"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's True -- Research Doesn't Matter

In the corporate quest to privatize public education the truth doesn't matter. Research doesn't matter. Experience doesn't matter.


Public education is under mayoral control in America's largest cities and the corporate quest for more charters and privatization depends on devaluing public school teachers and demonizing their unions. In New York, teachers have been evaluated using student test scores and then had the results plastered across newspaper headlines without regard for the fact that the method of evaluation yields invalid and unreliable results.

Nearly a year earlier the NY State Regents received a letter from 10 testing experts who, in May, 2011, wrote,
...the research literature includes many cautions about the problems of basing teacher evaluations on student test scores. These include problems of attributing student gains to specific teachers; concerns about overemphasis on “teaching to the test” at the expense of other kinds of learning; and disincentives for teachers to serve high-need students, for example, those who do not yet speak English and those who have special education needs.
Standardized tests are not developed to evaluate teachers. It's invalid to use them for that purpose. The experts continue...
Teachers’ ratings are affected by differences in the students who are assigned to them. Students are not randomly assigned to teachers – and statistical models cannot fully adjust for the fact that some teachers will have a disproportionate number of students who may be exceptionally difficult to teach (students with poor attendance, who are homeless, who have severe problems at home, etc.) and whose scores on traditional tests have unacceptably low validity (e.g. those who have special education needs or who are English language learners). All of these factors can create both misestimates of teachers’ effectiveness and disincentives for teachers to want to teach the neediest students, creating incentives for teachers to seek to teach those students those expected to make the most rapid gains and to avoid schools and classrooms serving struggling students.
Anyone who has ever worked in a public school knows that out of school factors such as access to medical care, access to appropriate reading material, and poverty in general, have a serious effect on student achievement no matter how expert the teacher. Unfortunately, most "reformers" have never worked in public schools.

Improvements in instruction must be accompanied by improvements in the lives of children, more than 21% of whom live in poverty in America. Politicians and corporate "reformers" excuse our society's lack of equity by placing the entire burden of change on public schools.

The NY Regents ignored the letter from assessment experts.


Fast forward to March of 2012. The same thing is happening in Chicago. The city is planning to evaluate teachers using student test scores. In response, 88 educational researchers from universities and colleges throughout the Chicago area have written a letter to Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Chicago School Board.

Like the writers to the NY Regents, the Chicago writers inform the recipients that the evaluation of teachers by student test scores is invalid and has unintended consequences.
The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children. We believe it is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful.
The writers urge caution, suggesting that the city pilot the evaluation program first and minimize how much of the evaluation is actually based on student test scores.

They also suggest that the city use actual experts in testing and testing research to help develop the evaluation procedure.

According to the writers there are three main problems with implementing the procedure...
  • Concern #1: CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.”
  • Concern #2: Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher-evaluation approaches that use Value-Added Models (VAMs).
  • Concern #3: Students will be adversely affected by the implementation of this new teacher-evaluation system.
Do the "reformers" leading this charge against public schools in Chicago care about the schools and students? Or are they going to do what they want despite the input from knowledgeable professionals?

This is one more example of how people knowledgeable in education are ignored when it comes to implementing educational policy. From the classroom teacher, to the educational researcher and higher education professor, people who have actual experience and expertise in the education of children are simply ignored.

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