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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

No One Trusts Jeb!'s "Chiefs For Change"

"Chiefs For Change" is a reformy group of state-level education leaders supported by Jeb! Bush*, the former Florida governor and current industry shill. They are pushing an agenda of test-based teacher evaluation, "revamped" school report cards, and charter expansion.

So how is the awesome leadership of the "Chiefs" being received by local school districts, educators, and elected officials? [all emphases mine]

Hanna Skandera, New Mexico:

In an unusual joint meeting Thursday of the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho school boards, members of both boards raised concerns about the costs, logistics, timeline and fairness of the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

No formal action was taken at the meeting, which consisted mainly of discussion. But board members did reach a consensus that administrators will draft a joint resolution to be sent to the Public Education Department. The boards will each meet separately to discuss and approve the resolution in the coming weeks.
It is still unclear exactly what the resolution will say, but, based on the board’s discussion, it will most likely ask [ACTING! Just because she doesn't say "acting" doesn't mean that she isn't! - JJ] state education chief Hanna Skandera to consider giving the districts more flexibility in how and when they implement the system. The resolution will likely ask Skandera or representatives from the Public Education Department to sit down with the districts and collaborate on a teacher evaluation plan that all are comfortable with.

Schlichte identified himself as a Republican and a supporter of Gov. Susana Martinez, but was sharply critical of the governor’s education reform program as a whole, and teacher evaluations in particular.

“I believe we’re being experimented on by an inexperienced practitioner,” he said.
Chris Cerf, New Jersey:
School administrators in New Jersey districts that tested a new ways to evaluate teachers are bullish on the changes, but teachers remain skeptical, according to a report from Rutgers University.
The Rutgers study found that 74 percent of administrators in the test districts felt the new evaluations gave accurate assessments of teachers. But just 32 percent of teachers felt the same way.
There were also gaps in perceptions between teachers and administrators about whether the new efforts offered meaningful feedback or had positive impacts on their own, their colleagues' or their school's professional development.
More Cerf:
State officials released “performance reports” on every New Jersey public school Wednesday, saying new categories for student growth, absenteeism, success in advanced courses and other measures will give parents more information than the report cards of the past — and create more pressure for schools to improve. 
Some educators applauded the new format, but many complained the reports contained too many errors, misleading categories and unfair school-to-school comparisons. 
State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf – who acknowledged the reports have mistakes — has made overhauling their format a major project in his efforts to improve schools. While he intends to intervene aggressively in failing schools, he said parents, boards and superintendents elsewhere should use this data to find ways to address weaknesses in their districts. 
North Jersey superintendents were in an uproar last month when they saw draft versions of the reports. Many found inaccuracies in the number of students taking Algebra I in middle school, Advanced Placement exams and PSAT tests — indicators that feed in to the summaries showing whether students are on the path toward college. Education Department officials said in some cases districts submitted wrong information to the state database, and in some cases errors came from third parties such as the College Board. 
John White, Louisiana:
A 14-minute telephone conversation that was recorded by an employee of the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) has revealed a plan hatched between State Superintendent John White and State Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) to “tweak” DOE’s Value Added Model (VAM) teacher evaluation plan in a way to keep changes from being public or necessitating policy change with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
The date of the recorded conversation is unclear but a flurry of emails within DOE in mid-October of 2012 and again in mid-March of this year centered around changes to the VAM plan so the telephone conversation most probably took place a few days prior to the October interoffice communications.
After White agreed to make changes in the VAM—also known at the DOE as Compass—as suggested by Seabaugh, the employee who recorded the conversation over a speaker phone was heard to whisper to a co-worker that White “chewed my ass out” after she had earlier made similar suggestions to tweak VAM.
“Tweaking the formula was my initial suggestion,” Seabaugh agreed, “not addressing it legislatively.”
“I didn’t want to open the formula up to such scrutiny (unintelligible),” White said.
“I don’t care how you fix it,” Seabaugh said, adding that teachers had been calling his office and sending him emails and that they were “absolutely livid.”
More White:

Louisiana legislators grilled Commissioner of Education John White about the state’s decision to approve the largest number of voucher students (315) for a small religious school that lacked facilities or teachers. Many questions were raised about the state’s failure to do any site visits to ascertain the readiness of the school to accept new students. Questions were raised about the school’s tuition, which is less than what the state plans to pay out (and may be very much less, making the voucher program a windfall for the school).

White must have been embarrassed because he immediately started backtracking and claimed that the list of schools approved by the state was not really final (news to everyone) and that the state planned to do due diligence.
Tony Bennett, Florida:

Teachers in Florida filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, claiming the state’s new teacher evaluation system is unfair because it partly rates their job performance on test scores of students they don’t know and subjects they don’t teach.
The lawsuit — backed by local teachers unions and their parent organization, the National Education Association — marks the first time teachers have brought a legal challenge to new evaluation systems that base compensation and job security on student scores.

When rolling out new teacher evaluation systems, school districts have faced a predicament: How do you judge teachers who educate students in grades that are not tested or in subjects the tests don’t cover? How do you use math and reading scores to evaluate an art teacher? 
Officials in Florida, Tennessee and the District decided to evaluate those teachers by using test scores of other teachers’ students. 

The Florida complaint cites the case of Kim Cook, a 22-year educator who teaches first grade at W.W. Irby Elementary in Alachua County. Because Irby is a school for children in kindergarten through second grade, its pupils are too young to take the state’s standardized test, known as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
When it came time to rate the Irby teachers this year, the local school board decided that Cook and other teachers would be judged by the test scores of all fourth- and fifth-grade students in another elementary school.
I never met or instructed the students at Alachua Elementary,” said Cook, one of seven teachers who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The fourth- and fifth-graders at Alachua did not perform well on the standardized tests. Since 40 percent of Cook’s evaluation depended on those test scores, she was initially given an “unsatisfactory” rating at the same time her colleagues honored her as Teacher of the Year.
Stephen Bowen, Maine:
A week and a half of tension that began to mount last week with the release of an A-through-F grading system for public schools culminated Friday evening with Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen attacking Senate President Justin Alfond for delaying action on a sweeping teacher evaluation plan that has been under development for more than a year.
Alfond freely admitted he held the measure up because he and other Democratic leaders wanted to see what education initiatives Bowen and Gov. Paul LePage would unveil late in the legislative session on the heels of what Alfond called months of secrecy around destructive education initiatives by the administration. 
Because the governor and this commissioner have been so secretive and non-transparent with their education agenda, we felt it was only smart to ensure everything was on the table, like the A-through-F grading system, before we took up this bill,” said Alfond, referring to letter grades that the LePage administration gave all Maine schools last week. “We’re really glad we did that because we can now see so many elements of the department’s plans coming through.” 
“This is the commissioner unfortunately following the governor and making everything political and everything into a lobbying effort,” said Alfond. “When it’s convenient for Commissioner Bowen to support education, he turns on the switch and when he wants to weaken the education system, which he has done repeatedly over the past week, he just throws a blind eye toward teachers and schools. It’s unfortunate that he is so political as a commissioner of education.
Janet Barresi, Oklahoma (h/t to the always terrific Bob Sikes):
You need a scorecard to keep track of the outrages coming out of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi's office.  
The latest is that Barresi has been traveling the state telling anyone who would listen that authors of a new report critical of the controversial A-F grading system for schools have privately recanted.  
That, the authors say, is untrue. "I have no idea where that idea on the part of the superintendent came from," said senior project coordinator Patrick Forsyth, professor of education and co-director of the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. "We are perplexed by that and don't know what to make of it." 
The Legislature approved the A-F grading system but Barresi's department wrote the rules and imposed them with virtually no input from local school officials. Most local superintendents and principals don't oppose a grading system, but they want it to be consistent, fair and transparent.  
A report by senior researchers at OU and OSU concluded that the grading system is "neither clear nor comparable."  
It looks as if Barresi is traveling the state telling groups what she wants them to hear - that the report's authors are privately recanting their published work. 
That's poppycock.  
Barresi is a loose cannon whose dedication to Oklahoma public education continues to come into question. Look for a scapegoat for this latest foul-up. 
Deborah Gist, Rhode Island:

The overwhelming majority of Rhode Island’s public school teachers do not want Gov. Lincoln Chafee to extend Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s contract, according to a poll released Tuesday by the state’s leading teachers unions.

The survey of 402 teachers shows 85% of those asked believe Gist’s contract should not be renewed. The poll also found that 73% of teachers find Gist to be “somewhat ineffective” or “infective” and another 82% feel less respected than they did when Gist was hired in 2009.
“For too long Commissioner Gist has spoken of her support among classroom teachers,” Frank Flynn, the president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals said in a prepared statement. “We decided to put that notion to an independent test. This survey found that she is not supported by classroom teachers. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that her leadership is almost universally rejected.”
More Gist (h/t Diane Ravitch):

The truth is that the NECAP wasn’t designed to be a graduation test, and this was obvious from the very beginning. It has been coerced into the role not because it was good for kids, but because it was cheaper than designing a dedicated graduation test. The features that make it a bad graduation test are objectively true facts about the test and its design. Neither editing technical documentation, committee-hearing filibusters, or cutting off public comment at Board of Education meetings will change those facts.

I have no doubt at all that the commissioner can fend off challenges from the public over these matters, indefinitely. But reality will — as it usually does — have the last word. And children will pay the price. The question for Board of Education members, legislators, school administrators, teachers, and parents is which side they want to be on.
Kevin Huffman, Tennessee:
Nashville Democrats are piling on Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman for his decision not to attend this afternoon’s special Metro school board meeting where controversial state charter authorizer legislation will be the focus. 
A Friday letter signed by Democratic Reps. Sherry Jones, Mike Stewart, Jason Powell and Darren Jernigan expresses “disappointment” over Huffman’s unwillingness to visit Metro’s Bransford Avenue boardroom at the invitation of the board. 
“Your office is less than four miles from those of the school board, which has simply requested an opportunity to have a conversation about recent press reports suggesting that the legislation poses extreme financial risks for our county,” the letter reads. “Participating in such a discussion would seem to us to be a matter of common courtesy, in addition to an important part of your job.
More Huffman:
Over at WPLN, Daniel Potter has a story about the number of teacher retirements doubling in the last five years.
More Tennessee teachers are heading for the exits. Since 2008 the number is up by more than a thousand — nearly doubling — to a total last year of almost 2,200. Exactly why is a bit of a mystery.
Some teachers see it as a response to a couple years of politically charged upheaval in state education policy. But state officials say it’s not so clear-cut, and even go so far as to argue higher turnover has an upside.
You can already see the root of the silliness in these two paragraphs. Teachers are retiring. Teachers say that it's because of job upheaval. It would seem logical to believe teachers about why they're retiring or thinking about retiring. But no, our silly state asks us to ignore teachers' own statements about why they retire, and instead accept that those teachers are mistaken or lying or ... I don't know ... ignorant of their own motivations. The state can tell us the real truth: "The uptick in retirements might have less to do with shifting policy, says Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, and more to do with the economy."
But, wait! It gets better. Because not only is Huffman going to try to sell us on his ability to know teachers' minds better than they know them themselves, Huffman is going to try to tell us all this retirement is a good sign — saying that "our lowest-performing teachers were retiring at twice the rate of our best-performing teachers.”
Twice the rate! Wow, that sounds like great news. Except Potter looks at the actual numbers, not the rate, and finds we're losing more good teachers than bad.

But it’s worth comparing more than just rates. In terms of real people, last year more top teachers retired — 129 of them, compared to 96 from the bottom. So even though 5s retired at a lower rate, there were still far more of them gone. State officials argue the rate is a more telling comparison, since in 2012 there were 6,704 teachers with 5s on the 1-to-5 scale, while 1s totaled just 2,644.
So, what conclusion are we to draw from our little state-to-state tour of the "Chiefs'" fiefdoms? How about this:

Jeb! Bush's "Chiefs For Change" are perhaps the most disliked, unaccountable, overly political, and untrusted public officials in the country.

Heckuva job, Jebbie!
Where did I find all these clowns?

*Why do I call him "Jeb!"?

Believe it or not, we called him "the smart one"!


Tamar Wyschogrod said...

Excellent post! Thank you for aggregating all this information. One suggestion: You might want to fix the amusing typo in your conclusion: "untrusted pubic officials." I think you mean "public officials." (But maybe you don't?)

ChrisGuerrieri said...

Pennsylvania judge Mark Ciavarella Jr was sentenced to 28 years in prison for conspiring with private prisons to sentence children to maximum sentences in return for bribes and kickbacks, which totaled millions of dollars. Ciavarella used his public position to trade the lives and futures of children for 30 pieces of silver.

What does this have to do with Jeb Bush? Well isn’t Bush doing the same thing? Isn’t he ruining kids futures to make a buck?

Think about it, charter school operators, virtual school operators, testing companies and voucher proponents, all privateers of public education, fund his foundation. He is making money off of them so they in turn can make money off our children. His brother Neil Bush made lots of money already.

Jeb Bush conspiring with private education concerns has sentenced many children to a mediocre education and a tenuous future at best. This guy in Pennsylvania got 28 years for basically doing the same thing.

How many years should Jeb Bush get?

be careful said...

How many of them are also TFA dropouts?