieve in any given subject are by no means the product of the labor of any single teacher. Earlier teachers, other contemporary teachers, and the environment external to the school, are all factors in determining pupil efficiency in any school subject. It has been urged that the influence of these complicating factors can be materially reduced by measuring only the change in pupil achievement which takes place under the guidance of a single teacher. But it must be remembered that this process only reduces these complications; it does not and cannot eliminate them.”

Finally, the supreme to be sought, then and now? “The plane of results (in the sense of changes wrought in pupils) would be the ideal plane upon which to build an estimate of a teacher’s individual efficiency, if it were possible (1) to measure all of the results of teaching, and (2) to pick out from the body of measured results any single teacher’s contribution. At present these desiderata are impossible to attain [emphasis added]…[but]…let us not make the mistake of assuming that the results that we can measure are the only results of teaching, or even that they are the most important part.”

Likewise, “no one teacher can be given the entire blame or credit for the doings of the pupils in her classroom…the ‘classroom process’ should be regarded as including the activities of both teachers and pupils.” In the end, “The promotion, discharge, or constructive criticism of teachers cannot be reduced to mathematical formulae. The proper function of a scorecard for teacher measurement is not to substitute such a formula for a supervisor’s personal judgment, but to aid him in discovering and assembling all the data upon which intelligent judgment should be based.”

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My Book Listed As One of the Five “Best Education Books of 2014″

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Following up on a recent post about A (Great) Review of My Book on Value-Added Models (VAMs), my book was also recently listed as one of the five “Best Education Books of 2014.”

For those of you who have not read it, please do borrow or pick up a copy as the research and research-based information inside it can, should, and hopefully will serve critical in the fight against so many of the malformed policies still being perpetuated across the country as based on VAMs for increased teacher accountability.

Here are is the list of the top five “Best Education Books of 2014” in case you all are interested in reading (any of) the others.

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Doug Harris on the (Increased) Use of Value-Added in Louisiana

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Thus far, there have been four total books written about value-added models (VAMs) in education: one (2005) scholarly, edited book that was published prior to our heightened policy interest in VAMs; one (2012) that is less scholarly but more of a field guide on how to use VAM-based data; my recent (2014) scholarly book; and another recent (2011) scholarly book written by Doug Harris. Doug is an Associate Professor of Economics at Tulane in Louisiana. He is also, as I’ve written prior, “a ‘cautious’ but quite active proponent of VAMs.”

There is quite an interesting history surrounding these latter two books, given Harris and I have quite different views on VAMs and their potentials in education. To read more about our differing opinions you can read a review of Harris’s book I wrote for Teachers College Record, and another review a former doctoral student and I wrote for Education Review, to which he responded in his (and his book’s) defense, to which we also responded (with a “rebuttal to a rebuttal, as you will“). What was ultimately titled a “Value-Added Smackdown” in a blog post featured in Education Week, let’s just say, got a little out of hand, with the “smackdown” ending up focusing almost solely around our claim that Harris believed, and we disagreed, with the notion that “value-added [was and still is] good enough to be used for [purposes of] educational accountability.” We asserted then, and I continue to assert now, that “value-added is not good enough to be attaching any sort of consequences much less any such decisions to its output. Value-added may not even be good enough even at the most basic, pragmatic level.”

Harris continues to disagree…

Just this month he released a technical report to his state’s school board (i.e., the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)), in which he (unfortunately) evidenced that he has not (yet) changed his scholarly stripes….even given the most recent research about the increasingly apparent, methodological, statistical, and pragmatic limitations (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here), and the recent position statement released by the American Statistical Association underscoring the key points being evidenced across (most) educational research studies. See also the 24 articles published about VAMs in all American Educational Research Association (AERA) Journals here, along with open-access links to the actual articles.

In this report Harris makes “Recommendations to Improve the Louisiana System of
Accountability for Teachers, Leaders, Schools, and Districts,” the main one being that the state focus “more on student learning or growth—[by] specifically, calculating the predicted test scores and rewarding schools based on how well students do compared with those predictions.” The recommendations in more detail, in support, and that also pertain to our interests here include the following five (of six recommendations total):

1. “Focus more on student growth [i.e., value-added] in order to better measure the performance of schools.” Not that there is any research evidence in support, but “The state should [also] aim for a 50-­‐50 split between growth and achievement levels [i.e., not based on value-added].” Doing this at the school accountability level “would also improve alignment with teacher accountability, which includes student growth [i.e., teacher-level value-added] as 50% of the evaluation.”

2. “Reduce uneven incentives and avoid “incentive cliffs” by increasing [school performance score] points more gradually as students move to higher performance levels,” notwithstanding the fact that no research to date has evidenced that such incentives incentivize much of anything intended, at least in education. Regardless, and despite the research, “Giving more weight to achievement growth [will help to create] more even [emphasis added] incentives (see Recommendation #1).”

3. Related, “Create a larger number of school letter grades [to] create incentives for all schools to improve,” by adding +/- extensions to the school letter grades, because “[i]f there were more categories, the next [school letter grade] level would always be within reach….provide. This way all schools will have an incentive to improve, whereas currently only those who are at the high end of the B-­‐D categories have much incentive.” If only the real world of education worked as informed by simple idioms, like those simplifying the theories supporting incentives (e.g., the carrot just in front of the reach of the mule will make the mule draw the cart harder).

5. “Eliminate the first over-­ride provision in the teacher accountability system, which automatically places teachers who are “Ineffective” on either measure in the “Ineffective” performance category.” With this recommendation, I fully agree, as Louisiana is one of the most extreme states when it comes to attaching consequences to problematic data, although I don’t think Harris would agree with my “problematic” classification. But this would mean that “teachers who appear highly effective on one measure could not end up in the “Ineffective” category,” which for this state would certainly be a step in the right direction. Although Harris’s assertion that doing this would also help prevent principals from saving truly ineffective teachers (e.g., by countering teachers’ value-added scores with artificially inflated or allegedly fake observational scores), on behalf of principals as professionals, I find insulting.

6. “Commission a full-­scale third party evaluation of the entire accountability system focused on educator responses and student outcomes.” With this recommendation, I also fully agree under certain conditions: (1) the external evaluator is indeed external to the system and has no conflicts of interest, including financial (even prior to payment for the external review), (2) that which the external evaluator is to investigate is informed by the research in terms of the framing of the questions that need to be asked, (3) as also recommended by Harris, that perspectives of those involved (e.g., principals and teachers) are included in the evaluation design, and (4) all parties formally agree to releasing all data regardless of what (positive or negative) the external evaluator might evidence and find.

Harris’s additional details and “other, more modest recommendations” include the following:

  • Keep “value-­‐added out of the principal [evaluation] measure,” but the state should consider calculating principal value-­‐added measures and issuing reports that describe patterns of variation (e.g., variation in performance overall [in] certain kinds of schools) both for the state as a whole and specific districts.” This reminds me of the time that value-added measures for teachers were to be used only for descriptive purposes. While noble as a recommendation, we know from history what policymakers can do once the data are made available.
  • “Additional Teacher Accountability Recommendations” start on page 11 of this report, although all of these (unfortunately, again) focus on value-added model twists and tweaks (e.g., how to adjust for ceiling effects for schools and teachers with disproportionate numbers of gifted/high-achieving students, how to watch and account for bias) to make the teacher value-added model even better.

Harris concludes that “With these changes, Louisiana would have one of the best accountability systems in the country. Rather than weakening accountability, these recommendations [would] make accountability smarter and make it more likely to improve students’ academic performance.” Following these recommendations would “make the state a national leader.” While Harris cites 20 years of failed attempts in Louisiana and across all states across the country as the reason America’s public education system has not improved its public school students’ academic performance, I’d argue it’s more like 40 years of failed attempts because Harris’s (and so many others’) accountability-bent logic is seriously flawed.

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Those Who Can, Teach—Those Who Don’t Understand Teaching, Make Policy

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There is an old adage that many in education have undoubtedly (and unfortunately) encountered at some point in their education careers: that “those who can, do—those who can’t, teach.” For decades now, researchers, including Dr. Thomas Good who is the author of an article published in 2014 in Teachers College Record, have evidenced that, contrary to this belief, teachers can do, and some teachers do better than others. Dr. Good points out in his historical analysis, What Do We Know About How Teachers Influence Student Performance on Standardized Tests: And Why Do We Know so Little About Other Student Outcomes? that teachers matter and that teachers vary in their effects on student achievement. He provides evidence from several decades of scholarly research on teacher effectiveness to show that teachers do make a difference in student achievement as measured by large-scale standardized achievement tests.

Dr. Good is also quick to acknowledge that, despite the reiterated notion that teachers matter and thus should possess (and continue to be trained in) effective teaching qualities (e.g., be well versed in their content knowledge, have strong classroom management skills, hold appropriate expectations, etc.), “fad-driven” education reform policies (e.g., teacher evaluation polices that are based in large part on student achievement growth or teachers’ “value-added”) have gone too far and have actually overvalued the effects of teachers. He explains that simplistic reform efforts, such as Race to the Top and VAM-based teacher evaluation systems, overvalue teacher effects in terms of the actual levels of impact teachers have on student achievement. It has been well documented that teacher effects can only explain, on average, between 10-20% of the variation in student achievement scores (this will be further explored in forthcoming posts). This means that 80-90% of student achievement scores are the result of other factors that are completely outside of the teachers’ control (e.g., poverty, parental support, etc.). Regardless, new teacher evaluation systems that rely so heavily on VAM estimates ignore this very important fact.

Dr. Good also emphasizes that teaching is a complex practice and that by attempting to isolate the variables that make up effective teaching and focusing on each one separately only oversimplifies the complexities of the teaching-achievement relationship. For one thing, VAMs and other popular evaluative practices, such as classroom observations, inhibit one’s ability to recognize the patterns of effective teaching and instead promote a simplistic view of just some of the individual variables that actually matter when thinking about effective teaching. He provides the following example:

Many observational systems call for the demonstration of high expectations. However…expectations can be too high or too low, and the issue is for teachers to demonstrate appropriate expectations. How then does a classroom observer know and code if expectations are appropriate both for individual students and for the class as a whole?

The bottom line is that, like teaching, understanding the impact of teachers on student learning is very complex. Teachers matter, and they should be trained, treated, and valued as such. However, they are one of many factors that impact student learning and achievement over time, and this very critical point cannot be (though currently is) ignored by policy. VAM-based policies, particularly, place an exorbitantly over-estimated value on the impact of teachers on student achievement scores.

Post contributed by Jessica Holloway-Libell

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The Passing of John Goodlad – University of Washington

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IGoodlad-Profile-200x275t saddens me to announce, for those of you who do not already know, that the wonderful educational scholar and person, Dr. John Goodlad, passed away last week at the age of 94 due to cancer.

John Goodlad was Professor Emeritus and co-founder of the Center for Educational Renewal at the University of Washington as well as President of the Institute for Educational Inquiry in Seattle. While he had previously held faculty positions at Emory University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California at Los Angeles, Goodlad first taught in a one-room, eight-grade school house in British Columbia, Canada. His experiences as a classroom teacher encouraged his later educational research examining grading procedures, curriculum inquiry, the functions of schooling, and teacher education.

To read an article just published about Dr. Goodlad’s passing in The New York Times click here. To read an article released a few days prior to that and released by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) click here.

I had the pleasure of getting to know John when I interviewed him about on his houseboat outside of Seattle three years ago, about not only his scholarly accomplishments but also his extraordinary professional and personal life and history. To view a short video of this interview, please see this three minute YouTube clip of the interview highlights here. To view more, including the full interview, his photo gallery, reflections of his family and friends, etc. please visit his page on the the Inside the Academy website here.

Some of the highlights from the interview as they relates to the purposes of this blog here follow:

The first was when Goodlad expressed his deep disappointment in schools today that focus almost exclusively on the direct impact of teachers on student learning. He argued that the functions of schooling also include interactions with families and the zeitgeist or spirit of a school, that matter excessively more than that which can be captured on a test, and thereafter used to measure a teacher’s or a school’s effectiveness.

Second, and citing more than 100 years of research, he was convinced that grade retention (e.g., when students did not past certain tests) was detrimental to students both academically and socially; hence, through most of his career Goodlad served as an advocate for nongraded elementary schools.

Finally, when recognized for his groundbreaking study of more than 1,000 schools across the United States in A Place Called School (1984), Dr. John Goodlad recalled an article about his book featured on the front page of the New York Times. Despite his message of optimism and improvement, Goodlad explained that most reporters contacted him after publication, requesting more “dirt” on schools. Seemingly little has changed in this regard.

Carefully noting the need for educational renewal rather than reform, Goodlad described collaboration among teachers and parents as the most meaningful way to improve American schools. Praising these stakeholders as vital to the renewal process, Goodlad insisted that “agency must be closest to the child.”

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Policy Idiocy in New York: Teacher Value-Added to Trump All Else

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A Washington Post post, recently released by Valerie Strauss and written by award-winning (e.g., New York’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year) Carol Burris of South Side High School in New York, details how in New York their teacher evaluation system is “going from bad to worse.”

It seems that New York state’s education commissioner – John King – recently resigned, thanks to a new job working as a top assistant directly under US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. But that is not where the “going from bad to worse” phrase applies.

Rather, it seems the state’s Schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch, with the support and prodding of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, wants to take what was the state’s teacher evaluation system requirement that 20% of an educator’s evaluation be based on “locally selected measures of achievement,” to a system whereas teachers’ value-added as based on growth on the state’s (Common Core) standardized test scores will be set at 40%.

In addition, she (along with the support of prodding of Cuomo) is pushing for a system in which these scores would “trump all,” and in which a teacher rated as ineffective in the growth score portion would be rated ineffective overall. A teacher with two ineffective ratings would “not return to the classroom.”

This is not only “going from bad to worse,” but going from bad to idiotic.

All of this is happending despite the research studies that, by this point, should have literally buried such policy initiatives. Many of these research studies are highlighted on this blog here, here, here, and here, and are also summarized in two position statements on value-added models (VAMs) released by the American Statistical Association last April (to read about their top 10 concerns/warnings, click here) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) last month (to read about their top 6 concerns/warnings, click here).

All of this is also happening despite the fact that this flies in the face of the 2014 “Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing” also released this year by the leading professional organizations in the area of educational measurement, including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), American Psychological Association (APA), and National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME).

And all of this is happening despite the fact that teachers and principals in this state of New York already, and democratically, created sound evaluation plans to which the majority had already agreed, given the system they created to meet state and federal policy mandates was much more defensible, and much less destructive.

I, for one, find this policy idiocy infuriating.

To read the full post, one that is definitely worth a full read, click here.

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