Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Education Reformers Want To Declare Every Teacher And Every School "Failing"

Rick Hess exposed the rationale behind much of the education reform movement in his Education Week blog piece last week.

Hess noted that many of the erstwhile reformers who showed up to Jeb Bush's annual Excellence in Education conference are all excited about the new Common Core Federal Standards because they believe parents in suburban districts all around the country will come to see their children's schools are failing once the new standards and "assessments" based on those standards are fully implemented:

In a number of conversations this week over at Jeb Bush's annual edu-fest, at AEI, and around DC, I was struck by the degree to which the Common Core seems to have become Dr. Pendergast's miracle cure for everything that ails you (seemingly including heat blisters). The exchanges were eerily reminiscent of the run-up to Waiting for Superman, when smart, enthusiastic people kept telling me how everything was about to change--how suburban voters would wake up and leap on the reform bandwagon. And it reminds me more than a little of conversations had earlier this decade or back in the '90s about how NCLB, school choice, or site-based management were going to change everything as well.

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Every time I ask about these things, I get watery, vague reassurances. Meanwhile, when I ask how exactly the Common Core is going to change teaching and learning, I'm mostly told that it's going to finally shine a harsh light on the quality of suburban schools, shocking those families and voters into action. This will apparently entail three steps:

First, politicians will actually embrace the Common Core assessments and then will use them to set cut scores that suggest huge numbers of suburban schools are failing. Then, parents and community members who previously liked their schools are going to believe the assessment results rather than their own lying eyes. (In the case of NCLB, these same folks believed their eyes rather than the state tests, and questioned the validity of the latter--but the presumption is that things will be different this time.) Finally, newly convinced that their schools stink, parents and voters will embrace "reform."

Well, we're already seeing some of that plan in action with the new teacher evaluation systems that have been put into place in places like Tennessee, Florida and soon, New York State.

Yesterday, Valerie Strauss told her readers about a "Teacher of the Year" in a Florida school who was declared "unsatisfactory" via the VAM score on her even though she was rated highly effective in the other evaluation categories.

What's worse, because this teacher teaches first grade and her students do not take the state test, test scores of students in another school who had graduated from her school were used for this teacher's value-added measurement:


Here’s the crazy story of Kim Cook, a teacher at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school which feeds into Alachua Elementary, for grades 3-5, just down the road in Alachua, Fla. She was recently chosen by the teachers at her school as their Teacher of the Year.

Her plight stems back to last spring when the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 736, which mandates that 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student scores on the state’s standardized tests, a method known as the value-added model, or VAM. It is essentially a formula that supposedly tells how much “value” a teacher has added to a student’s test score. Assessment experts say it is a terrible way to evaluate teachers but it has still been adopted by many states with the support of the Obama administration.

Since Cook’s school only goes through second grade, her school district is using the FCAT scores from the third graders at Alachua Elementary School to determine the VAM score for every teacher at her school.

Alachua Elementary School did not do well in 2011-12 evaluations that just came out; it received a D. Under the VAM model, the state awarded that school — and Cook’s school, by default — 10 points out of 100 for their D. 

In this school district, there are three components to teacher evaluations:

1. A lesson study worth 20 percent. In the lesson study, small groups of teachers work together to create an exemplary lesson, observe one of the teachers implement it, critique the teacher’s performance and discuss improvement.

2. Principal appraisal worth 40 percent of overall score.

3. VAM data (scores from the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores for elementary schools) worth 40 percent of the overall score.

Cook received full points on her lesson study: 100 x .20 (20%) = 20 points

Cook received an 88/100 from her former principal: 88/100 x .40  (40%) = 35.2 points

On VAM data — points awarded by the state for the FCAT scores at Alachua Elementary School: 10/100 x .40 (40%) = 4 points

Total points that she received: 59.2 (Unsatisfactory)

This is her second year at Irby Elementary, where she teaches first grade. She never taught a single student who took the FCAT at Alachua Elementary last spring. The same will hold true for this year’s evaluation; 40 percent of her appraisal will be based on the scores of students she has never taught.
The Florida Education Association’s Web site says:
Every teacher will be evaluated using the new evaluation criteria and student learning growth. Veteran teachers must demonstrate Highly Effective or Effective performance; if they are rated unsatisfactory two consecutive or two out of three years, they will be placed on an annual contract then, if there is no improvement, terminated.
Here’s what Cook wrote to me in an e-mail:
I have almost 25 years of experience as a teacher. I JUST got my 2011-2012 evaluation on Friday. There is a real possibility that I will receive an unsatisfactory evaluation for this school year. I may go up to “needs improvement”, but either way, my job is in jeopardy.
Last month, the faculty and staff at my school voted for me as Irby Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. I am so honored to have been chosen. I work with an amazing group of teachers. They are the most hardworking and talented group of women I have had the privilege to know. Yet every single teacher at my school received an evaluation of “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” because of this insane system that the Republican state legislators and Gov. [Rick] Scott dreamed up at the beckoning of Jeb Bush and ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council]. My colleagues and I deserve better than this.”

I would add Barack Obama and Arne Duncan to the list of education reform criminals who dreamed up this criminal evaluation system and put it into place not to improve teaching and learning but simply to give school districts the tools to shed expensive veteran teachers like Mrs. Cook (a 25 year teaching veteran) and replace her with a much cheaper, more pliable rookie teacher (who also will be replaced after a few years.)

This is called getting "VAMMED" and it's about to start happening in NY State too.

Regents Chancellor Tisch, NYSED Commissioner King and Governor Cuomo have put in an evaluation system almost as absurd as the Florida one here in NY State and you can be sure that by next year, many excellent New York teachers will get VAMMED by the system.

As Carol Burris has pointed out, a teacher can actually be rated "effective" in all three parts of the NY State evaluation system and STILL be declared "ineffective" overall.

The only reason anybody would put such a system into place is because they have an agenda of destruction meant not to improve public education but to tear it down.

The blueprint behind corporate education reform - from NCLB to RttT to APPR in NY State - is to declare every school and teacher failing and give the privatizers and the edu-entrepreneurs access to all that public education money.

They must be stopped.

One way to stop them is to publicly acknowledge that it is not just Jeb Bush and ALEC behind the movement.

Corporate sell-out Democrats like Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel and other neo-liberals are behind the movement too.

Beware the Common Core, beware Race to the Top, beware VAM, beware the education reform movement.

Beware the politicians allied to the corporate education reform movement.

They are not out to improve public education.

They are out to privatize it.

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