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Archive for May, 2011

Yglesias: Teacher Evaluation As Russian Roulette And Flipping A Coin

In the grim game of Russian roulette, a single round is loaded in a six chamber gun, the chambers are spun and the player then points the gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Assuming a properly working gun, the odds of killing oneself are one in six.

The image of Russian roulette immediately came to mind when I read these Matt Yglesias comments advocating that teacher evaluation systems and high stakes employment decisions be based on value-added metrics:

If you have a system that tells you who to fire and who to give a raise to that’s easy to implement and gives the right answer 15 percent of the time, that’s a very useful system. On balance, it’ll improve the performance of your organization. And it’ll also lead to some unfair terminations and undeserved promotions. And that’s fine. A myopic focus on never making a mistake is going to be counterproductive.

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Joel Klein Turns a Blind Eye to His Own Data on Charters and Test Scores

The Atlantic just published a long opinion piece by Joel Klein, including a repetition of his long-standing argument that New York City’s charters perform miracles with “students who are demographically almost identical to those attending nearby community and charter schools,” and that anyone who claims differently is a blind supporter of the “status quo.” A closer look at Klein’s own numbers, however, tells a very different story. According to the progress reports released by his Department of Education just last year, New York City’s charter sector did not outperform similar district public schools. And the Harlem Success Academy — the school which he specifically holds up as “almost identical” to neighboring district schools — actually serves dramatically lower proportions of the city’s neediest students and of English Language Learners than other Harlem schools. More »

On May 12

On May 12

Thursday, May 12, 4 p.m.

Rally at City Hall, followed by a march down Broadway and through Wall Street

Financial institutions wrecked the economy, and we paid for it. Now, if the mayor gets his way, they will get another round of tax breaks, on top of record profits and bonuses.  The UFT will join scores of other community groups and unions to say no to layoffs and cuts and to demand that the big banks and millionaires pay their fair share. Our assembly location, City Hall, is one of eight different gathering points. Together, we will all converge with a unified message to demand a fair budget.

More information is at the May 12 website and the May 12 Facebook page. On May 4, the coalition released a report and a plan for a People’s Budget.

“Bridging Differences Live”: Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier

Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier took their Bridging Differences blog to the stage at a recent event at Indiana University. Their hour-plus conversation delves into a wide range of current issues in education.

Education historian and outspoken education policy analyst Diane Ravitch joined her Education Week blogging partner Deborah Meier, who is recognized as a leading advocate for personalized and intellectually-challenging schools for “Bridging Differences Live” on April 27 at Indiana University. Presented by the IU School of Education and the Meier Institute at Harmony Education Center in Bloomington, the event was a moderated discussion hosted by IU School of Education Communications and Media Relations Director Chuck Carney.

Visit Education Week’s “Bridging Differences” blog »

Only in The Onion

The fake-news site just posted this gem:

According to bewildered and contrite legislators, a major budgetary mix-up this week inadvertently provided the nation’s public schools with enough funding and resources to properly educate students.

Sources in the Congressional Budget Office reported that as a result of a clerical error, $80 billion earmarked for national defense was accidentally sent to the Department of Education, furnishing schools with the necessary funds to buy new textbooks, offer more academic resources, hire better teachers, promote student achievement, and foster educational excellence—an oversight that apologetic officials called a “huge mistake.”

Read the rest, which includes some choice “quotes” from House Republicans John Boehner and Paul Ryan.

Burying the Bias in the Teacher Data Reports

At minimum, the DOE’s Teacher Data Reports are biased against teachers who work with high-performing students.

And the DOE seems to be doing everything it can to make sure that teachers and the public never find that out.

The bias is (to my eyes, anyway) huge. In elementary schools, for example, teachers who work with high-performing math students are 40 times more likely to fall in the bottom 5% of all teachers than in the top. Those findings come from information found on last year’s Teacher Data Reports, [1] but with an apparent eye to a possible public release and with clear contempt for the teachers they are supposed to support, this year the DOE decided to simply leave it out. [2]

The specific information missing from the new reports is the proficiency scores, namely the average test scores of students prior to taking the class, and the average when they left. By leaving it out, DOE dispenses with all pretenses that the Reports are designed to be useful for teachers. But the omission also allows the DOE to keep the focus right on the number it wants the potential public to see: the teacher’s percentile, free of any kind of context whatsoever. Were the students in the teacher’s class high or low performing? We won’t know. How much did their scores change? We won’t know that either. And how much better were the so-called “better” teachers, and how much worse the worst? Without proficiency scores, we simply will not know.

From a DOE that has professed the “public’s right to know,” it’s pretty shabby treatment. More »

Yo, Miss: Drawings from the Trenches — A Teacher’s Brain

[Editor’s note: Lisa Wilde is an English teacher at John V. Lindsay Wildcat Academy, a second-chance charter high school in Lower Manhattan. “Yo, Miss” is a graphic memoir she is writing and drawing about her experiences at the school. From time to time Edwize will post images from her forthcoming book, which tracks the eponymous Miss and eight of her (fictionalized) students over the course of a school year. Click on the image for a larger version.]

A Teacher's Brain

See all “Yo Miss” excerpts here »

Get Me Out of 3rd Grade

Scantron[Editor’s note: Miss Brave is the pseudonym of a fourth-year teacher in an elementary school in Queens. She blogs at miss brave teaches nyc, where a version of this post originally appeared.]

Test prep in my third-grade class has been extremely stressful. First of all, I’ve never taught “test prep” before, not least of all to kids who have never taken “THE TEST” before. I’m convinced my co-teacher and I don’t know what we’re doing and if (when?) the children do poorly, it will be our fault for not adequately preparing them. Second of all, I went to this Teacher Center workshop where I was shamefully reminded that my students are eight years old. They are eight years old and I have spent the last four weeks being impatient with them because they don’t understand how to bubble the bubbles correctly or aren’t following our test-taking tips (“we just taught you to circle the genre in the directions and that answer choice is directly from the passage”).

When by mid-May it’s all over, I’m not sure what we’ll do. We have other units left to cover, of course, but I fear the kids will be mentally checked out of school for the year now that it will no longer be on THE TEST, and as teachers we’ll be looking ahead to next year. More »

DFER and the Ultra-Conservative Money Behind the Voucher Movement

If you’ve been wondering what’s behind the recent resurgence of voucher bills in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, Wisconsin and other states, researcher Rachel Tabachnick has done a remarkable job following the money — some of which leads back to Democrats for Education Reform, a group familiar to those who follow school choice debates here in New York. According to her recent two-part series (which can be read here and here), much of the money and support for the voucher movement has come from groups linked to Betsy DeVos,

a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party; daughter of the late Edgar Prince and Elsa Prince-Broekhuizen; sister of Blackwater-founder Erik Prince; and wife of Dick DeVos (son of Richard and Helen DeVos). The Devos side of the family fortune comes from Amway/Alticor, the controversial, multi-tiered home products business. A Center for Public Integrity Report showed that the DeVos family and business interests were the fifth largest contributors in the 2003 -2004 election cycle, with 100% of the donations going to Republicans. Dick and Betsy DeVos have been credited with helping to finance the Citizens United case which allows Super PACs to raise unlimited funds and conceal the donors, meaning that we will no longer know who provides the millions of dollars for the big media campaigns, or reveal the information that I have in this article on the Pennsylvania campaign. The Prince and Devos families have also funded the Family Research Council, Focus on Family, and the ministries of the late D. James Kennedy, all warriors against separation of church and state.

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