November 29, 2011

Education must-read

From the NY Times (via an e-mail from a teaching colleague): Principals Protest Role of Testing in Evaluations.

President Obama and his signature education program, Race to the Top, along with John B. King Jr., the New York State commissioner of education, deserve credit for spurring what is believed to be the first principals’ revolt in history.

As of last night, 658 principals around the state had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.

Their complaints are many: the evaluation system was put together in slapdash fashion, with no pilot program; there are test scores to evaluate only fourth-through-eighth-grade English and math teachers; and New York tests are so unreliable that they had to be rescaled radically last year, with proficiency rates in math and English dropping 25 percentage points overnight.

Why should this be of local (Delaware) interest? If you're a First Stater the answer is obvious: Delaware was one of the first states to get Race to the Top federal funds. And a "race" it has been: With those funds has come a rapidity of ludicrous initiatives, many -- most -- of which are noted in this article about New York State. Administrators, who've evaluated countless teachers through the years, are required to attend "training" sessions to ... evaluate teachers. And then there's the so-called "experts":

The trainers at these sessions, which are paid for by state and federal grants, have explained that they’re figuring out the new evaluation system as they go. To make the point, they’ve been showing a YouTube video with a fictional crew of mechanics who are having the time of their lives building an airplane in midair.

The article goes on to state that the above “was supposed to be funny, but the room went silent ... these are people’s livelihoods we’re talking about.” Indeed! These evaluation systems -- admittedly established "on the fly" -- will "judge" whether teachers and administrators are doing their job "adequately."

And it certainly seems what has happened here in the Diamond State has also happened in NY State:

She (Katie Zahedi, principal of Linden Avenue Middle School in Red Hook in Dutchess County) said one good thing about the new evaluation system was that it had united teachers, principals and administrators in their contempt for the state education department.

As I've stated here numerous times, I don't know of any teacher who has a problem with a fair evaluation system. As previously alluded to, Race to the Top is aptly named -- states are racing against the clock to get whatever assessment system they can cobble together ASAP. And you can see the results of this in the first blockquote above. If states won't take the time to come up with fair and sensible evaluation systems, then with all of this cash being dropped in their laps, why not take a few master teachers from each subject area and pay them to, say, three times a year visit the classrooms of district teachers for the latter's evaluations? The obvious benefit of this is that not only would these evaluators be experienced teachers, they also know the subject area as well. Most administrators that have traditionally evaluated teachers only know one subject area well. And you know what? I bet this idea'd be a heck of a lot cheaper.

Lastly, if this miasma of confusion doesn't cause the NEA, ATF and many teachers in general to rethink their lock-step/no questions asked support of Democrats and the Democratic Party, then I don't know what will. George W. Bush was blasted by these folks for No Child Left Behind, but Obama's initiative is NCLB on steroids.

Posted by Hube at November 29, 2011 05:00 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

"Administrators, who've evaluated countless teachers through the years, are required to attend "training" sessions to ... evaluate teachers."

It's one thing if they're reteaching the administrators on how to sit in a room and see if a teacher is any good. It's another if they're trying to teach complex and rigorous statistical evaluation systems to a bunch of people with degrees in elementary education or administration. The latter is the hard part.

One of the major problems with this emphasis on testing is that, unless you control for a student's past performance, administrators can bestow huge raises on their favorites just by giving them the best kids.

Posted by: Jeff the Baptist at November 29, 2011 05:13 PM

They weren't being trained on the statistical system. As far as I know, no one has even been told the statistical model they are using because it hasn't been developed yet. They were being trained in how to observe teachers and record data....

Posted by: Paul at December 2, 2011 12:08 PM