Two weeks ago, seven members of the 17-member New York State Board of Regents issued a vigorous dissent (included below) charging that the state’s “new and improved” teacher evaluation system, being forced into policy primarily by the state’s Schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch, with the support and prodding of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, is not (at all) research based, research supported, or research wise.
Today, they voted, and voted 11:6 in favor of the state’s new teacher evaluation plan, making state tests worth 50% of a teacher’s total effectiveness rating. A bad day for teachers in New York…
As per a recent post about his on Diane Ravitch’s blog, “Unlike the Governor and the Legislature, these seven members of the Regents have demonstrated respect for research and concern for the consequences of this hastily-passed law on teachers, children, principals, schools, and communities. They are courageous, they are wise, and they are visionaries. They have shown the leadership that our society so desperately needs. All New Yorkers are in their debt.” See also a post written about this by Carol Burris — New York State’s 2013 High School Principal of the Year, among other things — on her newly released “Round the Inkwell” blog here.
If passed, this will 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 50%. See prior posts on just this state on just this blog here, here, and here.
Interesting to point out is the primary research being used to support this new teacher evaluation system going through: The research of Harvard’s Raj Chetty — the Bloomberg Professor of Economics [emphasis added, given former NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “crusade” to, via VAMs, “turn the teaching profession into corporate-world shape”]. Chetty is also the source of much controversy in the area of VAMs and many prior posts on this blog, as well, here, here, and here. The other research being used to support this system going forward is the research of (also) Harvard’s Thomas Kane — Walter H. Gale Professor of Education [no emphasis added as a similar funding connection is not evident, or as blatant] who is also a professor of economics. Kane also directed the $45 million worth of Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) studies for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that have since been used (contrary to many/most of study findings) keep pushing VAMs forward, especially in policy arenas such as these. Kane, too, is the (highly controversial) source of many prior posts on this blog here, here, and here.
Anyhow, the dissident Regents issued the following, very important statement. This is worth a thorough read in and of itself:
Position Paper Amendments to Current APPR Proposed Regulations
BY SIGNATORIES BELOW JUNE 2, 2015
We. the undersigned, have been empowered by the Constitution of the State of New York and appointed by the New York State Legislature to serve as the policy makers and guardians of educational goals for the residents of New York State. As Regents, we are obligated to determine the best contemporary approaches to meeting the educational needs of the state’s three million P-12 students as well as all students enrolled in our post secondary schools and the entire community of participants who use and value our cultural institutions.
We hold ourselves accountable to the public for the trust they have in our ability to represent and educate them about the outcomes of our actions which requires that we engage in ongoing evaluations of our efforts. The results of our efforts must be transparent and invite public comment.
We recognize that we must strengthen the accountability systems intended to ensure our students benefit from the most effective teaching practices identified in research.
After extensive deliberation that included a review of research and information gained from listening tours, we have determined that the current proposed amendments to the APPR system are based on an incomplete and inadequate understanding of how to address the task of continuously improving our educational system.
Therefore, we have determined that the following amendments are essential, and thus required, in the proposed emergency regulations to remedy the current malfunctioning APPR system.
What we seek is a well thought out, comprehensive evaluation plan which sets the framework for establishing a sound professional learning community for educators. To that end we offer these carefully considered amendments to the emergency regulations.
I. Delay implementation of district APPR plans based on April 1, 2015 legislative action until September 1, 2016.
A system that has integrity, fidelity and reliability cannot be developed absent time to review research on best practices. We must have in place a process for evaluating the evaluation system. There is insufficient evidence to support using test measures that were never meant to be used to evaluate teacher performance.
We need a large scale study, that collects rigorous evidence for fairness and reliability and the results need to be published annually. The current system should not be simply repeated with a greater emphasis on a single test score. We do not understand and do not support the elimination of the instructional evidence that defines the teaching, learning, achievement process as an element of the observation process.
Revise the submission date. Allow all districts to submit by November 15, 2015 a letter of intent regarding how they will utilize the time to review/revise their current APPR Plan.
B. Base 80% of teacher evaluation on student performance, leaving the following options for local school districts to select from: keeping the current local measures generating new assessments with performance –driven student activities, (performance-assessments, portfolios, scientific experiments, research projects) utilizing options like NYC Measures of Student Learning, and corresponding student growth measures.
C. Base the teacher observation category on NYSUT and UFT’s scoring ranges using their rounding up process rather than the percentage process.
III. Base no more than 10% of the teacher observation score on the work of external/peer evaluators, an option to be decided at the local district level where the decisions as to what training is needed, will also be made.
IV. Develop weighting algorithms that accommodate the developmental stages for English Language Learners (ELL) and special needs (SWD) students. Testing of ELL students who have less than 3 years of English language instruction should be prohibited.
V. Establish a work group that includes respected experts and practitioners who are to be charged with constructing an accountability system that reflects research and identifies the most effective practices. In addition, the committee will be charged with identifying rubrics and a guide for assessing our progress annually against expected outcomes.
Our recommendations should allow flexibility which allows school systems to submit locally developed accountability plans that offer evidence of rigor, validity and a theory of action that defines the system.
VI. Establish a work group to analyze the elements of the Common Core Learning Standards and Assessments to determine levels of validity, reliability, rigor and appropriateness of the developmental aspiration levels embedded in the assessment items.
No one argues against the notion of a rigorous, fair accountability system. We disagree on the implied theory of action that frames its tenet such as firing educators instead of promoting a professional learning community that attracts and retains talented educators committed to ensuring our educational goals include preparing students to be contributing members committed to sustaining and improving the standards that represent a democratic society.
We find it important to note that researchers, who often represent opposing views about the characteristics that define effective teaching, do agree on the dangers of using the VAM student growth model to measure teacher effectiveness. They agree that effectiveness can depend on a number of variables that are not constant from school year to school year. Chetty, a professor at Harvard University, often quoted as the expert in the interpretation of VAM along with co-researchers Friedman & Rockoff, offers the following two cautions: “First, using VAM for high-stakes evaluation could lead to unproductive responses such as teaching to the test or cheating; to date, there is insufficient evidence to assess the importance of this concern. Second, other measures of teacher performance, such as principal evaluations, student ratings, or classroom observations, may ultimately prove to be better predictors of teachers’ long-term impacts on students than VAMs. While we have learned much about VAM through statistical research, further work is needed to understand how VAM estimates should (or should not) be combined with other metrics to identify and retain effective teachers.”i Linda Darling Hammond agrees, in a Phi Delta Kappan March 2012 article and cautions that “none of the assumptions for the use of VAM to measure teacher effectiveness are well supported by evidence.”ii
We recommend that while the system is under review we minimize the disruption to local school districts for the 2015/16 school year and allow for a continuation of approved plans in light of the phasing in of the amended regulations.
Last year, Vicki Phillips, Executive Director for the Gates Foundation, cautioned districts to move slowly in the rollout of an accountability system based on Common Core Systems and advised a two year moratorium before using the system for high stakes outcomes. Her cautions were endorsed by Bill Gates.
We, the undersigned, wish to reach a collaborative solution to the many issues before us, specifically at this moment, the revisions to APPR. However, as we struggle with the limitations of the new law, we also wish to state that we are unwilling to forsake the ethics we value, thus this list of amendments.
Regents: Kathleen Cashi, Judith Chin, Catherine Collins, *Josephine Finn, Judith Johnson, Beverly L. Ouderkirk, & Betty A. Rosa. *Regent Josephine Finn said: *”I support the intent of the position paper”