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

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Non-Experts Rule Our World

And they produce dreck like this: The Interim Report of the NJ Educator Effectiveness Task Force. I took a look over lunch today, and it's just as bad as everyone expected. I'll have much more to say as I work through it, and I'll be anxious to read and hear what people who know what the hell they are talking about have to say as well. But for now, a few observations:

- This report is a clarion call for using NJASK scores in teacher evaluations. Doesn't matter that every expert who knows anything about issue has said not to do this, including EPI, which is cited in the Task Force Report itself! Well, experts be damned:
Some say growth scores should not be used in evaluations. But based on our research, we believe that they provide important, if not perfect, information. When used in conjunction with other measures, growth can tell us a great deal. Despite limitations, these scores tell us something; that is, evaluations are better off using them than disregarding them altogether.  
We recommend that the new system use growth alongside other measures and that the State work with testing experts to continually improve their validity. [bold emphasis mine]
It doesn't matter if you think "growth scores" are "important" - the real question you should ask is: "Are they accurate?" They are not, and their inaccuracy is not open to debate.

"But they tell us something!" Yeah, they tell you how a kid did on a test. They were never designed to tell you how well a teacher teaches. And we know that they do not do that.

This task force is setting NJ up for a wave of lawsuits the likes of which the education establishment has never seen. When the first wave of teachers is fired using these faulty methods, no court in the world will side with the state. It is a disaster in the making, and it all falls squarely on the shoulders of this group of unqualified people.

- I find it hilarious that the DC schools, from which St. Michele Rhee was recently ousted, is held up as a model throughout the report. Task Force, if you knew anything about this stuff, you'd know that it's simply too early to know if IMPACT, DC's evaluation system, has worked or not.

- The problem of basing evaluations on standardized tests when so many teachers do not teach subjects where those tests are used is basically brushed aside:
Because not all subjects and grades have statewide assessments, currently growth scores can be computed for a limited number of teachers. For math and language arts/literacy in grades 4 – 8, these scores will be available in the fall of 2012.
The Task Force recommends that the State work to develop standardized assessments in as many additional subjects and grades as appropriate so growth scores can be calculated for a growing number of teachers 
The Task Force recommends that the Commissioner approve the types of assessments that are acceptable for use in these areas in advance of the development of standardized assessments.  
In some subjects, standardized year-end assessments may never be suitable (e.g., art, music, physical education, or career-tech fields). In these cases, the Task Force recommends the use of other rigorous performance-based evaluations of student work. The use of re- and post- tests would be ideal so student growth, not merely attainment, can be gauged. 
Hey, that was easy! Now all we have to do is develop the assessments, make sure they are valid and reliable for measuring teacher effectiveness, administer them, record the data, and repeat - EVERY YEAR! Oh, and come up with the money to pay for it all! Piece of cake...

Think about what these people are saying: there are so many "bad" teachers who are so "ineffective" that we need to come up with standardized tests in every subject at every grade level - Kindergarten through 12th - to root these "bad" teachers out. And it's worth it to take away all of the children's instructional time - and shoulder the cost - to prepare and administer these tests in every grade level and in every subject.

Has anyone ever proven there are so many "bad" teachers that it's worth it to do this? And do you want to send your kid to a school that spends this much time testing for the sake of teacher evaluations - NOT student evaluations?

- These are the same people who say money needs to flow to the classroom, yet they want MORE administration time spent on observations. How are we going to do that? More administrators? More money? Anybody bother to think about this?

- The Task Force wants principals to be evaluated in part on how they retain effective teachers. The teachers will be judged effective based on their students' standardized tests score "growth." So a principal will have a built-in incentive to give the students most likely to show "growth" to the teachers who have previously been judged "effective."

What do you think is going to happen when the principal makes the class lists for the next year? Who is going to get the best students?

This is another recipe for disaster. Again, the lawsuits will be unbelievable; even worse, camaraderie and morale will be destroyed. Too bad no one on the task force has a background as a classroom teacher; this is an embarrassingly obvious failure of the entire system.

That's all for now; there's going to be a lot to unpack here. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to this:

Teachers are already evaluated; this only makes the process more onerous and arbitrary. But even if you manage to remove a few "bad" teachers...

Who will you replace them with?


Teacher Mom said...

Right on!! College kids are changing majors in droves. Expect a teacher shortage coming your way soon. Also, when there is a shortage, the quality of applicants decreases because they will be so desperate for warm bodies in classrooms. This again will become a self-fulfilling prophecy where "bad" untrained, low quality teachers will be entering the workforce. Connect the dots.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so the teachers have no way to evaluate their performance? How convenient for them. Did this industry just start yesterday? You don't offer any alternative method? We cant figure out a fair system to evaluate if teachers perform up to scale or not? Isn't putting the BEST teachers in the classrooms more important than protecting any teachers career? Its going to hurt camaraderie if they are performance evaluated? Because they will all want the best students instead of teaching the students that need it the most? Its clear you dont want ANY evaluation. An unevaluated union teacher who knows that they cant lose their job does not work like a worker whose job is DEPENDENT on results only. Put many of same teachers in position where job is based on performance, and their performance/efficiency will jump. Just like any business or private worker who faces competition DAILY vs the bosses son. Theses unions created a fantasy planet where they believe they are entitled to same job for life no matter what their performance, pensions, healthcare, 3 months vacation, on taxpayers back. Go start a business that produces value as much as you want. Instead they elect democrats who easily and with love dole out taxpayer money. NOT THEIR OWN. They will shut down state govts to get their way? EVALUATE THE TEACHERS. FIND A WAY. OFFER A BETTER ALTERNATIVE. You just attack. Admit it, You dont want them to be evaluated at all, period. You'll attack ANY evaluation method.

Anonymous said...

Teachers are evaluated-every year. Teachers are removed when evaluations are not up to standard. Teachers and the Union do not care if they are evaluated, as long as it is a fair evaluation. When research is completed by individuals/groups with different agendas, from across the spectrum, that point to the same findings: charter schools are not any better than public schools, merit pay does not entice teachers to work any harder than they already do, standardized testing are not accurate indicators of what a child can do or what a teacher taught/how well they taught it, etc, etc....why would that be seen as valid and fair instruments to evaluate teachers for decisions of retention?

Society forgets that every job has perks: typically 4-8wks vacation,pension, healthcare,etc. The teaching profession has it too. Teachers were not the ones who dictated when school was to be in session and not. If their vacation time comes consecutively then what is it to you or anyone else.

Society also forgets the times when it was difficult finding teachers because there were very few people who wanted to work that job with such poor pay and benefits. Any paychecks, benefits, and/or pensions created by the state and individual districts were specifically designed to entice individuals to become teachers. No one had a problem then. So why do people have a problem now? It is interesting to hear how many people will say "I could never be a teacher-I could never do that job" yet, society feels it is not a profession worth rewarding the individuals who try. Not to mention the number of teacher who leave the profession (whether let go, fired, own choosing) who very easily transition into different careers,but not many people successful transition from a non-teaching career into the teaching profession.

Teachers, along with other public employees under attack (firefighters, police officers, etc) are being scapegoated by a governor who may be "fixing" the budget like he promised, is also pushing for his way. He is about privatizing and protecting the businesses and richest of the rich. When it is not "you" or your profession under attack, it is very easy to hop on band wagon and point the finger of blame or shame without completely finding out the facts or alternatives. If the governor was simply up-front, honest, and non-bias,I think the state would see a much different atmosphere in which professions and classes were not being pitted against each other.

From an educational perspective-he says he is about public education, but supports charter schools and all the data/research that makes public schools worse. He seemingly ignores the information that says charter schools do not prepare children any better nor do public school children perform any better than public school children. He seems to ignore all the data that states standardized tests are not good indicators for teacher or student capabilities and fail to take into account the effects of external factors that could and do alter the results of those scores.

How can anyone believe that this man and his plan is really beneficial to educators and our children, to our towns, to our state?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Anon#2. I was about to reply with the same message, but your response was more eloquent than mine.

Just as an addition..Why does everyone in the private sector think teachers (and other public employees) do not pay taxes?

And teachers are evaluated -- multiple times a year -- and it is based on performance, but NOT test scores. Our administrators know there are more important things, like: creating a safe environment, creating an engaging environment, classroom management, content expertise, creating and administrating authentic lessons, ability to reach students mentally and emotionally, ability to create and administer valid and accurate assessments, and a whole host of other things.

Additionally, Anon#1, we do not get paid vacation EVER so stop throwing that around. Only WE have been paying into our pensions, not the gent, not the taxpayers (including us, again) so stop throwing THAT around too.

Gather some real, factual, reverent information before you attack because there were no solutions in your response either. Which, if I recall correctly, was the whole premise of your response.

Duke said...

Anon #2, see:


You nailed it, so many thanks.. I've posted your comments at the link above; I'm happy to share with you the vast wealth this blog will generate someday as payment...