Irony Alert

In light of this blow up about value-added in New York City, in a lot of places if the teachers unions would actually get serious about actually using value-add data as part of teacher evaluations it could be shielded from “Freedom of Information”requests that identify teachers, just as many aspects of personnel evaluations are.   They’re caught in their own mousetrap here.  My take on the larger issue from a few weeks ago and LA.

Update: Justin Bathon takes a longer look at the privacy and FOIA issues.

73 Replies to “Irony Alert”

  1. Edconsumer: it’s not that “the other side does it more.” It’s that impugning the motives of the other side is the very heart of the argument made by reformers today. Reformers’ have adopted a message frame that posits a fundamental conflict of interests between children and educators (especially teachers), and claims that they are speaking for the best interests of children while those they disagree with are defending the parochial self-interest of adults. If someone argues against merit pay, they are “afraid of accountability.” If someone opposes value-added, they are “protecting the jobs of bad teachers who destroy children’s future.” At this point, I think this assumption is so automatic for some reformers that they don’t even consider the possibility an opponent is arguing from a good faith interest in children.

    It’s a powerful rhetorical weapon. I understand why Rhee et. al. repeat it endlessly. But those who choose to use this weapon shouldn’t be surprised if those on the other side feel their motives are being impugned and respond accordingly. I find Chris’ naive response fascinating. I wonder if it’s common among reform supporters to not even recognize that they are doing this. Claiming the moral high ground is now such an ingrained habit, perhaps reformers don’t even realize their rhetoric routinely demeans others? If so, fascinating…..

  2. Guy:

    You’ve said it so much better than I could so I’ll say only this:

    Thank you, Teachers. You are our heroes and soon you’ll be recognized as such once again.

  3. Linda,
    Why would you fight for the status quo after describing how pathetic the evaluation process was during your career? Do you support the Gates Foundation conclusion that merit pay with VA being 40% is optimal?
    Concerning your contention that communities across the country will follow DC you are grossly mistaken. These communities are forced to be responsible and balance their budgets. They cannot spend $30,000 per student and be ranked at the bottom in performance. Everyone is being forced to do more with less and as public education is rightly viewed as massively inefficient the DC model will stay only in DC.

  4. Taxpayer:

    If you’ve read my posts, here and elsewhere, you will see that I do not support the status quo regarding evaluation. During my tenure I observed, and was part of, thorough evaluations, so I know what they look like. Here’s how it’s done:

    Skilled professionals (teachers and/or administrators) observe the teacher’s lessons. They note the behavior of the students. Are they engaged? Are they learning? The evaluators look at student tests (benchmark, standardized, teacher-made) as well as student work and compositions throughout the year. The evaluator needs to have a good understanding of the progress of each child. It should be obvious to everyone that this can’t be done by looking at a single test. I support a committee of professionals as opposed to a single administrator because this will ensure more objectivity to the process.

    At this time, most testing experts agree that value-added is not ready to be used as an instrument to evaluate teachers. There are many reasons for this, but in the simplist language this process is not able to accurately measure teacher effectiveness at this time. As I’ve written before, an excellent teacher could get a low score, while a poor teacher could get a high score (if she drills the kids on the exact items, for example). Remember that these tests are not professionally proctored.

    A teacher CAN and should be evaluated, but it can’t be done on the basis of a test that is neither valid nor reliable for that purpose. So to answer your question, I don’t think VA should be used at all at this time.

    As to merit pay, every teacher I know works to capacity and spends from $500 to $5000 a year on books and supplies for the classroom so if they want merit pay, they can award it to themselves by avoiding Borders and Teachers Supplies on the weekends. I feel certain that this action will not help children, but I don’t think it will hurt them either.

    I DO support a career ladder (assistant teacher, associate teacher, teacher, Mentor teacher etc.) similar to what college professors have (with increases in pay with each promotion) but that’s probably well into the future. These promotions would be decided by committees of mentor teachers and would go a long way in helping teachers to become fully professional. This is something that WILL help children because full professional status for teachers will attract the best and the brightest to our nation’s classrooms. A career ladder will help retain teachers because they will have the opportunity to advance without leaving the classroom.

    As you can see, not only am I opposed to the “status quo” but I am much more of an advocate for radical and significant change than most of the “reformers.”

  5. Taxpayer:

    Regarding DC, we saw that teachers are generally highly regarded by the people they serve. There are exceptions, yes, but in general these teachers are often leaders in their communities.

    This is the way it is in almost every community in our country. Right now I’m thinking about my own. I am surrounded by excellent schools, even though I’m in a large city. In fact two of the top schools in the United States are within a two mile radius (Oxford in Cypress and Whitney in Cerritos, CA). Both my sons received world-class educations at local schools that prepared them for Harvard and Stanford. Almost EVERY person I know is satisfied with his OWN schools and teachers (supported by polls) and this is why we’ll see DC repeated. Just wait and see.

  6. Guy:

    Don’t be an ass and throw in a passive-aggressive taunt my way. Be specific:

    Why do you assume that “a fundamental conflict of interests between children and educators (especially teachers)” posits that “educators are motivated to only help themselves”? Surely the unions can rightfully respect that there are interests of their members that do not coincide with children, but at the same time can share a motivation for helping kids through supporting other student interests, as well?

    Linda claims that “there is a huge push right now to discredit schools and teachers for the purpose of appropriating school tax money meant for poor children.” This not only assumes that the opposition’s policies are bad but that the opposition’s motivations include ruining schools. Find a similar claim by a reformer that suggests that teachers or unions *WANT TO* ruin schools with their ideas for policy. Rhee has never implied that her detractors want what’s worst for kids. Linda continually does so.

    There was even a thread not too long ago where several(!) commenters reasoned that KIPP was run by white supremacists trying to indoctrinate poor minority kids to accept their inferior social status. And this is of course the same thing as arguing that someone is “afraid of accountability” if they don’t agree with merit pay. Please.

    And if you snidely suggest that Eduwonk does this, show some examples. If Linda seldom bothers to back up her opinions with facts, at least you will, right?

  7. Linda,

    We can agree that the status quo is unacceptable.

    Career ladders and peer review are the same as what we have, is not radical and will not change a thing. This will amount to pay based on tenure not performance. The reviews need to be by principals, students and parents. Colleges are a disaster and their systems avoided not mimicked.

    Again, for a profession that spends its time grading other people who usually feel the process is capricious and not representative for teachers to say everyone else needs to be graded but not us because the test are unfair seems incredibly hypocritical. The Gates Foundation research shows VA at 40% is optimum. I suggest you spend your time on refining VA because it is coming.

    Teachers are usually held in high esteem and I spend much time on how to pay the good ones more. The biggest obstacle is other teachers and the union.

    But I too believe change is coming and “Waiting for Superman” is the new consensus not the failed bloated systems we are suffering with.

  8. Taxpayer:

    Without intending to do so, you have given us the primary reasons the “reformers” will fail; many are operating without knowledge of the system.

    Teachers do NOT have a career ladder. What they have is an automatic salary schedule. A teacher advances automatically and is paid according to college credits and years of experience. I am talking about a career ladder where promotion would be determined by a committee of professionals and would be based on performance. It is basically the same as that used in higher education.

    As for peer review, the only time I experienced it was when I applied for the job as mentor teacher. It was the only time in my career that I was thoroughly evaluated. The change that I propose is so radical that you can’t even understand what I am suggesting. Basically I want to see fully professional teachers who are in charge of the schools, just as doctors are in charge of their clinics and attorney are in charge of their law firm. Peer evaluation and review is used in some districts, but it is not widespread.

    Our colleges are not “disasters” but are considered among the best in the world. Affluent people from every country send their sons and daughters to our colleges and universities. Our graduate schools, along with those in England, are considered to be without rival.

    Many of us do not agree with your assessment of our schools as “failed bloated systems.” To me they are among the greatest of American institutions and the bedrock of our democracy. They are the reason for the spectacular achievement of the American people, most of whom attended public schools. They need to be improved so every child can profit from them.

    Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans agree with my point of view, at least in regard to their community schools and colleges and that is why the “reform” movement, as it is presently conceived, will fail.

    If value-added can be improved so that it really can tell us who is an effective teacher and who is not, then I would have no trouble supporting their use. No one wants an ineffective teacher in the classroom. Until that time, we must support evaluation methods that are tried and true.

    Time will tell.

  9. “If value-added can be improved so that it really can tell us who is an effective teacher and who is not”

    FFS Linda, neither can classroom observations. This accuracy argument has been trotted out no less than several times in this very thread, even though it has been repeatedly refuted.

  10. Chris, I don’t know if you purposely misread what others have stated or you have a reading comprehension problem. You seem too bright for the latter.

    Please reread my 12:03 post. I favor a thorough and meaningful evaluation of teachers. This would include an evaluation of the progress of each child through various means, including examination of test scores. Classroom observations would constitute one component. I am NOT in favor of a perfunctory method, whether it’s a single observation by the principal or a peek at a “value-added” test score.

    As I’ve said before, you remind me of my son when he was 13 years old. If I said, “It’s day” he would argue, “No, it’s night.” That kind of “argument” can become very tedious for adults. That’s why I don’t like to respond to your posts but once in a while I feel that I should tell you why.

  11. Linda:

    No, you’ve not said anything I haven’t already read, as you’ve continued to fault VA for the same problems inherent in your own proposed ideas. To summarize, you want:

    * Skilled professionals (teachers and/or administrators) to observe the teacher’s lessons

    * The evaluators to look at student tests (benchmark, standardized, teacher-made) as well as student work and compositions throughout the year, although “look at” doesn’t mean anything as dastardly as “VA analysis”, so I don’t know what “look at” entails other than some form of “this teacher is improving because we think he’s improving!”

    In short, to solve the problem of subjectivity inherent in classroom observations, you propose we form committees to subjectively determine if test scores and student work adequately define if a teacher is doing a good job or not. It’s such an amazingly astute solution, one wonders why no one else thought of it.

  12. Linda,

    Like your passion not your logic.

    We currently pay the most and get the least, the status quo must be renovated no matter how much you like the current system.

    The reform bus is coming. I hope you jump on it, not in front of it.

    Best Wishes

  13. Taxpayer:

    Your name and your words reinforce my strong belief that this “reform” is about money and the tremendous resentment many people feel regarding the education of “those children.”

    Did your children get a good education, as mine did? I suspect that they did even though I don’t know you. Well, let’s share that good fortune with the children of the poor. Let’s make sure every child has access to a high-quality education at public expense.

    I do agree with you about the “reform bus coming.” Now that teachers and other citizens are taking their rightful place at the forefront of the reform, I think we’ll start to see significant improvement for our children, such as preschool, highly qualified teachers for low-performing schools and increased professional status for teachers.

    The old “reform” died in DC and will be hauled to the dump on November 2. Eduwonk is smart enough to see that coming (See October 22 post) so I’ll give him credit for that. Let’s see what happens.

  14. Linda,

    Life has been very good to me.

    I spend most of my time now with “those children” trying to give them an opportunity at what I have.

  15. Research on teacher evaluations performed by principals found that they were highly correlated with VAM. Assuming you could invest in better training of principals or observers. Observations are not nearly as subjective and inaccurate as some think. And VAM is much more subjective than people think as well. There is plenty of research out there that shows you get different results with the inclusion or exclusion of different variables.

    One thing VAM proponents fail to admit is that we need to have better measures of student poverty, parental support, student effort, working conditions, etc to arrive at a VAM that could provide more accurate estimates of teacher value-added.

  16. Anti:

    1) Cite the research.

    2) Observations are, however, qualitative and subjective. Do you disagree?

    3) Raw testing data are, however, quantitative and objective. Do you disagree?

    4) VAM would give different results depending on the chosen design, however this method would impact all data analyses equally. We should be willing to accept a bit of systematic error if it meant we actually had an idea of the precision of part of our evaluative methods.

    5) One thing 90% of the commenters in this thread fail to admit is that they know not what “accuracy” means.

  17. 1) When I dont have better things to do–but its out there. Big name ppl in VAM research on both accounts.

    2) Qual yes, subj yes. Degree of subjectivity? It depends. But you equate subjectivity with being wrong. Subjective evals can accurately identify good and bad teaching.

    3) quant and objective, yes. But do they provide the researcher the ability to make valid and reliable inferences? Maybe, maybe not, It depends on the psychometric properties of the test. It would appear that the NY state tests do not meet the psychometric properties necessary. Further, you need to know whether teachers are teaching to the test. Excessive teaching to the test will make the scores quant and objective, but mean nothing.

    4) It would not impact all teachers equally. And thats the point. Subjective decisions about the data, modeling, etc will differentially impact different teachers. Its subjective. Are you willing to risk your career on an imprecise measure? On a measure that only assesses one component of your overall job?

    5) Well, one thing we all know–your reading comprehension is pretty poor and your logical reasoning skills are in the bottom 10%.

  18. Anti:

    1) I estimate the odds are 10:1 that you won’t do so, or that you’ll link to a “citation” like you did last time: another unsourced blog post.

    2) “Qual yes, subj yes.”


    “But you equate subjectivity with being wrong.”

    No, I equate subjectivity with a lack of an objective basis to determine which teachers are good and which are bad. It may be right and it may be wrong, but one thing is for certain: nothing is for certain.

    3) “quant and objective, yes.”

    Excellent. You agree there are important differences between the data sets. It’s due to these differences alone that we should see the need for utilizing BOTH in teacher evaluations.

    4) “It would not impact all teachers equally.”

    Does VA use different calculations for different teachers?

    If you meant instead that the specific calculations used for all teachers will be biased toward a particular type of teacher, this systematic error could be accounted for with some oversight. Do all teachers with a given type of student average lower than other teachers with another type of student? I don’t imagine this should be all that difficult.

    “Are you willing to risk your career on an imprecise measure? On a measure that only assesses one component of your overall job?”

    I’d rather my evaluations be based on multiple lines of evidence, some of which are objective and thus have a known error rate, than solely on the whims of my employers.

    5) You’re the one trotting out an argument related to the presumed accuracy of VA. You’re faulting it for not giving an accurate portrayal of teacher effectiveness, even though you won’t *EVER* know what the specific, accepted effectiveness of each individual teacher is, and thus you cannot calculate accuracy.

    Yes, VA analyses (as well as all other options on the table) can likely be improved to give more precise accounts of effectiveness, but to say it can be made more accurate is pointless. For all we know its accuracy is spot-on.

    To say it could be improved is also not a reason to abandon it, but rather a good reason to start investing NOW in further refinement. In the meantime, it can and ought to be used to supplement other available data.

  19. Rhetoric:
    Outgoing DC Mayor Fenty
    “Much of the discussion revolved around education, and Fenty made the case that he was a martyr to his own education reforms — that he paid the price for being on “the leading edge of a movement.”

    “If it’s a war,” he said, “someone’s got to be at the front of the line, and they’ve got to get killed first. That’s how you win a war, is by going forward.””

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