I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2015

Karen Lewis on Carly Fiorina: "That's a Lie"

Carly Fiorina was one of the six Republicans to participate in Campbell Brown's education summit (which was really nothing more than a teachers union-bashing fest). As I pointed out, Fiorina was stunningly ill-informed and incoherent on education policy.

But that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom about her recent surge in the polls. Ostensibly, she showed she was a serious candidate in the first Republican debate, demonstrating a command of policy that impressed voters. But her appearance with Brown actually displayed the opposite: Fiorina doesn't much care if she can back up her facts of not, so long as they help her score political points.

For example:
"It’s why the head of the teachers union in Chicago, when they struck, against Mayor Rahm Emanuel, it’s why she could say: 'We can’t be held accountable for the performance of students in our classrooms because too many of them are poor and come from broken families.' So what was she saying? If you’re poor and come from a broken family we can’t teach you because you can’t learn. That is not the American way."
That's from her interview with Brown; Karen Lewis is the union leader Fiorina is referring to. It's a damning accusation, especially considering Lewis is a teacher herself, with many years of experience in the Chicago Public Schools chemistry labs.

I thought it was worth asking Lewis what she thought of this attack. As usual, she minced no words:
"It's a lie. I never said that, but Fiorina has used that tired trope repeatedly. What I said was the VAM portion did not take into consideration the condition of our students' lives.”
VAM stands for Value-Added Modeling, the test-based component of the Chicago teacher evaluation system. Lewis has good company: the American Statistical Association has strongly questioned the use of VAM, stating: "Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.

Maybe Fiorina thinks the ASA also doesn't believe in "the American way."

I have searched for any primary source that documents Lewis saying that Chicago's teachers shouldn't be held accountable for their students' learning. So far, I've found nothing. Here's CTU's official position on test-based evaluation:
What is CTU’s position on the inclusion of student growth measures for teacher evaluation?
Student growth is supposed to be fairer than just comparing where students are at the end of the year without looking at where they started.  However, the student growth measure says much more about student factors like health, poverty, and neighborhood than it does about the teacher.  Student growth is actually a measure of growth on the tests--leaving out social, emotional, and non-tested academic growth.  CTU is not in favor of the use of these student growth measures, especially the “value-added measure” used for elementary student growth, as it is statistically unreliable and cannot account for all factors that impact student achievement on tests.
What's funny is that Fiorina herself thinks testing companies have too much influence over American education. So, does she agree with Lewis that VAM is a pernicious influence, or doesn't she?

I've contacted Fiorina's campaign to ask for a link to a source that backs up her attack on Lewis. So far, no response. I guess that's "the American way" these days...

If and when I hear from Fiorina's people, I'll update this post.

Is misquoting teachers "the American way"?


Dienne said...

"I have searched for any primary source that documents Lewis saying that Chicago's teachers shouldn't be held accountable for their students' learning. So far, I've found nothing."

Well, she should say that, even if she didn't. Student learning can't be measured, so there's no way to hold teachers accountable for it.

Kurt said...

Here is a good link to some of the color of those comments, priort to Fiorina's adoption of the story line, seems consistent to me http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article24736870.html