Archive for the ‘Race to the Top’ Category

Seeing teachers as technicians ignores what else they give students: confidence, moral support and inspiration

Spurred by federal policy, many states, including Georgia, want to move to evaluations that consider student progress on tests. But a rising chorus is challenging the reliability of testing to define a good teacher.

Spurred by federal policy, many states, including Georgia, are moving to teacher evaluations that consider student progress on tests. But a rising chorus is challenging the reliance on testing to define a good teacher. (AJC photo)

Frequent blog contributor Peter Smagorinsky is Distinguished Research Professor of English Education at the University of Georgia and recipient of the 2012 Sylvia Scribner Award from the American Educational Research Association for conducting scholarship that has influenced thinking and research of learning and instruction and that represents a significant advancement in the field’s understanding.

Here is a thoughtful piece he wrote on teacher evaluations.

By Peter Smagorinsky

When I was a kid growing up in Fairfax County, Va., my father became head of the school PTA at one point. Among his goals was to institute a merit pay system to reward the school’s best teachers.

Around the house, he’d say, “There’s no one more overpaid than a bad teacher, and …

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New Race to the Top teacher evaluations with strong reliance on test scores begin in 2014-2015

downeyart0726 (Medium)As expected, House Bill 244 passed both the House and the Senate, incorporating the educator evaluation system piloted by Georgia’s Race to the Top districts into state law. With the Senate vote this week, the bill now moves to the governor, who will sign it into law.

As you can tell from reading the bill, there are some vague references to yet-to-be-finalized evaluation details.

The teacher evaluations will now give great weight to student academic growth as measured by testing. Measures of student growth count for at least half an educator’s rating.

The passage won praise from former Washington, D.C., chancellor Michelle Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst. “The overwhelming bipartisan support of House Bill 244 provides a clear example of leaders putting politics aside and doing what’s best for students. By passing this legislation, the Georgia Legislature has sent a strong message to the rest of the country – our kids deserve to have great teachers in public school …

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Obama in Decatur on pre-k: ‘Give all of our kids that chance.’

Here is the text of the Obama speech. The President deviated now and then but this is essentially what he said today in Decatur:

Hello, everybody!  Well, it is great to be in Georgia!  Great to be in Decatur!

I can’t imagine a more romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day — (laughter) — than with all of you, with all the press here.  Actually, Michelle says hello.  She made me promise to get back in time for our date tonight.  r.)  That’s important.  That’s important.  I’ve already got a gift, got the flowers. I was telling folks the flowers are a little easier, though, because I’ve got this Rose Garden.   Lot of people keeping flowers around.

I want to acknowledge a few people who are here — first of all, Congressman Hank Johnson is here.  Where’s Hank?  Your Mayor, Jim Baskett, is here.   Another Mayor you may know — Kasim Reed snuck in here.  I want to acknowledge the Decatur School Board, who I had a chance to meet and has helped to do so much great work around …

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In two-year Race to the Top update, feds express serious concerns with Georgia’s lack of progress on teacher evaluations

Troubling news for Georgia today after the U.S. Education Department issued a progress report citing grave concerns about the state’s Race to the Top progress. Here is a link to the newly released 17-page report.

What has the U.S. DOE concerned is Georgia’s struggles with introducing and implementing a new teacher evaluation, a central piece of  the state’s $400 million Race to the Top grant.

In a press call Thursday, the US DOE said that while most Race to the Top recipients were progressing satisfactorily, they were concerned with the stumbles in Georgia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

“Race to the Top has sparked dramatic changes, and in only the second year of the program we’re seeing those results reach the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Most states have made tremendous strides and met aggressive timelines on work that has the potential to transform public education for years to come. Comprehensive education reform isn’t easy, and …

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Georgia teachers: Prefer to be judged on student work rather than on student test scores or surveys

A survey of Georgia teachers found more support for using student work to judge them than test scores. (AJC file photo)

A survey of Georgia teachers found more support for using student work to judge them than test scores. (AJC file photo)

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators queried its members regarding Georgia’s new teacher evaluation system and found more support for using student work to judge teachers than student test scores or surveys. More than 2,000 teachers responded to the PAGE survey.

Georgia is piloting a new teacher evaluation system that will include principal observations, test scores and student surveys. Race to the Top is funding the development of that new system.

Here is what PAGE found:

The participants covered a range of experience, with 42.5% having 6-15 years of classroom experience and another 38.3% having 16-30 years of experience.

Grade levels were well represented, with 27.7% from K-2, 30.2% from grades 3-5, 23.2% from grades 6-8 and 26.1% with assignments in grades 9-12

When it came to new evaluation system versus the former one, 72.5% of respondents …

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Can we really measure effective teaching? Yes, says new Gates Foundation study.

downeyart0726 (Medium)After three years of research and an investment of $45 million, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation believes it now knows how schools can fairly and reliably measure effective teachers.

While student test scores are part of the solution, scores alone are not enough to gauge how well a teacher is performing, according to the Gates-funded Measures of Effective Teaching Project.

Released Tuesday, the final report from the MET Project says a three-prong approach, multiple classroom observations, student surveys and student growth as measured by  state test scores, provides a good picture of how effective a teacher is. The project found that an accurate observation rating for a teacher requires two or more lessons, each scored by a different certified observer.

The report will likely resonate in Georgia, which is in the midst of rolling out a new teacher evaluation system funded by the state’s Race to the Top grant. Georgia is spending millions on its new evaluation system, which …

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New evaluation system finds less than 1 percent of teachers are ineffective

Under the state’s prior teacher evaluation system, less than 1 percent of teachers were rated as unsatisfactory. So, the state used some of its Race to the Top millions to create and pilot a new evaluation system that was  purportedly more comprehensive and more honest in its assessment of how effective teachers were in their classrooms.

While the old evaluation system rated teachers as satisfactory/unsatisfactory and didn’t judge them by students’ academic progress, the system being piloted contains four different ratings: exemplary, proficient, developing/needs improvement and unsatisfactory.

The AJC has a good story today about the initial findings of the pilot, which the newspaper obtained through an Open Records request.

Even under this new system, less than 1 percent of Georgia teachers were classified as ineffective and one in five earned the top rating of exemplary.

The story notes that identifying and removing bad teachers has taken on increasing importance, with …

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As Legislature gets ready to convene, education leaders offer their wish list. (Yes, money is on it.)

Whenever the General Assembly makes decisions affecting schools, educators complain their views are overlooked.

So, I asked education leaders to tell me what the Legislature should tackle in 2013 and what it should avoid:

Herb Garrett, Georgia School Superintendents Association:

The issue that I wish our returning lawmakers would address is the continued underfunding of our state’s public schools. As you know, we are now about to enter our 12th consecutive year of the infamous “austerity cuts,” and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight. While five other states are mulling the idea of actually adding days to their students’ school years, two-thirds of our school systems are unable to offer even the 180-day school year that used to be considered normal. At some point, we simply must ask if we are doing the right thing by our children.

During this continuing saga, there will be much conversation this session about changes to our “flexibility and accountability” …

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Can we personalize education and persuade students that it’s on them to learn?

The release earlier this week of international benchmark testing scores produced came the usual laments about where the United States stacked up.

As always, Asian countries took the crowns in math and science performance. Among the 60 countries that participated in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the United States ranked 11th in fourth-grade math, 9th in eighth-grade math, 7th in fourth-grade science and 10th in eighth-grade science. (In the original TIMSS from 1995, U.S. eighth-graders ranked 23rd in math among 41 nations.)

But, while America’s standings aren’t bottom-of-the-barrel, the scores trouble forecasters who believe that the economic future belongs to countries that excel in science, technology, engineering and math.

American students still lack the math mastery of other nations. For example, 7 percent of U.S. eighth graders scored at the advanced level in math, compared with 48 percent in Singapore and 47 percent in South Korea.

So, what’s …

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Four Georgia districts strike out today in Race to the Top

While four Georgia districts were finalists in a new Race to the Top grant competition, none of them won.

Fulton County Board of Education, Haralson County School System, Morgan County Charter School System and Rockdale County Public Schools were among 61 applications selected as finalists in the Race to the Top-District competition but were not among the 16 winners announced today.

According to the announcement from the U.S. DOE:

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that 16 applicants—representing 55 school districts across 11 states and D.C.—have won the 2012 Race to the Top-District competition. These districts will share nearly $400 million to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.

“Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these …

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