Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education
Some of you might have already seen the shocking results in the New York Times today. Apparently, all the teacher evaluations programs pushed on school districts by Obama’s Race To The Top and the corporate de-formers have found a shocking conclusion: most teachers are, in fact, “highly effective” at their jobs.
Diane Ravitch does a great job of poking holes in this “realization” and cites some of their statistics:
In Florida, 97 percent of teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in the most recent evaluations. In Tennessee, 98 percent of teachers were judged to be “at expectations.”
In Michigan, 98 percent of teachers were rated effective or better.
This is serious news for Oakland. As many of you hopefully know by now, GO Public Schools & Co. (including Youth Together, Youth Uprising, SEIU 1021, OCO, and Education Trust-West), is making a serious push to evaluate Oakland teachers by student test score data. They are not alone. Superintendent Smith is heading the same direction in conjunction with 8 other California school districts (in the group called California Office to Reform Education (CORE)).
Following President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s lead they are making a full-court press to push through these evaluations in line with the Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium (one of 2 RTTT-funded consortia developing “next-generation” assessments of students and teachers). According to CORE, these new evaluation policies will be “designed” by Spring 2014, piloted during 2014-15, and fully implemented in 2015-16 (see the last 5 slides of their powerpoint here). What this means, as CORE recognizes, is that teacher unions will have to accept teacher evaluation by data–and very soon.
Which brings us full circle–to the total lack of scientific validity of teacher evaluations by student test scores. Deborah Meier, an educator and education expert based in New York City, made this point very convincingly in a debate with Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist and deform-ideologue (think global warming denying scientists). She notes that when you put garbage data in, you get garbage data out. Put another way, despite all the attempts to twist student test scores with fancy statistical tricks, students’ test scores still do a much better job of measuring things besides teacher ability. They can measure inherent genetic ability, how hot the classroom is during test day, or how tired that student was.
Most importantly, however, test scores mostly measure poverty. Numerous studies have confirmed that test score data correlates to poverty. This is clear to most Oakland teachers, parents, and students. Hunger in the home, family unemployment or imprisonment, and living in blocks where street violence is all too common are problems that students do not leave at the school door. Then when they step in the school, they find missing materials, new and inexperienced teachers, and crumbling facilities–again all related to poverty.
So in the end all these attempts by GO and their corporate sponsors distract social change from the real problems of poverty. As we pointed out before these reforms basically mean nothing until we address the real underlying issues.
So what is to be done?