Archive for the ‘Teachers’ Category

Bill Gates: We’re fumbling evaluations when we rate teachers on how students skip

downeyart0401In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Gates says there should be a fairer way to evaluate teachers. While he is all for accountability, Gates cautions against using student test scores as the primary basis for making decisions about firing, promoting and compensating teachers.

Here is an excerpt: (Please read full piece before commenting.)

Efforts are being made to define effective teaching and give teachers the support they need to be as effective as possible. But as states and districts rush to implement new teacher development and evaluation systems, there is a risk they’ll use hastily contrived, unproven measures. One glaring example is the rush to develop new assessments in grades and subjects not currently covered by state tests. Some states and districts are talking about developing tests for all subjects, including choir and gym, just so they have something to measure.

In one Midwestern state, for example, a 166-page Physical Education Evaluation Instrument holds …

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Alfie Kohn on APS cheating scandal: ‘What if we gave a test and nobody came?’

testing (Medium)I interviewed education advocate and writer Alfie Kohn a while back. You can read the 2011 interview here.

The APS cheating scandal was in the news at the time, and Kohn told me:

The real cheating scandal that has been going on for years is that kids are being cheated out of meaningful learning by focusing on test scores. Standardized tests like the CRCT measure what matters least. The more you know about education, the less likely you would ever be to measure teachers, schools or kids based on test scores.

I wondered what Kohn, author of “The Case Against Standardized Testing” and other books, thought about the indictments Friday of former APS school chief Beverly Hall and 34 others.

I asked him a few questions for an editorial I am writing for the print AJC.

Here are his answers in full:

Standardized tests are lousy measures of thinking. They assess some combination of (a) family wealth and (b) how much time has been diverted from real learning in order to make kids better …

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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 …

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Instant heat in response to NRA study calling for armed officers and gun-carrying staff in schools

tb1605There are many passionate responses from education leaders today to recommendations from a National Rifle Association- sponsored study that schools hire armed security officers and allow trained staff to carry weapons to prevent another Newtown tragedy by reducing response time. The recommendations were released at a press conference today.

Here is a statement from Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund:

“Why is the NRA afraid of the truth? The truth is there is no evidence that armed guards or police officers in schools make children safer. Columbine High School had an armed guard, and Virginia Tech had a full campus police force.

Today’s report is nothing more than a continuation of the NRA’s attempts to prey on America’s fears, saturate our schools with more guns and turn them into armed fortresses. It must be soundly rejected.

It is long past time for us to protect child safety instead of guns. We must not allow the gun lobby to enrich gun …

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Poison seeds: The bitter harvest of the APS cheating scandal

downeyart0401In 2009, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education featured Atlanta’s Parks Middle School on its annual bus tour of high-achieving schools, and I joined the visit. I arrived early in my own car, beating the bus and getting a chance to chat with students for an hour.

The enthusiastic students expressed pride in their school, which was decorated with banners announcing its awards and distinctions. And there were many.

In 2006, Parks Middle made adequate yearly progress and surpassed Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall’s even more ambitious targets. That same year, the percentage of eighth-graders who passed the math section of the CRCT rose from 24 percent to 86 percent. In 2008, Parks earned national accolades after becoming Atlanta’s only middle school to meet all its academic targets.

Over the weekend, I dug into my old files — a box in my closet — for my notebook from Parks. Among the quick observations I had jotted down: “Kids proud of school.” …

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Former Atlanta school chief Beverly Hall and 34 others indicted in APS cheating case

Former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was among 35 people indicted today in APS cheating scandal.  (AJC photo)

Former Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was among 35 people indicted today in APS cheating scandal. (AJC photo)

Among those named in the indictment handed down tonight by a Fulton County grand jury looking into the APS cheating scandal is former school chief Beverly Hall.

Hall and 34 others were indicted as a result of their alleged roles in the 2009 cheating scandal that toppled her regime, sullied the district’s reputation and raised doubts about testing integrity nationwide.

In the indictments, there was only one count of racketeering, which carries up to 20 years in prison. But the alleged acts of false statements and writings, influencing a witness, theft by taking were the underlying crimes that supported the racketeering charge.

Out of 65 counts, one was racketeering, two were influencing a witness, five were theft by taking and the remaining counts concerned the crime of making false statements or writings.

The cheating discovered by the AJC in Atlanta has …

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Indictments may come today in APS cheating scandal. Grand jury looking at suppressed report on “culture of wrongdoing” at one school

The AJC is expecting indictments possibly later today related to the APS cheating scandal first brought to light by the newspaper. When those indictments come down, please be sure to come back to the blog as there will be a lot to discuss about who was indicted and who was not.

The AJC is already reporting that the grand jury looking at the APS cheating scandal has been focusing in part on D.H. Stanton Elementary School where it appears that data skewing was common.

According to the AJC: (Please read the entire story before commenting. This is an excerpt.)

An internal inquiry confirmed a”culture of wrongdoings” at D.H. Stanton Elementary School in Atlanta: Attendance records were falsified. Disciplinary files were doctored. Friends of the principal got paid for tutoring they never performed. And the principal covered up reports that staff members had physically abused students.

Special investigators appointed to dig into widespread cheating on standardized tests in …

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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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From Canada to Georgia, teachers complain of pressure to change grades to mask high failure rates

testing (Medium)Interesting AJC story on an Atlanta high school principal who resigned after accusations he bullied and intimidated teachers into raising failing grades.

Grade inflation has been in the national news as schools face increased pressure to improve student achievement, an issue Georgia knows well after the CRCT cheating scandals in Atlanta and Dougherty County schools.

Even Canada, held up as a model of effective education reform, has seen complaints from teachers of mounting pressure to alter grades so fewer students fail under a stricter accountability system.

Closer to home, teachers in a Tennessee for-profit virtual school complained of an email that directed them to drop failing grades. In a recent investigation, Nashville’s WTVF/NewsChannel 5 found that a Tennessee Virtual Academy administrator instructed middle school teachers to delete failing grades.

The case has had reverberations nationwide as the parent company of Tennessee Virtual, K12, the nation’s largest …

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Parent trigger on agenda today. Is the bill fatally flawed?

A Senate committee takes up the parent trigger bill today.

Originally, House Bill 123 allowed a majority of the parents or teachers in a failing school to petition the school board for a complete overhaul of a the school by converting to charter school status or another turnaround model. The bill specifies that the parents can remove school personnel, including the principal, or mandate the complete reconstitution of the school. In a feature unique to the Georgia bill, even parents of high performing schools can apply for their schools to convert to a charter school.

But House Bill 123 underwent dramatic change in its move from House passage to Senate consideration. The Senate eliminated any mention of teachers in failing schools being able to petition for a management overhaul. The Senate version limits that power to parents.

I asked the bill’s sponsor, House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, for a comment.

“We’ll see what the Senate committee does with my bill.  …

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