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New Jersey Triples Weight of Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations

This method has been debunked by the American Statistical Association and the American Educational Research Association. It has been in use in Colorado and in many states for five years without producing any results.

This is faith-based policy.

http://www.nj.com/education/2016/08/nj_parcc_tests_teacher_evaluations.html

The only sensible aspect of this change is that it counts only for teachers who teach the tested subjects in the tested grades. In neighboring New York and in other states, this discredited method applies to all teachers, and they are judged by the scores of students they didn’t teach in subjects they don’t teach.

In New York, an outstanding fourth grade teacher, Sheri Lederman, sued the state after receiving a low rating. The judge ruled that the rating system was “arbitrary and capricious.” For now, the rating system is in abeyance. At some point the Regrnts and Legislature will have to clarify how this ruling affects state law.

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Ch. V, Sec. II

Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns; to encourage private societies and public institutions, rewards and immunities, for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, good humor, and all social affections, and generous sentiments among the people.

–John Adams, 1779

Why Are Teachers Burning Out?

By Peter Greene, Curmudgucation

It has been half a year since Campbell Brown took over the LA School Report, but the site still occasionally publishes something that's not bunk. Reader Bill Spangler brought this next piece to my attention, and it's worth a look.

"Why Teachers Are Burning Out" is the second in a five-part series about teacher turnover. The first piece in the series looked at how high the LA turnover is and what the costs are, and managed to do so without suggesting that this is actually a good thing or it would be helped by removing tenure. The series is being written by Jane Mayer, a former teacher with both public and charter schools in LA, and Jesse Soza, a former teacher who did a dissertation on origins of teacher dissatisfaction and turnover.

The second entry is actually pretty short and clear and I'm not inclined to argue with it. After surveying some data and experts (including teacher workforce guru Richard Ingersoll), the writers move to a pretty simple statement of the issue:

Could it really be so simple that all teachers need to stay in the classroom is to feel heard, respected and empowered?

Yes.

When there is a workforce that is intelligent, well-educated, compassionate and committed to service, the best way we can honor them is to trust them to do their jobs. Trust them to teach what needs to be taught, trust their experiences in the classroom are valuable sources of information, trust that they are experts at teaching.

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Long Island Superintendent Questions Standardized Testing

from Diane Ravitch's blog

Michael Hynes is a veteran superintendent of schools in New York. His district–Patchogue-Medford– is one of those where about half the students opted out of state testing. He has a better vision for education than that of New York State or the federal government.

He writes:

Public Education and what it stands for has been taking a beating not only in New York but across this great nation for far too long. It is my belief that the people who think they know all the answers (policy makers and corporate reformers who are non-educators) are getting in the way of the leaders who understand what our students truly need and deserve.

There is no better time than right now since there is a four year moratorium in New York related to the development of new standards, teacher/principal evaluations and state assessments. Now is the time for our school leaders to have a collective voice about a number of items we have solutions to.

Nobody likes to live in regret….my biggest fear is ten years from now, history will question why school leaders didn’t push back or voice their concerns against the agenda of changing public education. Now is the time to have our collective voices known. A compendium of our ideas and opinions will be sent to the Board of Regents, Commissioner of Education, the heads of the Senate and Assembly and our Governor. It is my hope to have this information ready for the public by November.

Here is a letter that was sent to every NY Superintendent:

Read his letter...

New Study: “charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings”

Charter Schools and Labor Market Outcomes ∗ Will Dobbie Roland G. Fryer

Princeton University and NBER Harvard University and NBER July 2016

Abstract

We estimate the impact of charter schools on early-life labor market outcomes using admin- istrative data from Texas. We find that, at the mean, charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings. No Excuses charter schools increase test scores and four-year college enrollment, but have a small and statistically insignificant impact on earnings, while other types of charter schools decrease test scores, four-year college enrollment, and earn- ings. Moving to school-level estimates, we find that charter schools that decrease test scores also tend to decrease earnings, while charter schools that increase test scores have no discernible impact on earnings. In contrast, high school graduation effects are predictive of earnings effects throughout the distribution of school quality. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of what might explain our set of facts.

Read the study...

Survey of Teachers Shows Negative Impact of PARCC Testing

Here is the discouraging, but not surprising, findings:

Middlesex County Education Association Releases Findings of First-Time Survey of Teachers After PARCC Testing: Finds Significant Problems

June 2016

Some 1285 Middlesex County teachers and school professionals voluntarily and anonymously participated in a survey regarding the impact of the PARCC standardized test on students, schools, and instruction. In the most comprehensive survey conducted in New Jersey to date, the results showed serious issues for the new testing regimen. The major findings of the survey include:

• Feedback from the test was significantly delayed or not distributed to teachers.
• Conditions under which the PARCC test was taken draw into question the validity of the results.
• PARCC and related test preparation have negatively impacted many students and raised concerns for many parents.
• The new test is a significant drain of instruction time and a disruption to classes.
• As a result of the PARCC test, students have limited access to library media centers and computers as well as special services and programs.
• The testing/evaluation environment has had a negative impact on teachers and staff.

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What the MA Democratic Committee Said about the Charter Issue

Two days ago, the Massachusetts Democratic Committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing Question 2, which seeks to lift the cap on charter schools.

Massachusetts teacher and daily reader Christine Langhoff expands on my early report (which she kindly sent to me as soon as the resolution passed). Thanks to Christine, I was able to circulate the good news before the daily press. It is kind of amusing seeing the complaint by the representative of DFER, the hedge fund managers’ group. Hedge funds are not generally viewed as champions of those without power; they lack numbers, but they are loaded with money and power. Parents and educators anticipate that the hedge funds and corporate interests will pour close to $20 million into their campaign for Question 2. Supporters of public schools can’t match the dollars, but they can knock on every door and alert every parent that the real goal of this deceptive campaign is privatization, not helping public schools.

She writes:

On Tuesday evening, August 16, the Massachusetts State Democratic Committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution, by voice vote, in opposition to Ballot Question #2, which would eliminate the cap on the number of charter schools permitted in the Commonwealth. Here is part of the text of the resolution, which was offered by Steve Tolman, President of the MA AFL-CIO:

Democratic State Committee Resolution Regarding Question 2

WHEREAS, the Massachusetts Democratic Party platform states that “Massachusetts Democrats are committed to investing in public education”; and

WHEREAS, the national Democratic Party platform states that charter schools “should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools”; and

WHEREAS, more than $400 million in taxpayer money was diverted to charter schools statewide last year from local school districts, forcing cuts to programs that families and students value; and

WHEREAS, charter schools typically serve far fewer special needs students, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students than the traditional public school districts they are located in and use hyper-disciplinary policies and suspensions for minor infractions to push out students; and

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Vermont State Board of Education responds to the ESSA proposed rules

Dear Secretary King,

The Vermont State Board of Education thanks you for the opportunity to respond to the ESSA proposed rules. Our Board is proud to represent a state where the people support a strong state funding system, enjoy schools that foster high student performance and register narrow equity gaps as compared with the nation. Nevertheless, the opportunity gap is our most pressing concern and is the number one goal in our strategic plan.

With these traditions and values in mind, we have strong concerns and reservations about ESSA. Fundamentally, if we are to close the achievement gap, it is imperative that we substantively address the underlying economic and social disparities that characterize our nation, our communities and our schools. With two-thirds of the score variance attributable to outside of school factors, test scores gaps measure the health of our society more than the quality of the schools.

Consequently, the continuation of a test-based, labeling and “assistance” model (broadly seen as punishment) has not only proven ineffective, but has had a corrosive effect on the confidence of the people. The encouragement of privatization has been harmful to local democracy, has further segregated a too fragmented nation and has diluted rather than focused valuable resources.

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Educators, Not MBAs, Make Brookline Schools Great

As Brookline parents, we know the School Committee members are all honorable people.  They are our neighbors and friends. Yet thoughtful citizens have a right and duty to question their agenda. It is not necessarily a problem that there are three corporate MBAs on the Committee, and only one schoolteacher.  It is not necessarily a problem that two of those MBAs work for Bridgespan (Bain & Company). It isn’t even necessarily a problem to bring corporate thinking to the difficulties facing our schools. A diversity of perspectives is valuable.

But it might be a problem.  Brookline schools didn’t become great because business thinkers drove them.  They didn’t become great because they were measured, analyzed, tested, and corporatized.  They actually became great because of creative leadership at the schools, excellent and committed teachers, and a community that supported and funded them.  We still have much of that, but we may lose it if we continue to subject our schools, teachers, and students to trendy testing and analytic demands.

One example: some School Committee members believe that new measures of assessment and incentive will help close the ‘achievement gap.’ But there is abundant social science research (see 2014 NEA Report on Teacher Diversity) to suggest that achievement gaps close most significantly when teachers come from the same backgrounds, ethnicity, and/or gender as the students they are teaching.  Thus, as in many school-related things, closing the achievement gap will require deep, creative, soul-searching work, work that’s best left in the hands of experienced educators.

Democratic Process Challenged in Pittsburgh Schools

Don't Let Big Money and Sold-Out Media Ruin Pittsburgh's Progress

by Jon Parker

I’ve grappled for a few weeks with Pittsburgh’s superintendent dilemma on a number of fronts. I’ll assume that my readers are basically familiar with the situation, but here are the Sparknotes.

Chapter 1: Pittsburgh has a democratically elected school board.

Chapter 2: Pittsburgh’s citizens vote for pro-public education candidates.

Chapter 3: A+ Schools’ (a.k.a. Bill Gates’ employee) candidates lose.

Chapter 4: A+ Schools doesn’t know what it feels like to lose and becomes upset.

Chapter 5: Pittsburgh’s democratically elected school board selects a pro-public schools superintendent without allowing A+ Schools to railroad the process.

Chapter 6: A+ Schools becomes more upset and elicits the support of local media in a witch hunt against the new superintendent.

So that’s where we are. I’ll admit I don’t envy the school board in making its decision, not because the decision is unclear, but because the board is going to have to answer to media outlets and rich, powerful foundations that have already revealed their intentions.

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