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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cuomo's Reformy Commission: Watch Out, NY Teachers!

Via Randi Weingarten, it seems the "New" New York Education Reform Commission had its first meeting today. Teachers and principals were not invited. Because if you had a medical reform commission, you would obviously exclude doctors and nurses. And if you had an air travel reform commission, you'd exclude pilots.  And if you had a baseball reform commission, you'd exclude baseball players. It just makes so much sense...

Of course, Weingarten is there, supposedly to advance the interests of teachers in her role as president of the AFT. Today, the divided the commission into three subgroups:

  • New York’s Public Education System:
  • Teacher and Principal Quality and School District Leadership: 
  • Student Achievement and Family Engagement:
Except they didn't put Weingarten in the teacher group; she's in the first group, dealing with the systems structure and finances.

So, who's in the teacher group?
  • Chair Elizabeth Dickey, President, Bank Street College of Education
  • Jean Desravines, CEO, New Leaders
  • Patti Gallagher, member, Lake Placid School Board and Lake Placid Community Alliance for Responsible Excellence in Education (C.A.R.E.E)*
  • Matt Goldstein, Chancellor, CUNY
  • Tom Kane, Professor of education and economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Eduardo Marti, Vice-Chancellor of Community Colleges, CUNY
  • Jose Luis Rodriguez, CEO, Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network, Inc.
  • Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, SUNY
Tom Kane is one of the reformiest academics out there. Paid by the Gateses to run the MET project, Kane is one of the biggest proponents of using standardized test scores in teacher evaluation in the country - even though he admits they are "imperfect."

John Thompson schools the professor:
When I first followed Larry’s link to Tom Kane’s Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal(see Disappointing Op Ed On Using Tests To Evaluate Teachers By Head Of Gates’ Project), I also was disappointed.  Perhaps I’m naive but, upon reflection, I was struck by Kane’s conclusion.  The Gates Foundation’s scholar concluded that, “as imperfect as the current measures of effective teaching are—and they must be improved—using multiple measures provides better information about a teacher’s effectiveness than seniority or graduate credentials.”  In other words, after investing tens of millions of dollars in research, the best thing he can say about the use of test score growth for evaluations is that it is better than two of the weakest indicators available?
In fact, I wonder why Kane compared his attempts to quantify instructional effectiveness to two issues that have little or nothing to do with that issue.  Seniority is the teacher’s First Amendment in that it protects educators from the whims of their bosses, not to mention politicized fads.  There are many simpler and safer ways to reform seniority without encouraging test-driven evaluations. And, whether you agree or disagree with the policy of providing incentives for graduate courses, that issue has nothing to do with the question of whether an algorithm can be made accurate enough for firing teachers.
Too many economists trying to improve the validity of these value-added models (VAMs) seem to believe that the purpose of these experimental algorithms is making their calculations more reliable, as they seem oblivious to the actual circumstances in schools.  For instance, the study cited by Kane, “Long-term Impact of Teachers” by Raj Chetty, John Friedman, and Jonah Rockoff, made a big deal out of the consistency of the teacher effects they found when teachers in the 95th percentile change schools – as if that neat experiment said anything about real-world policy issues.  (If it could be shown that elite teachers in elite schools were transferring in significant numbers to the inner city and producing test score gains, THAT would be relevant.)
Kane has his fancy econometric models, but no practical experience running a classroom, a school, or a district - and it shows. Yet the only brakes on his thinking will be a group of college administrators, a school board member, and... well, honestly, I have no idea what these other people do. New Leaders? HITN? What expertise are they bringing to the table? What have these people ever done in a school?

NY teachers, listen up well: reject this commission now. Your exclusion from the creation of policies that directly affect your work is unacceptable. Value-Added Modeling will be shoved down your throat and there won't be a damn thing you can do to stop it.

Get out in front of this now.

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