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Cross Posted at MN Progressive Project

      Think of modern education reform, or Rhee-form, or deform, as being a three legged stool, bellying up to the bar of privatization. The legs include taking away teacher's due process rights and dismantling unions, increasing privately run schools through publicly funded charters, and focusing on student test scores to make high stakes hiring and firing decisions.  

     All three legs are pretty rickety.  I would like to focus on that third leg, using test scores for high stakes hiring and firing decisions. Modern reformers want to turn this leg into a debate about whether teachers should be evaluated. It makes it easy to win, but it is a lie on their part. Teachers welcome evaluation. Teachers want feedback in order to get better. We just don't want evaluations that are bad for our profession, ad therefore bad for students. Just because teachers do not want Rhee-valuation, does not mean we don't want evaluation.

      If we want the best teachers to work in the toughest schools, punishing them for doing it is not the way forward.  Our preeminent research institution, the National Academies, have warned against using testing for firing and hiring decisions.  Even the teting companies themselves have warned against using tests for rating teachers.

      With even close inspection, the reasoning is obvious. For example, local lawyer and former DFL Senate candidate Mike Ciresi has said that Democrats who voted against modern reform "lacked courage". Apparently it is brave to fight for A.L.E.C. proposed legislation, but cowardly to side with the National Academies of Research. Think about it like this. What if Mike assigned his best lawyer in the firm the most difficult cases with all the evidence and odds against them. Then he assigned all the piece of cake cases to his weakest lawyer. Chances are, the weakest lawyer might actually have a better record, get the bigger bonus, and would actually keep their job. Is the public defender who takes on death row cases less of a lawyer than the corporate lawyer who gets Lehman Brothers off?

        We are just now starting to see the consequences to students because of this obsession with test scores. The idea that it is "cowardly" to side with research is the biggest problemin this debate. This article explains it beautifully.  

However, factors other than the teacher account for roughly 85-90% of the variation in students’ test scores. Teachers account for only 10-15% of the variance in scores
The modern reformers have a credo that places all the blame on teachers. They like to tell us that, "If we ignore every single factor that affects students, except teachers, then anything bad that happens is all the fault of teachers." Can you argue with that logic?

      The very company that scores teachers, The American Institute of Research, says not to use test scores.  They point out that as percent of students with disabilities increases, test gains decrease.  I am trying to see how this is not obvious to modern reformers. Urban schools have a much, much higher percentage of children with disabilities, which makes improvement gains more difficult. Oddly, do you know who has almost no children with disabilities?  Charter Schools don't really serve many students with disabilities. Still they are twice as likely to underperform traditional schools, but I digress towards a different leg of modern reform. See the most extensive study on Charters Here.


I predict that when the state results are made public, you will see a disproportionate amount of teachers of students with serious learning disabilities and teachers in schools with high levels of poverty labeled ineffective on scores. And that label will be unfair.
And here is the punch line and botom line ladies and gentlemen:

It is not cowardly to stand up to modern reform because it is bad for kids. The market model, that often doesn't even work well in the market, really fails when trying to create educated human beings.

Over time, the students who need the best teachers and principals will see them leave their schools in order to escape the ‘ineffective’ label.

Originally posted to AlecMN on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My sister teaches in a MSP suburban school. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, NWTerriD, ladybug53, kurt

    They have a high poverty rate, but not like an urban school. They are doing a lot of standards based testing of students this year, and basing curriculum on those standards.

    It is a great system. She works with a lot of other adults in her classroom, but they are all working together to improve student learning. It's only a month in so far, but it seems to be working, and the teaching is much more precise to specific learners who need specific instruction. That means both the high and low end kids are getting specific instruction at their level. This has been normal in reading for awhile, but now it is going on in math and science too. With the extra writing they are doing, the literacy levels of the kids seems to be increasing fast.

    This is the type of testing that works for kids. It isn't about doing gotcha style evaluations. It is asking what do kids know, how are they learning, what do we need to do to get them to learn on their level. It also works for teachers, but it is hard work that needs support.

  •  I really appreciated this diary, thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I especially appreciated this tidbit:

    Our preeminent research institution, the National Academies, have warned against using testing for firing and hiring decisions.
    Besides testing students to death, sadly, many districts are now administering make-or-break multiple-choice "personality tests" to prospective new teachers they're considering hiring, such as the Gallup TeacherInsight Test (TM). Apparently, 80% of the people who take this thing flunk it. And that totally kills their chances with any district they're applying to that uses it. There exists online a culture of applicants to teacher jobs, looking to game this test.

    The troubling news is that this noxious instrument, and ones like it, are gaining in popularity. More and more districts are using them, paying serious money to outside for-profit contractors.

    If I sound a tiny bit sore, it's because I apparently flunked this test recently. Guess that's because I allowed that I "read nonfiction a lot in my spare time," and "liked to suggest reading material to others." (They want to hire exclusively authority-worshiping puppets for teacher jobs.) Anyway, this was a nowhere district I had to take the Gallup test for, in a boring-ass central California town, where nobody would want to live, anyway. Heh, once the economy improves slightly, and the teacher shortage really kicks in, I'm delighted to think these idiots will be scrambling for teachers. And nobody at all will be interested in working there. What will they think of this Gallup idiocy that they paid through the nose for then? Awww.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Oct 06, 2012 at 06:21:27 PM PDT

  •  It's all about privatization and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NWTerriD, ladybug53, kurt

    free market idealism.  Guess what?  The free market ain't free.  It's all about middlemen and overseers who take all the meat and potatoes and leave scraps for the students.  Privatization of education is no different than the privatization of health care.  You get to pay twice as much for less--but at least the scores will be higher...or will they?

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