First, understand that the evaluation system is NOT about improving education, it's about the drag on profits from human capital.If you read Todd Farley's Making the Grades, you'll find the same approach to data: they know the result they want, and they'll game the system to get it. It's the way psychometricians work, and it's completely inappropriate for any employment or compensation decisions.
The state of TN paid millions to the Milkin family of Wall St fraud for their TAP/TEAM evaluations system that scores teachers on a 5 point rubric. The national trainers indoctrinated, I mean, trained all evaluators that a score of (3) is "rock solid". If there are "too many" high scores the trainer asserted that evaluators were gaming the evaluation tool.
TN Commissioner of Education, TfA grad Kevin Huffman bloviates to media outlets that previous teacher evaluations inflated the scores and that "too many teachers were overrated.
The Milkins have a fix for that problem. Since the scores of TEAM/TAP teachers follow a Bell-shape distribution (according to their non-peer reviewed research), only 15% of teachers will achieve scores above (4) or significantly above (5) expectations and 85% will perform at or below expectations.
What does all of this mean on the ground? First, teachers scored at or below expectations means no tenure for beginning teachers and a loss of tenure for tenured teachers.
Second, mandates are trickling down from Broad Academy superintendent, Jim McIntyre that Knox County Schools supervisors and principals would "be in trouble" if they gave too many 4's or 5's.
Finally, the TEAM evaluations don't recognize differentiated instructional practices, nor does the scoring metric credit teachers for differentiating learning levels. There are a fixed number of behaviors needed to obtain a single score making it difficult evaluate varied levels of instruction needed for children in classes at acquisition, fluency, or advanced learning levels. The assumption from such fixed indicators is that every child learns the same content at the same rate, using one set of standardized procedures. In mixed ability groups there are multiple ways to scaffold learning that fixed data metrics such as TEAM cannot identify.
This is a snapshot of the warped mindset of our education "leaders". These 1%ers think nothing of enriching a convicted felon with tax dollars, and who themselves attended private schools where students came from privileged backgrounds, classes were capped at 12 - 15, and no one with a disability need apply. [emphasis mine]
And jcg makes another great point: there is no research to back up a claim of a standard distribution of teaching effectiveness; mostly, I suspect, because it's nearly impossible to quantify what makes a "good" teacher. There are so many problems with VAMs and SGPs that we clearly shouldn't use them - but that won't deter our "data-driven" overlords.
I keep waiting for the lawsuits. Again, we have many corporatist judges on the bench now, but this stuff goes so far that I can't imagine any of this standing up in court. It's an impeding disaster.
But even if that doesn't happen, I can absolutely guarantee you the teaching profession is going to be damaged so badly that it will literally take decades to repair it. Again, I ask every one who backs this sort of "reform": would you ever consider entering teaching on these premises?
Finally: as this shows, it all comes down to the details. The snappy poll-driven sound bites might work on talk radio, but when these people actually have to put things in practice...
Many, many thanks, jcg, for the post! You're starting your own blog when? ;-)
ADDING: Diane Ravitch makes my point, only better.