Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Value Added" Test Score Method Probed

An article in this week's Education Week (July 15) points to controversy over whether "value added" assessment of teacher effectiveness might be built on "shaky assumptions." The "Value Added" method is based on judgements as to whether individual teachers are getting greater, lesser or on par student test score gains compared with those historically predicted for their students. While significantly better than the current method of comparing the scores of this year's students with last year's different students to judge schools or teachers, serious questions remain as to whether the value added method is ready for high stakes use. Researcher Jesse Rothstein, who authored the study that was the subject of the Ed Week article, and testing expert Dan Koretz who authored the recent book Measuring Up, don't think so.

Meanwhile, it looks like the long awaited new teacher evaluation system in DCPS, developed by special assistants to the chancellor Jason Kamras and Michael Moody, relies on a "value added" assessment of individual teacher's students DC CAS scores for 55% of a teacher's professional evaluation. Stay tuned for a fair amount of controversy as this gets rolled out. DCPS isn't just planning to use this method to justify a bonus or as the basis of a pilot study as in other school districts experimenting with value added -- eg. Prince Georges County, Denver, NYC. DCPS is going right to full implementation of this untested method for as much of the teacher workforce as they have value added scores.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Testing Tactics Fuel DC CAS Gains

In a surprisingly candid article in the Washington Post today, even the Rhee administration admits that they used strategies to target and test prep students on the cusp to bump the percentage of students deemed "proficient" under NCLB. In the piece, Kerry Sylvia calls it "less about serving children and more about making the adults who run the school system look good." Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform was incorrectly identified as a group that opposes some of Michelle Rhee's reforms. We don't oppose them. We just want them to be done right.

Friday, July 3, 2009

What's Green Dot Got To Do With It ??

In an article by Bill Turque in yesterday's Washington Post it turns out that Chancellor Rhee is actively exploring with education iconoclast Steve Barr offering Green Dot an opportunity to run schools in DC. The question to ask is what expertise, if any, does Green Dot bring to the equation? Steve Barr instigated a masterful political movement of parents and then teachers in LA through Green Dot to wrest control of 17 schools from LAUSD and UTLA. He and his people never claimed to know anything about running schools.

I met the newly elected president of the Green Dot teachers union at the most recent Teacher Union Reform Network meeting in June and she seemed smart, genuine, well meaning, and honest in acknowledging that she is totally inexperienced. Even if you begin with the assumption that the schools in LA needed new management and that Green Dot fit the bill, the question remains, what do they bring to the table for DC? Green Dot is just now trying to figure out how teachers in their schools should be evaluated. They have little or no experience in this arena. Green Dot is trying to gin up a professional development program for their teachers, from scratch. To their credit, they acknowledge that they have little experience in either of these arenas, or in running schools. Is this a case of the blind leading the blind? Doesn't running schools take more than blind enthusiasm? Education, after all, does have a knowledge base. Its as if decision makers in DCPS are pretending that there is no experience among long time educators, professional developers, school leadership in other districts or nationally -- no state of the art out there that could be drawn upon. Are the ones who get hired just the ones who's stories get the best press in national magazines? ...the blind leading the blind?