Happy New Year

As 2011 draws to a close, this blog’s 7th(!) year, thank you for reading, taking time to comment on posts, using social media to share them, and all best wishes for 2012 – and perhaps a year that is slightly more productive for our national conversation about education.

2 Replies to “Happy New Year”

  1. A response to the King:
    Forging ahead with nutty teacher evaluation plan

    This was written by Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State.

    By Carol Corbett Burris New York State Commissioner John King is about to get tough with 10 school districts that have not finalized negotiations on their teacher evaluation plans. He threatened to take away their schools’ improvement grants if they do not comply. With little or no consideration of countervailing concerns, the commissioner’s approach illustrates the ‘My way or the highway’ mantra of Race to the Top reformers. The plan, of course, is to blame the unions that are wisely looking at evaluation mandates with a critical eye.
    Race to the Top (RTTT) and its requirements have caused serious problems for states, such as New York, that are forging ahead with implementation. My own district wisely pulled out of this particular part of the ongoing insanity last month, saying ‘thanks but no thanks’ to the RTTT money. (As noted below, we can’t similarly opt out of the equally awful state’s APPR law.) Our superintendent realized that the RTTT mandates would cost more to implement than the money received. Not one pencil could be responsibly purchased nor local tax dollar responsibly offset by quickly implementing mandates that are neither effective nor wise.
    The most cumbersome and controversial part of RTTT has been the insistence that districts abandon the teacher and principal evaluation systems that they use and replace them with complex, state-mandated systems in which student achievement counts in some states for as much as 50% of a teacher’s and principal’s score.
    Here is an example, from Page 31 of the SLO Guidance Manual, illustrating what the state suggests for music teachers. The manual briefly describes a teacher who engages in several different types of music instruction and then offers this guidance:

    “This teacher will have an SLO for their Introductory Band sections as this covers the majority of their students (75 students out of 135 total is approximately 56% of students). Their targets are set based on what the District defines as the expectation for student growth within this teacher’s course for students that begin at a performance level of 1, 2, 3 or 4.”

    Not only must this process occur in music, it must happen in gym, art, home economics and shop. But for schools that want to avoid this craziness, there is an escape clause of sorts. The district can simply assign a score from another discipline. For example the school-wide growth score for English might be assigned to the school art teacher, as suggested on Page 12 of the Guidance Manual, “since growth in the arts is hard to measure.” Instead of doing art, students can read and write about art. And a gym teacher can be assigned (that is, have her job performance evaluated based on) a school-wide writing score. Believe it or not, this is exactly what has occurred in Tennessee, as described recently in a New York Times article which describes evaluation by playing the odds.


    Mr. King is the one who describes creating a test based evaluation form as “building an airplane while flying it.”

  2. As for Chris’s suggestion:
    Here’s an idea: let’s just ban folks who have had every available chance to engage in an honest discussion about the issues surrounding ed reform, but instead choose to take the easy, cowardly approach to online debates, and that is by not bothering to finish them


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