Tag Archives: chancellor Tisch

Why Did New York State Test Scores Jump? Better Instruction? Untimed Tests? All the Kids Got Smarter, or, Shenanigans?

If you want to bury a news story you issue the press release on a Friday afternoon, if you want as much mileage as possible you issue the release on a Tuesday morning, followed by a press conference, in person and online, followed by laudatory speeches across the state and try to maximize the time the story garners headlines and clicks.

The State Education Department released the 2016 grades 3-8 ELA and Math scores on Friday afternoon with an odd presser. The test scores up, way up; why is the SED ashamed?

You can take a deep dive into the New York City Scores here: http://schools.nyc.gov/Accountability/data/TestResults/ELAandMathTestResults

The SED analysis of the state scores with many disaggregated charts here and here.

The Commissioner was careful not to publicly laud the increase in the scores,

But rather than celebrate the largest bump since New York adopted new tests tied to the Common Core Learning Standards, education officials reported the increases with caution. They suggested that changes in how the tests were given – not actual improvement by schools and students – may have accounted for the gains.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia also warned against making comparisons with previous years, which is typically done to evaluate schools and teachers.

“It’s not an apples to apples comparison and should be viewed in that context,” Elia said during a news conference when the results were released Friday.

For the data wonks who want to parse the results check out the files here and here.

The SED states, “…  changes in how the tests were given – not actual improvement by schools and students – may have accounted for the gains;” however, a deeper analysis is necessary.

If the increases are due to fewer questions and untimed tests, we should know, if both teachers and kids have been exposed to the more effective Common Core instruction and better professional development, we should know, or, if the SED, as some suspect, manipulated the process, we should know. All of the kids in New York State getting smarter just doesn’t seem creditable.

Under Commissioner Mills test scores increased year after year, when Chancellor Tisch and new Commissioner Steiner took over they asked a Harvard professor, Daniel Koretz to take a look – sure enough – the SED had been using many of the same questions year after year. Whether incompetence, or, more likely a method of increasing scores, we’ll never know. Scandals in Atlanta and accusations elsewhere have cast doubt on the entire testing regimen. Jumps in test scores are treated with skepticism.

For years Howard T. Everson chaired the Regents Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and was sharply critical of test score inflation.

But given all the flaws of the test, said Prof. Howard T. Everson of the City University of New York’s Center for Advanced Study in Education, it is hard to tell what those rising scores really meant.

“Teachers began to know what was going to be on the tests,” said Professor Everson, who was a member of a state testing advisory panel and who warned the state in 2008 that it might have a problem with score inflation. “Then you have to wonder, and folks like me wonder, is that real learning or not?”

Each year after the release of the state tests scores the TAC issued a lengthy analysis of the quality of the test. Recently the TAC process has changed, as I understand the current process the TAC report goes to the test creator, Pearson, (now replaced by Questar) who vets the report, over the last few years the report was released a year after the test and was so heavily “massaged” it was meaningless.

The SED/Regents should, in the footsteps of Tisch and Steiner, immediately ask Everson or Koretz or a colleague with equally impeccable credentials to examine the current state test results.

If, in fact, the Commissioner doesn’t know why scores jumped we have to ask: why not?  If untimed tests resulted in higher test scores shouldn’t Regents Exams be untimed?  If the increased exposure to better Common Core instruction resulted in higher scores why are the Algebra 1 and Geometry scores not increasing?

Shrugging and simply saying we’re happy with increased scores but we’re clueless as to why is simply not acceptable. Data should influence policy at all levels, and, we have to be confident that the testing regimen is creditable.

Chancellor Tisch Will Not Seek Another Term: Some Suggestions – How To Begin to Win Back Parents and Teachers

If you used the word “Regent” a decade ago I would have said one of the five exams a student needs to graduate high school in New York State. The “Board” of Regents, with origins in the late 18th century, met monthly and anonymously in Albany; the members were college professors, retired superintendents, former legislators and business leaders, who had enough political clout to be “elected” (in reality, selected) by the Speaker of the Assembly.

No newspaper stories, no blogs, no one paid much attention to the meetings and the policy determinations.

A test: who was the chancellor prior to Merryl Tisch?

The major chore of the Board was to select a commissioner, who usually was a senior, well-regarded superintendent, who ran the State Education Department.

The board is a policy board and the policy items usually originated with the commissioner.

In 2009 Merryl Tisch, who had been a board member for a dozen years, was selected by her colleagues as chancellor.

Commissioner Mills “retired,” and the Chancellor Tisch chose a new path, instead of selecting a state superintendent the board selected David Steiner, the Dean of the School of Education at Hunter College and before that the leader of the National Academy of the Arts.

The “dirty little secret,” a secret that everyone suspected, the scores on the state reading/math tests, that had been inching up every year, had been “pushed long” by the exiting commissioner.

Tisch and Steiner asked David Koretz, a Harvard professor to examine testing practices, and, yes, the testing practices that were in place allowed the scores to incrementally increase each year.

Test practices were corrected, and the scores dipped.

I was optimistic, the Tisch-Steiner team signaled a new, more open board that might actually address the major issue, the elephant in the room: a funding formula based on local property tax revenue that guaranteed that the richest districts would get richer and the poorer district poorer. It was a national disgrace.

To my disappointment the commissioner resigned, John King was appointed without a search and the chancellor did not address the funding catastrophe, instead moved down the Race to the Top, Common Core, testing and teacher evaluation tied to student growth scores path.

There is no question in my mind that the chancellor’s goal is to improve opportunities for the most disadvantaged, to drive the members of the board to adopt policies to improve futures for every child in the state. The chancellor, which had been an anonymous position, was changed into the chancellor as the driver of education policy across the state; every meeting is covered by the media. At Regents’ meetings the chancellor is frequently the kid in the class who calls out loud, who interrupts the speaker to ask a challenging question, who pushes, who cross-examines the speaker, whether a State Ed staffer or the commissioner.

To me she has been an enigma – a brilliant leader, passionately concerned about education, a champion of the disempowered, a champion of the poorest communities and the children without the power to change their own paths, a leader who somehow wandered down the wrong road.

While the state constitution designates the Board of Regents as the organization that sets policy for education in state more and more policy is set by the second floor of the Capital building – the offices of the executive – the governor. The “education governor” is now trying to repair his torn education legacy.

The NY Daily News report on a new poll,

In the poll’s education section, the Common Core curriculum got boos from respondents who believe the strict standards have made schools worse. By a 2-1 margin, voters gave Common Core a thumbs down, with 40% of those surveyed saying public education has gotten worse. Another 21% said Common Core standards have made little impact.

A year ago John King was pushed out as commissioner – the Cuomo Education Commission was reconstituted with a specific agenda, any district can receive a waiver from the new teacher evaluation plan, a teacher appeal process has been put in place, the commissioner is exploring the efficacy of the use of growth scores in assessing teachers and the governor has selected a superintendent as his chief education advisor – a superintendent who had been a sharp critic of the Cuomo policies.

The Speaker of the Assembly dumped the two most senior members of the board and chancellor chose not to seek another term.

Two Regents (Tisch and Anthony Bottar – Syracuse) terms expire and next year three Regents terms expire.

Geoff Decker, at Chalkbeat does an excellent job of tracking the rapid changes here.

The Governor selected a new deputy for education who moves from a critic of the policies of the governor and the Regents to the chief educational advisor to the governor.

Hochman has been critical of state education policies in the past. Last year, he said the Common Core has become too tied to a “culture of testing” and questioned whether it would need to be revamped.

“The whole accountability, ‘gotcha’ culture is so out of control that we need a fresh start,” Hochman told The Journal News in September of last year. “The standards are OK, but every problem is connected to the Common Core. New York needs to take a bold stance so we can focus on educating kids.”

With 200,000 parents opting out of state tests, with an angry teaching force, with nose diving polling numbers the governor is bailing the sinking ship of state.

Although Chancellor Tisch will not be seeking another term she does have five months to begin to turn around the leviathan – the education system in New York State

A few suggestions:

Reduce or eliminate the impact of Value-Added Measures (VAM) on teacher evaluation.

Whether or not the use of student growth scores are a valid, stable and reliable tool to assess teacher performance the impact has been to alienate teachers and parents and to overemphasize annual school testing. The state should begin to explore an inspectorate system, the school and teacher evaluation system used in almost all other nations. (Read about the Inspectorate System here)

Reduce the length of state tests, release more test items and release the scores earlier

While the changes I suggest are relatively minor they address the complaints of parents and teachers and are achievable for the next testing cycle. The state should begin the move to adaptive testing; the data is immediately available to teachers and parents and helps guide instruction tailored to the needs of each individual child.

Fully examine and adjust the Common Core and Engage NY Curriculum Modules

The standards are not well-written, all policies should be regularly reviewed in a transparent process, the complaints about the Common Core, for example, the inappropriateness of the early childhood standards, should be explored. The Curriculum Modules should have been constructed from the bottom up and should be constantly expanded to reflect the brilliance of teachers around the state.

Increase the role of teachers in the Common Core/Curriculum Module revision process

A no brainer: ”Participation Reduces Resistance.”

Continue to advocate changing the federal testing requirements for English language learners and Students with Disabilities.

With Arne Duncan almost out the door hopefully Secretary-Designee King will accept the New York State request to alter the cruel testing requirements now in place for English language learners and Students with disabilities.

Robert Frost mulls over “The Road Not Taken,” we have taken the wrong road – time to correct our error.

A Window: The Regents and the Commissioner Have an Opportunity to Craft Student Tests and Teacher Evaluation Plans That Are Meaningful to Families and Staffs

In New York State parents opted one in five students out of the grades 3-8 English and Math exams that are required by federal law – 225,000 students. Other parents considered opting out and fearing some negative impact on their children decided not to opt out this year. As it turns out these exams are not “high stakes” for children, in fact, they are “no stakes” for children. The exams exist to rank the state, school districts, schools and teachers. By federal statute and regulation the state must determine “priority,” “focus” and “out-of-time” schools, require intervention plans with the ultimate threat of school closings. Part of a teacher’s “score” is based on student progress on state tests as determined by a complex algorithm usually referred to as Value-Added Modeling (VAM). The teacher “score” can be used as the basis of dismissal procedures.

The opt out parents are part of a rejection of a stumbling political system; the political parties spar, attack each other, and fail to pass what appear to be “no-brainer” ideas. The popularity of Trump is a rejection of everyday politics; voters seem to be rejecting incumbency, seeking a new crop of candidates who promise to listen to the concerns of voters.

We are fourteen months away from a presidential election as well as the election of the 150 members of the Assembly and the 63 members of the Senate.

The opt out parents are among the worst fears of electeds, they cross party lines, they are passionate, they are single issue voters and the issue can’t be reduced to a meaningful single vote on a piece of legislation.

The new state commissioner, MaryEllen Elia arrived in early July and immediately began dripping gasoline on the embers of opt out: Parents have a right to opt out; however I support state tests; superintendents must do everything possible to convince parents not to opt out, districts may lose funding, whoops, no they won’t lose funding … as she stumbled from comment to comment the opt out parents saw her as yet another bureaucrat looking to test and punish their child. Perhaps incorrectly, she sent the wrong message as her first message.

Let’s take a deep breath; there is a window for the Board of Regents to explore a major course correction. At the September meeting the regents will give final approval, with opposing votes, to the new, controversial, Cuomo-imposed principal-teacher evaluation plan – the state will move from the current plan (3012-c: read the 166-page SED Guidance document here) to the new plan, referred to as the “matrix” (3012-d: read links to guidance here).

The new law, acknowledging the complexity of designing new plans within brief timelines allow for districts to ask for waivers (Read Guidance here) – delaying the date of completing a plan from November 15th to March 15th, effectively delaying the implementation of 3012-d for a year.

Districts/BOCES that are facing hardships and are therefore unable to have an APPR plan consistent with §3012-d approved by the Department by the November 15, 2015 deadline must submit a Hardship Waiver application in order to maintain their eligibility for a State aid increase.

Chancellor Tisch, to her credit, has made it clear that the regents will look favorably on applications for waivers.

Five hours down I-95 the Congress will be considering the much-delayed reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. While the bills that passed the House and the Senate contain substantial differences there is a good chance that the conference will craft a final bill, a bill that the president will have to sign or veto. While it is difficult to know with certainty a bill might be on the president’s desk later this year or early in 2016.

I provided a civics lesson on How a Bill Becomes a Law earlier in the year: https://mets2006.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/civics-101-the-struggle-over-the-reauthorization-of-nclbesea-as-a-teaching-tool/

Education Week has written extensively about the differences in the House and Senate bills; however, both bills give far more authority to the states on issues of school accountability.

Pending ESEA Reauthorization
Under both House and Senate bills, states would have to stick with the NCLB law’s testing schedule. But they could decide how much weight to give those tests in gauging school performance and could set their own goals for student achievement. There would be no requirement that states identify a certain percentage of schools as low-performing, or use any specific turnaround techniques. Both bills would also open the door to some sort of local assessment, although the House bill goes further than the Senate measure.

The regents and the commissioner, in a transparent climate, should begin to discuss changes in the state testing and principal-teacher assessment laws and regulations, which may be possible under a new NCLB.

While the new NCLB will require annual testing will it require the testing of every child or will the law allow using sampling techniques that are used by the National Assessment of Educational Progress – NAEP – referred to as the nation’s report card?

Since NAEP assessments are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, NAEP results serve as a common metric for all states and selected urban districts. The assessment stays essentially the same from year to year, with only carefully documented changes. This permits NAEP to provide a clear ppicture of student academic progress over time.

NAEP does not test every subject every year; NAEP uses sampling methods,

In state assessments (mathematics, reading, science, and writing), a sample of schools and students is selected to represent each participating state. In an average state, 2,500 students in approximately 100 public schools are assessed per grade, for each subject assessed. The selection process for schools uses stratified random sampling within categories of schools with similar characteristics.

Could New York State use the same stratified random sampling processes to assess student performance across the state?

I admit this is a complex process, it may not be permitted under the yet to be negotiated new NCLB; however, a NAEP-type sampling, if possible, would remove the stigma of testing and provide the state, the localities and the public with the data required to assess our progress.

If we move away from testing every student every year how can we assess teacher performance?

The two assessment plans in New York State, 3012-c and the new “matrix,” 3012-d reply on highly questionable algorithms with substantial errors of measurement and supervisory observations using state-approved rubrics such as the Danielson Frameworks.

Supervisory observation of lessons has an inherent flaw – will all supervisors view lessons through the same lens? While the lens may be the Danielson Frameworks a supervisor in an inner city high poverty school may “score” a teacher quite differently than a supervisor in a high achieving suburban school. In the last round of teacher assessments (APPR) there were districts in which virtually every teacher received a maximum or near maximum score – every teacher was “highly effective.” Charlotte Danielson demurs, at a meeting I attended she responded to a principal who proudly proclaimed in her school every teacher would be highly effective. Danielson interrupted, “We’re lucky if a teacher occasionally visits highly effective.”

Inter-rater reliability is a complex and core issue that has been the subject of considerable research: read a few of the studies,

“Inter-rater reliability Measuring and Promoting Inter-Rater Agreement of Teacher and Principal Performance Ratings” http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED532068.pdf

“Evaluating Inter-rater Reliability of a National Assessment Model for Teacher Performance” http://ijep.icpres.org/2011/v5n2/jmporter_djelinek.pdf

The new law, 3012-d addressed the issue by requiring “outside evaluators,” well-intentioned; however, why would the outside observer be any more reliable than the in-school observer? The New York City system, called ADVANCE does try to address the reliability issue; how successfully only time will tell.

Unfortunately the teacher observation reliability problem is separate and apart from the teacher improvement conundrum. Does the teacher observation/feedback process actually impact teacher performance? Charlotte Danielson’s other book, “Talk About Teaching: Leading Professional Conversations” (2010) explains that the conversations that have nothing to do with assessment are the key to improving practice,

Another process to investigate is the Inspectorate System that is commonplace in Europe. Trained and well-respected “inspectors,” make in-depth visits to schools, not unlike the Schools Under Registration Review (SURR) teams that visited low-performing schools and wrote detailed “findings-recommendations” reports based on a public set of standards.

I wrote about the Inspectorate Systems: https://mets2006.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/flawed-evaluation-systems-how-should-we-assess-schoolteacher-performance-who-will-have-the-cojones-to-admit-their-errors-and-choose-a-validreliablestable-system/

With a new reauthorized NCLB in the wings and with waivers postponing the requirement to produce 3012-d plans the regents and the commissioner have a window, an opportunity to craft a new approach that would relieve families and students of the burden for sitting for meaningless tests and time to create a plan that both assesses principal and teacher performance and assists all educators in improving their practice.

The failure to find “fixes” could lead to many hundreds of thousands of opt out families and the angry voter-parents seeking elected scalps in September 2016 primaries and the November 2016 general election.

We don’t have a lot of time – the regents and the commissioner should begin a review process, a public transparent process as soon as possible with a goal of producing proposed legislation for the new legislative session.

“All politics is local,” Will Governor Cuomo Listen to the Folks in the Provinces?

“All politics is local,” Tip O’Neill, Speaker of the House (1977-87)

Presidents, senators, speakers of the house, governors, political parties and the hordes who spin fight for the hearts and minds of the American people, well, at least the less than half of the American people who bother to vote.

The election cycle never ends.

Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration, response to the Russians in the Ukraine, fighting ISIS, and on and on, each side tries to “win” the intellectual and visceral fight, from Fox on the right, to CNN to MSNBC on the left; however, networks and cable stations no longer have the influence they once had.

Newspaper sales decline every year, cyberspace is the battlefield. Americans get their “news” from websites, from Facebook, and, increasingly from Twitter. Hashtags rule.

Slowly and inexorably the fight over education appears to be tilting against the Obama/Duncan/Cuomo agenda.

Rubin Diaz is the Borough President of the Bronx, an anachronistic elected position, with the demise of the Board of Estimate in 1990 the borough president has no vote and no control over legislation or budgets, the borough president is the cheerleader for their borough. Diaz is highly popular and dependent on the governor, the state legislature, the mayor and the council to fund projects. In his sixth State of the Borough address, a long list of job creation achievements, new housing and economic development projects, he added the line, “Children shouldn’t be defined by one test.” The line was greeted with applause from the hundreds in the audience.

Thirty-plus Republican members of the NYS Assembly introduce a bill to discontinue the Common Core,

Section 1 of the education law is amended by adding new section 115,
which shall discontinue implementation of the common core state

While the bill will not move in the Assembly, 106 members in the 150-seat Assembly are Democrats and the Assembly, similar to the House of Representatives, is driven by the majority party. The Republicans have seized upon a popular issue, especially in the suburban districts. The bill was widely applauded on blogs across the state.

Amy Paulin is an outspoken and widely popular Democratic member of the Assembly. When Regent Harry Phillips, after many terms of outstanding service announced he will not be seeking a new term Paulin and her colleagues in the judicial district (Westchester, Rockland, Duchess) organized public interviews for candidates for the vacancy. I believe fourteen candidates participated in the public interviews. In the past Regents were selected in backroom wheeling and dealing. A year ago Regent Jackson was dumped and replaced by Regent Finn, with no public input. With the change in Assembly leadership sunlight appears to spreading across the state.

Paulin authored a letter to Chancellor Tisch, following the pattern of Malatras letters to Tisch (Malatras is the Governor’s top policy advisor who penned two confrontational letters to the chancellor). The letter, with the signatures of five other Assembly members, (see entire letter below) trashes the governor’s proposal re changing the teacher evaluation law.

In his third term Mayor Bloomberg decided to confront teachers and their union, issue after issue, battles back and forth, and the public increasingly began to support teachers over the mayor, In May, 2013,Sol Stern in the City Journal reported,

New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents [to a Zogby poll] said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

Local politics is tilting toward teachers, in the waning years of the Bloomberg administration the public appears to be tilting against Cuomo’s education agenda. When electeds ask, “should I support the governor’s education agenda or ‘people’s agenda’?” more and more electeds are choosing to stand with their constituents.

Siena College polls reports, “By a 15-point margin, 49-34 percent, voters say implementation of Common Core standards should be stopped. Voters also say they trust the State Education Department (SED) and the Board of Regents to set education policy far more than they trust the Governor or Legislature.”

Five weeks down the road the state budget is due – the clock is ticking towards the April 1 deadline. While not reaching a budget is a possibility (Governor Patterson’s budget wasn’t concluded until the end of the legislative session in June). If a budget deal is not reached the governor, through executive orders, actually pushes through his budget piece by piece, however, for months the rhetoric is, “the governor has lost control.” It is likely that a budget deal will be reached, and, the governor’s education agenda will likely be part of the budget deal.

How can the governor reach a budget deal that includes a resolution to his many confrontational education initiatives?

Education is an obstacle to the elephants in the room: rent control and the property tax cap.

Both laws sunset at the end of the session, rent control, (the “Erstadt Law ” requires that laws dealing with rental apartments must be passed in Albany, not the City Council) must be renewed by the legislature or rent control will end in New York City. The Republican Senate will extract their “pound of flesh.” The property tax cap, the center of Cuomo policy, also requires the approval of the legislature, and is unpopular among local school boards and local governments; additionally mayoral control also sunsets at the end of the session.

Ideally, budget negotiations will resolve as many contentious issues as possible, narrowing the field for the end of session negotiations.

If the budget is completed by April 1 you can bet that teacher union leaders will not be on the stage. How do you reach a settlement, a settlement that will not make everyone happy, that will not lead to endless sparring?

An ambitious governor, a new speaker of the Assembly and a Senate majority leader with “Bharara” problem; let the games begin.

It’s Oscar night – my favorite movie clip – give it a look/listen: https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=The+Marseilles+Casablanca&fr=iphone&.tsrc=apple&pcarrier=AT%26T&pmcc=310&pmnc=410

Local State Reps Pen Critical Letter to NYS Education Chancellor Merryl Tisch
Pat Casey | Feb 18, 2015 |

In the wake of much criticism regarding the evaluation of teachers in New York State, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) penned the following letter, which was also signed by local representatives David Buchwald (D-White Plains), Thomas Abinanti (D-Greenburgh), Ellen Jaffe (D-Rockland), Steve Otis (D-Rye), and Kenneth Zebrowski (D-Rockland).

We believe that New York State’s Annual Professional Performance Review (“APPR”) process fails to accomplish the purposes for which it was developed, and provides unreliable data rather than accountability and transparency. While we believe that teachers and principals should be evaluated by trained administrators and held accountable for their performance, for the reasons set forth below we do not believe that the APPR, as currently constructed, is a reliable measure of teacher or principal performance. Nor do we believe that the APPR process contributes to the professional development of teachers or principals. And although Education Law Section 3012-c purports to expedite the process for termination of ineffective teachers and principals, it actually has the opposite effect.

1. The APPR “HEDI” scale is seriously flawed and makes it impossible for an evaluator to differentiate meaningfully among educators. A teacher receives scores on three subcomponents of the APPR: (i) student growth on state assessments (worth 20 points), (ii) locally selected measures of student growth (worth 20 points), and (iii) locally developed teacher practice measures, mostly classroom observations (worth 60 points). The composite score that a teacher must receive on the three subcomponents of the APPR in order to be deemed Effective is 75 out of a possible 100 points.

The scale doesn’t work because the percentage of available points required by the state for an Effective score on the first two subcomponents (45%) is much lower than the percentage of available points required for an Effective composite score (75%). Imagine a teacher who receives a 9 out of 20 points on the first two subcomponents, which deems her Effective. In order to achieve a composite score of Effective, she must receive 95% of the available points on the third subcomponent, which is negotiated by the school district.
With a very narrow point range to work with, i.e., 57 to 60 points, an administrator cannot meaningfully differentiate among effective teachers through the scoring of the third subcomponent, the locally developed teacher practice measure.

We urge you to recommend that the Commissioner fix these inconsistencies in the scoring ranges as part of the annual review process.

2. The APPR sets up for failure good teachers, good principals, and good schools. A teacher who earns a rating of Effective or Highly Effective may in a subsequent year earn an Ineffective rating because his new class of students did so well in the prior year that there is no room to demonstrate the amount of student growth required for a higher score. Even if his students do extremely well on standardized tests compared to similar students across the state, he may receive a poor APPR score.

A principal too can be penalized for setting high standards for his students. A principal may receive a score of “Developing” if the school does not offer more than five Regents as is required for a higher score. Many high performing school districts give their own, more rigorous exams in lieu of a Regents exam, and thus do not meet the threshold for a higher score. Another criterion for receiving a score of “Effective” or “Highly Effective” is the percent of students scoring 80% or more on the Algebra I Regents in ninth grade. In many districts throughout the state, the stronger students take the Algebra I Regents in eighth grade, and the weaker students take it in ninth grade. The scoring does not account for the students who took and passed the exam as eighth graders, thereby penalizing the principal.

3. The APPR is designed for less than 20% of all teachers. Only teachers of fourth through eighth grade ELA and math receive student growth ratings based solely on state standardized test scores. Teachers of other grades and content areas (more than 80%) must work with their principals to agree on student learning objectives (“SLOs”). If a teacher teaches a course that has a state-mandated assessment, such as a Regents exam, that teacher’s SLOs must include as evidence the results on those assessments. Teachers who teach other grades or non-regents subjects will have SLOs that may include test results from third-party vendors, district or BOCES developed assessments, or locally developed assessments—and the target outcomes are determined locally. Although SLOs are treated as if they are comparable in reliability to standardized test scores, they can’t be comparable simply because they are locally developed, with locally determined target outcomes. Even if one accepts—which we do not—the premise that results on ELA and math tests are a reliable indicator of student achievement or educator effectiveness, it is clear that it is unfair and unreliable to compare teachers whose ratings are based solely on state standardized test scores with teachers whose ratings are based on SLOs.

4. Most teachers do not receive appropriate professional development based on their APPR scores. A better designed APPR would require principals to work with all teachers, including those rated Effective or Highly Effective, on their professional development. It would require principals, as educational leaders in their buildings, to develop the most appropriate evaluation tools and the best professional development program for all teachers in their schools. New York is missing an opportunity to incentivize our best teachers to become leaders among their peers.

5. Education Law Section 3012-c makes the dismissal of ineffective teachers more difficult than under prior law. The APPR is supposed to enable administrators to identify those teachers who are ineffective, and to use the APPR ratings in an expedited 3020(a) proceeding. However, the use of the APPR in disciplinary proceedings requires two consecutive annual ratings of Ineffective, the development and implementation of a teacher improvement plan, and validation of those Ineffective ratings through at least three observations by an independent validator. The result is that ineffective tenured teachers will teach for at least two years before they can be removed from the classroom based on their APPR scores. Even worse, the law makes the termination of ineffective probationary teachers and principals more difficult than was the case under prior law.

New York State’s APPR process fails to accomplish the purposes for which it was developed because it provides a one-size-fits-all approach that does not adequately take into account differences in educator experience, class composition, subject and grade level taught or other factors. It is unreasonable to assume that the same standardized evaluation tool will fairly and reliably rate an experienced PE teacher in a rural middle school, a brand new fourth grade teacher in an urban school, a mid-career guidance counselor in a high-performing suburban school, and a principal of a BOCES career and technical education program. Because the tool is unreliable, the data it produces is also unreliable. Therefore, the proposed increased reliance on standardized testing would unfairly penalize, or fail to identify weaknesses in, teachers, principals, schools and school districts.

We believe that the Regents and the State Education Department must convene a group of superintendents, principals, teachers, school board members, and parents who can advise the legislature, based on their broad knowledge and expertise, how to improve Education Law Section 3012-c so that it will achieve the important goals of increasing educator accountability, encouraging professional development to develop great teachers and principals, and expediting the termination of ineffective teachers and principals.

Thank you for your consideration and for all that you do for the students of New York State.

The “Left Behind” Charter Schools: Can You Close Public Schools Without Closing Low Performing Charter Schools?

The Bloomberg-Klein administration created almost 200 charter schools (See list here) and closed over 150 public schools. One class of charter schools are the networks, charter management organizations that manage clusters of schools: Success Academy Charter Schools, Harlem Children’s Zone, Uncommon Charter Schools, KIPP, Democracy Prep and a few others.

The major of charter schools are “mom and pop” charter schools, single entrepreneurships attached to a large church or community-based organization.

The charter networks aggressively raise dollars, oftentimes from hedge fund partners. A recent change in the tax code benefits investors,

“A federal tax break known as the “New Markets” tax credit lets hedge funds that invest in charters double their money in seven years. Charters have become, notes one education analyst, “just another investor playground for easy money passed from taxpayers to the wealthy.”

Students First New York is the political action arm of the charter school networks, the Board includes Joel Klein, Eva Moskowitz, Michelle Rhee and Dan Senior (Campbell Brown’s husband) and they poured over four million dollars into the Cuomo and Republican state senatorial campaigns.

The scores of “mom and pop” charter schools were created to “buy-out” leaders of communities of color across the city. Reverend Barnard (Christian Cultural Center), Johnny Youngblood (East Brooklyn Congregations). Floyd Flake (Greater Allen AME); organization after organization, and they all supported Mayor Bloomberg, Interestingly the teacher union fought back, school by school and neighborhood by neighbor. A spring, 2013 Zogby poll surprisingly reported that the public supported teachers more than the mayor,

When asked to name two groups that should play the largest role in determining education policy, only 16 percent named the mayor’s office, while 28 percent said the schools chancellor. Nearly half (49.1 percent) named teachers. So while the public wants to continue the reform push of recent years, it would prefer that teachers lead it

The de Blasio-Farina administration is making every effort to fix not close schools. The 94 Renewal Schools, about a dozen of which are “out of time” schools will define the new administration. The renewal plan has been “negotiated” with the folks at State Ed for months and in the last week the department assigned a leader and the “fixes” are beginning to move forward, albeit slowly.

At the State Ed level there is a problem, how do you pressure the city to close public schools and ignore charter schools?

At the December Regents Meeting what is usually a pro-forma action was on the agenda, the reauthorization of expiring charters. Charters are actually licenses to operate and must be renewed. There are three charter authorizing agencies, SUNY, the Board of Regents and the NYC Department of Education. As the Regents perused the NYC request a few of the Regents were clearly uncomfortable, the data from a number of charter schools was poor, very poor, below the data of public schools in the district. The Regents deferred action and asked the department to come to Albany and explain the process that they used to assess the charter schools.

At the January meeting a team for the department explained the process, and offered new plans with reduced renewal periods – three of the schools were only given 1.5 years. The Regents members were clearly uncomfortable; the process still seems “soft.” The Regents voted to accept the plans with reduced renewal periods, with the exception of Chancellor Tisch, who asked that her vote be recorded as a “no” vote. Over the next few months many other charter schools will be in the charter renewal pipeline, and many will have poor data. (Read Chalkbeat report here).

The department, finally, released some data on attrition rates of charter schools; however, the reports are skimpy, who are the discharged students? Are they low achievers or discipline force-outs? Were they replaced (“back-fill”)? How did they impact their new schools?

The “mom and pop” charter schools struggle, frequently led by inexperienced principals, new and revolving staffs, and without an external support network. The NYC Charter School Center does provide support, however, it’s primarily role is advocacy and assisting new charter school applicants.

Without deep-pocketed funders to spread around political dollars, without external networks to manage their schools, without knowledgeable, experienced school leaders and staffs the scores of low-achieving charter schools will face closings. If State Ed pushes ahead forcing the city to close public schools it will be difficult to protect charter schools, and, as charter schools close their patina will blemish.

An increasing number of studies are casting doubt on the wisdom of the unabated increase in the number of charter schools,

a recently released Stanford University Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) study showing that Ohio charter school students on average learn less in a year than their district school peers (See details of the Ohio CREDO report here)

It would make sense if New York State took a step backwards, rather than increasing or removing the charter school cap a deep dive into the effectiveness of the charter school model might make more sense.

Education Politics is a Blood Sport: Chancellor Tisch Responds to the Threatening Cuomo Letter

The last two weeks have been strange: the NYS Director of Operations, Jim Malatras, the Cuomo policy guru sent a public letter to Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King raising “questions” in twelve different areas.
(Read the letter here)

The confrontational letter challenges the teacher evaluation system (“How is the current teacher evaluation system credible when only one percent of teachers are rated ineffective?”) The letter claims the current teacher discipline law (3020a) “makes it virtually impossible” to remove low performing teachers and asks why teachers with “disciplinary problems continue to be paid in the absent teacher reserve as opposed to being terminated.”

The “questions” challenge the length of the probationary period, encourages more rigorous standards for pre-service teachers, supports monetary incentives for high performing teachers, asks the Chancellor to address the “deplorable situation in Buffalo,” the charter school cap, online courses, the consolidation of school districts, mayoral control in New York City, the system for selecting Regents members and the process for selection the new commissioner.

I was not surprised by the letter.

NYSUT, the state teacher union has been tussling with the Governor for months, demonstrations, e-blasts to members, press releases, a steady stream of criticisms of Cuomo policies and statements. Cuomo was on his way to another term with meager opposition, suddenly, an obstacle. An unknown Fordham law professor, Zephyr Teachout challenged Cuomo at the Working Families Party (WFP) convention. The WFP is actually the left wing of the Democratic Party. Many in the WFP were unhappy with the Governor; he hadn’t pushed hard enough on the Women’s Equity Agenda, on ethics reform, on the public funding of elections and a range of other issues. Surprisingly Teachout became the darling of the left wing of the left wing, the left wing of the WFP; after considerable arm-twisting the WFP endorsed Cuomo giving him another line on the ballot.

Out of nowhere Teachout announced she was a candidate in the September Democratic primary. In only three weeks she collected 40,000 signatures to secure a place on the ballot.

NYSUT did not make an official endorsement, however, teachers all over the state worked for Teachout and a few teacher locals, including Buffalo, endorsed Teachout. She garnered 34% of the vote with no money. In November Teachout voters either stayed on the sidelines or voted for the Green Party. Cuomo, who was polling in the mid-sixties won with 54% of the vote.

I mentioned to a teacher activist to expect “consequences” if the local endorsed Teachout. He thought Cuomo “would understand.”

Politics is a blood sport. When your guy/gal wins you expect them to support your issues and when your guy/gal loses you can expect the winner to seek retribution. A deeply embedded political aphorism: screw with me and I screw with you.

Maybe you didn’t learn this in your civics class and maybe you’re willing to take the heat and continue to battle and maybe you’re simply an idealist.

In my view, the major issues for NYSUT are not charter schools and the teacher evaluation law; the major issues are the 2% property tax cap and the Gap Elimination Adjustment.

The property tax cap makes it almost impossible to negotiate a contract. Normal inflationary day-to-day expenses eat up the 2% cap. Locals who have negotiated contracts have negotiated contracts in the 1% range, sometimes with no retroactive raises, some have agreed to freeze step increases to avoid layoffs.

The Gap Elimination Adjustment (Read explanation here) was the way the state survived the economic meltdown in 2008 – basically cutting away dollars that school districts should have received under the state funding formula.

The property tax cap and the GEA are opposed by NYSUT, the State Superintendents Association as well as the School Board Association, it might have been possible to work together to ease these issues.

Unfortunately the charter school and the teacher evaluation system have eaten up all the air.

Malatras closed his letter with, “Several weeks ago Governor Cuomo said that improving education is thwarted by the monopoly of the education bureaucracy. The education bureaucracies main mission is to sustain the bureaucracy and the status quo is the enemy of change.”

Earlier today Chancellor Tisch respond with a 20-page missive (Read letter here), Geoff Decker at Chalkbeat muses on the Tisch response,

The letter offers the first comprehensive look at what the Board of Regents and State Education Department are willing to support as Cuomo prepares to push for aggressive changes to the way teachers are hired, fired, and evaluated.

Many of the other proposals and positions aren’t new, Tisch noted in an interview. Others were unsolicited, such as an increase in funding for underserved students, boosting school diversity and passing the DREAM Act.

But the letter’s contents stuck out because of the areas that Tisch and Berlin wade into that the State Education Department and Regents rarely speak up about, in part because they have limited power to change them.

“The questions and concerns outlined in the letter relate to issues of State Law, which are under the direct control of the State Legislature and the Governor, not the Department or the Board of Regents,” they write.

The Tisch-Berlin response is a defense of their own actions, a reiteration of policies that State Ed has sought from the legislature for years as well as support for issues raised in the Malatras letter. On a core issue in the original letter, the future of the Board of Regents, the Chancellor is curt – leave us alone.

The response letter calls for the extension of probation from three to five years, the elimination of independent arbitrators and the replacement with state employees, the restructuring of the teacher evaluation system with the state/school district not having to negotiate with local unions, termination without hearings for teachers with two consecutive ineffective ratings, fiscal incentives for high performing teachers, greater authority for the state to intervene in low performing schools and districts and greater funding for a range of initiatives.

For me, the most significant part of the response letter is the sections that are not a response. At the conclusion of the letter Tisch adds two areas for consideration: school desegregation and support for the Dreamers Act. Tisch-Berlin suggest exploring a number of efforts to reverse the deep segregation of schools and references a number of programs and goes on to urge the Governor to support the New York State Dreamers Act that makes a category of undocumented students eligible for state financial aid.

Next Wednesday the Governor will deliver his State of the State message, I expect he will continue to attack, and the unions will respond, the questions are whether the Governor and the unions can find some common ground, and, whether the Governor seeks changes in education governance at the state level.

In 1968 the UFT and the John Lindsay, the New York City mayor were engaged in a bitter struggle – the 40-day teacher strike, racial invective, the “white. liberal intelligentsia” traditionally pro-union viciously attacking the UFT, the growing and militant black power movement painting the union as akin to the worst of the racists of the South. A year later John Lindsay and the union negotiated a dramatic change in the teacher pension system, called Tier 1. (Read Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars). John Lindsay was considering running for president in 1972 and wanted to heal wounds and a spectacular increase in pension benefits was the salve.

Cuomo wants to “punish” teacher unions, to make it clear that attacking the Governor will have repercussions. A lesson for teacher unions and a lesson for other unions, the teacher unions have to fight back as well as seek avenues for reconciliation.

As a history teacher I’m reminded of “Going to Canossa (“Canossa” refers to an act of penance or submission), Henry IV, the Holy Roman Emperor, dressed in “sackcloth and ashes,” humbled himself in the snow outside of the castle of Pope Gregory seeking absolution from the threat of excommunication. Henry retained his throne.

Charter school quotas and the teacher the evaluation system are negotiable, and, the core issues are the Gap Elimination Adjustment and the property tax cap, the union has to seek absolution from Pope Andrew and move on to resolve the core issues.

Vocational Ed (CTE) Requires the Same Skills as College Readiness: Jobs in the 21st Century are High-Skilled or “Do You Want Fries with That?”

I’m sure you’ve heard someone say,

“S/he’s not ‘college material,’ maybe they’d do well in a vocational ed program.”

Three or four decades ago that comment might make sense, after all semi-skilled union jobs were plentiful, High schools divided students into the regents track and the local diploma track: the Regents Competency Exam was a low skill test which was the path to graduation for most kids. As the world changed the union jobs moved off shore and the job-skills gap widened, the local diploma was a path to nowhere. The workplace consisted of jobs that required a college degree or high skills, or, minimum wage service industry jobs.

In the mid-nineties the members of the Board of Regents took a brave step – in the face of enormous criticism they began the process to phase out the local diploma and create a regents-only path to graduation. In the phase-in period the regents passing score was reduced from 65 to 55 and the plan was to increase the passing score to 65 one subject at a time – it took twelve years.

While the Regents were raising standards the commissioner was lowering standards – from 2006 to 2010 state tests scores increased precipitously. Newly selected Chancellor Tisch and newly hired Commissioner David Steiner blew the whistle – a new test was created and the scores dropped by 20 points.

The push-pull between the Regents and the Commissioner raising standards and local school officials finding ways to dance around the “rules” became commonplace. Kids who couldn’t pass courses were allowed to complete an online course that might take a few hours, the six-hour/two day English Regents exam was reduced to one day and the passing rate soared, on numerous occasions regents exams were scaled to increase passing rates.

The Regents and the Commissioner want to increase standards, produce kids who are more capable of entering the more demanding workforce and local superintendents fearing drops in test scores and graduation rates could jeopardize their jobs, advocate ways to get around or change the rules

Unfortunately the illusion that kids with academic difficulties will thrive in a vocational education setting continues. (Vocational Education, aka “Voc Ed,” is now referred to as “Career and Technical Education,” aka as CTE). In fact, one could argue that college is the default for kids who can’t make it in a CTE program. The current high school diploma requires students to pass 44 credits and five regents exams – for a diploma with CTE endorsement – an additional 10-12 credits in a specific CTE area.

There are three types of CTE programs:

The BOCES Model:

The student attends his or her regular district high school and takes the CTE courses at a regional BOCES site – the district pays the BOCES a set amount for each student. This is the “standard model” outside of New York City. In these trying financial times low wealth districts do not want to incur additional costs and the CTE option is frequently not encouraged.

The Stand-Alone Model:

Scattered around the state we can find CTE schools – unfortunately the thirty or so CTE high schools in New York City have been reduced sharply as school after school was closed for poor performance. The department did open a school for the construction trades a few years ago, and, a few of the new small high schools claim CTE status (one for film making, another for media and advertising), the total number of CTE seats, both in New York City and around the state have declined sharply, primarily due to the cost of the creation and maintenance of the CTE programs.

The Strand Model:

Large high school might have a CTE strand in the school, for example Park West High School, a 2000 plus seat comprehensive high school had a 60-student elevator repair program in the school. As the large high schools closed the strands disappeared.

Both New York City and the state make it extremely difficult to begin a CTE strand within a school. A few years ago I worked with a few small schools exploring the possibility – the city appeared clueless and the state rigid. A principal related to me he wanted to start an engineering strand in his school – he spoke with state ed – since his proposed course of study included physics and calculus the state told the principal those courses were not appropriate for an engineering CTE strand. Yes, I am just as baffled.

The state is making every effort to ease the path for CTE students – a few months ago the regulations were changed to allow for “integrated credits,” perhaps combining an engineering class and a math class and the kid would receive dual credits.

The Chancellor just announced a proposal referred to as 4 + 1, instead of the five required regents exams a student could take four regents exams and, if I understand the proposal, substitute a CTE certification for the fifth regents. (See Chalkbeat article here).

With proper safeguards “Multiple Pathways to Graduation” makes sense – in addition the state should explore increasing the portfolio option – especially for categories of student Students With Disabilities.

The Commissioner constantly references “college and career ready,” and the state defines “college ready” as grades of 75 on the English Regents and 80 on the Algebra 1 Regents – how does the state define “career ready”?

It doesn’t.

David T. Conley is the recognized expert, writes,

In 2005, Professor David T. Conley of the University of Oregon published a groundbreaking book: College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready. At the time, plenty of people were talking about the importance of getting more low-income and minority students through high school and college. The tech boom and global competition increased the demand for more highly skilled workers, and scholars also noticed that adults in the lowest-income neighborhoods had not benefited significantly from the Clinton-era jobs boom. Any effort to improve the lives of the next generation would require an improved high school degree and higher-quality college or training.

Conley’s book offered an important new perspective: kids needed to be prepared academically (e.g., have solid writing, math and analytical skills), socially (e.g., able to manage their time and hold their own in a competitive class) and culturally (e.g., able to resist outside attractions or demands and willing to study for long hours),

Success in college could offer a leap in economic status for many students. Even if students weren’t interested in college, he noted, college preparatory skills and habits were important for landing a good, living-wage job out of high school.

At a presentation to the members of the Board of Regents two students made presentations – they were in a CTE Welding program – welding (???) – Why are we teaching kids a nineteenth century skill?

I was speaking to the president of a construction trades union – he was skilled in the same trade as his father and grandfather – he lamented that his son would not follow in his footsteps. He explained that building materials were pre-cut and pre-drilled to exact standards by robotic machines in factories overseas and building was now more like a giant Lego set – with many fewer employees, and fewer union jobs.

According to Governor Cuomo the future of upstate New York are high tech companies – are we graduating kids with the skills to be employed in these high tech companies?

The answer is a resounding, No!

The math skills necessary for a high tech company? Algebra 2

The students we’re are targeting as potential employees are having trouble passing Algebra 1.

Career and Technical Education is not for an “escape” for kids who are struggling in academic classes.

Are we teaching “coding” in elementary schools?

How many computer science certified teachers are we producing? None – because the certification area does not exist.

How many colleges have elementary school teacher preparation programs with mathematics concentrations?

Do our current curricula emphasize “analytical skills”?

Are the Common Core tests encouraging teachers to teach “College and Career Readiness” skills or does test prep engulf all?

The 4 + 1 proposal, if it isn’t used as a ploy to get around regents exams, is benign, more important, is the state both encouraging and assisting schools and school districts to establish relevant CTE programs, not acting as a gatekeeper and discouraging moving into the 21st century.

Kids entering kindergarten today will graduate college, if college is still relevant, and find categories of jobs that have not yet been created.

Remember Moore’s Law?(http://computer.howstuffworks.com/moores-law.htm)

The Common Core is Stumbling in New York State: A Lesson in Crowdsourcing Democracy (“… the act of an institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call”)

“It is the mark of the mind untrained to take its own processes as valid for all men, and its own judgments for absolute truth.”
― Aleister Crowley,

The leadership of the NYS Senate, Dean Skelos, Jeff Klein and John Flanagan, and on the Assembly side Speaker Silver and Education Committee chair Cathy Nolan dropped the bomb that has been ticking for weeks.

Skelos, Klein and Flanagan averred,

We continue to support the goals of an improved education curriculum
that increases standards and ensures that students are college and career

However, after having spent months listening to parents, teachers,
administrators and educational professionals at public hearings conducted
throughout New York State, it is our belief that while the implementation
of Common Core Learning Standards may have been well intended, it has been
poorly executed.

We continue to have grave concerns over this flawed roll-out. Unless
the Board of Regents acts to alleviate the concerns of parents, teachers
and other educators, we call on the Regents to delay the use of Common Core
tests for high-stakes decisions about teachers, principals and students for
a minimum of two years. During this time, SED should continue to develop
curricula aligned with higher standards and assist local school districts
in developing their own curricula so teachers can successfully implement
higher learning standards and help students reach their maximum potential.

On the Assembly side Silver and Nolan announced,

In a statement, Silver and Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan (D-Queens) said while “New Yorkers share the same goal – to improve our schools and help prepare our students to be successful and college and career ready upon graduation,” the process is moving too fast.

“The use of Common Core aligned tests for high-stakes decisions for teachers, principals and students should be delayed, at a minimum, for two years,” they said, while the state Education Department works with local districts to develop a game plan.

Chancellor Tisch and Commissioner King, back pedaling rapidly punted,

“The Board of Regents and State Education Department will continue to work to improve implementation of the Common Core in our schools and all the laws and regulations we administer in furtherance of educational excellence.

“Earlier this year, Chancellor Tisch announced a Regents work group to review the implementation of the Common Core in New York. Next week, at the February Board of Regents meeting, the work group will present to the P-12 committee of the Board a series of possible options that reflect the input the Board has received from legislators and the public to make thoughtful adjustments to Common Core implementation.”

At meeting after meeting Commissioner King has pushed forward, the full implementation of the Common Core now, the children cannot wait, sort of a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” looks like the torpedoes may win.

Of the 45 states that adopted the Common Core New York is only one of two states that rushed into full implementation, including full Common Core testing.

The August test results did not surprise the experts – a new test, limited release of sample questions, sporadic teacher training, and two-thirds of the test takers failed.

Hubris is defined as: a great or foolish amount of pride or confidence. The commissioner simply believed that if he attended enough meetings, spoke to enough parents and community members he could convince them is the “rightness” of his position. I have planned campaigns, slowly building support, building a grassroots network, earning buy-in, creating diverse constituencies, having patience, taking lessons from Madison and Hamilton (the Federalist Papers), carefully watching Daniel Day Lewis in “Lincoln,” and knowing “when to hold’um and when to fold’um.”

The Common Core was not delivered by Moses, they are not the Ten Commandments.

The Regents will be divided at their Monday meeting, the Commissioner and the Chancellor will offer a range of “options,” other members will support the position of the electeds calling for a moratorium, a delay.

Within a week or so a bill will be sitting on the Governor’s desk.

I’m a big fan of E. D. Hirsch, I reread “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know,” every few years. What every educated person needs to know is the iconic Shelly poem.

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

― Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

The 99%: We Can Hold Our Heads High!! Only 1% of NYS Teachers Are Ineffective, and, Why Did We Waste Three Years?

Effective teachers are the key to student success. Yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.
The Widget Effect, TNTP, 2009 (Read Executive Summary here)

The New Teacher Project Report, “The Widget Effect” found that most teachers, from 94% to 99% were rated satisfactory in a study across a number of school districts that employ 15,000 teachers. Using anecdotal evidence the study concluded that teachers acknowledge that there are colleagues that are unsatisfactory. Anecdotal research is “junk science.”

The “Widget Effect” findings became a core principal of the reform movement – states must development data-driven teacher evaluation plans with real consequences; based on sloppy advocacy driven partisan so-called “research.”

The Obama/Duncan administration, dangling Race to the Top dollars, required a teacher evaluation plan as a prerequisite to apply for the federal dollars.

The New York State plan was crafted by then Education Commissioner David Steiner working with UFT President Michael Mulgrew. The plan evaluated teachers using three tools – 60% principal evaluations using one of six rubrics approved by the state – New York City chose the Danielson Frameworks. 20% of the score is driven by student progress on state tests (grades 3-8), teachers are compared to other teachers in the state with “similar” students and 20% a locally negotiated tool, could be a pre-test/post-test or Student Learning Objectives (SLO), a rather dense piece of data (watch video here)

Each of the 700 school districts in New York State negotiated plans and submitted to the state for approval, almost all the plans were filed and approved within the deadlines, except New York City. A last minute agreement was scuttled by Mayor Bloomberg and months after the deadline Commissioner King imposed a plan.

Teachers feared that if their students did poorly on State tests their job was in jeopardy.

On August 7th the state released the results on the new Common Core-based grades 3-8 exams,

31.1% of grade 3-8 students across the State met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 31% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

Almost 70% of students “failed” the exam – a 30% drop over previous years.

In the “big four” upstate cities the results were far worse.

In Rochester, 5.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 5% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

How could students who were “proficient” each and every year suddenly fail the State exams in huge numbers?

Teacher fear accelerated – teachers presaged dramatic numbers of teachers rated as “ineffective.”

At the October UFT Delegate Meeting a teacher asked/reported to UFT President Mulgrew that the teachers in his school feared that if kids did poorly on tests they would be fired, no hearings, no nothing, just fired.

After a long, long day at the October 21st Regents Meeting, at 6:30 PM, Chancellor Tisch announced that she was calling an 8 AM meeting to announce the first year scores on the teacher evaluation plan (APPR). (See press release here)

Chancellor Tisch,

“The purpose of the evaluation system is not to create a ‘gotcha’ environment ….. The goal is to improve teaching and learning by targeting professional development to make sure every student receives quality instruction. We want to highlight and reward excellence, ensure those who are struggling receive the support they need, and provide continuous feedback to all educators.”

Commissioner King,

“The results are striking. The more accurate student proficiency rates on the new Common Core assessments did not negatively affect teacher ratings. It’s clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core. It’s also clear that it’s time to put aside talk about a moratorium on the use of state assessments in educator evaluations and focus on ensuring all students receive the rigorous and engaging instruction that will help them to prepare for college and careers.”

Roll of drums, blare of trumpets,

The preliminary statewide composite results, based on data submitted by school districts and BOCES as of the October 18 deadline, found that 91.5 percent of teachers are rated Highly Effective (49.7 percent) or Effective (41.8 percent); 4.4 percent are rated Developing; and 1 percent are rated Ineffective.

The results do not reflect New York City who entered the APPR process a year later; there is no reason to believe that NYC scores will be any different than the scores in the rest of the State.

The Commissioner announced that a detailed analysis will be forthcoming in the “late fall/early winter.”

At this point there are many more questions than answers.

Was there any correlation between teacher composite scores and the student scores on the Common Core grade 3-8 exams?

Do high achieving districts have higher percentages of high achieving teachers and visa-versa?

Do high wealth districts have higher concentrations of highly effective teachers and the converse?

Districts chose different observation rubrics and the training of supervisors, if any, was local, is it possible to compare district to district on the 60% observation section?

Can we learn anything from the location of the “developing” and “ineffective” teachers?

We spent three years, untold millions, distracted ourselves from the real work, building effective teaching/learning systems, perhaps Macbeth was right,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Arne Duncan, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Tisch, Commissioner King pushed, cajoled and tried to convince teachers that a teacher evaluation system was a “good thing,” that it could fairly differentiate teacher quality, that it would remove bias from the rating system, that exemplary teachers would be rewarded and those who didn’t belong could be removed.

Do you remember the day as a teenager that you came home after the dance, hardly anyone danced with you, you hated it, you felt ugly, awkward and embarrassed, and your mother said, brightly, “You’re always beautiful to me.”

It’s a good feeling, after all the “slings and arrows” the millions of dollars in test design, the dense algorithms, the work of the psychometricians, we find that we’re pretty good at what we do.

Thanks Mom.

“We’re Better Than Buffalo,” The State Test Debacle: Who Are the Losers and Winners?

Ultimately, no one will be pleased by a measure that is expected to show fewer than 30 percent of students are on track for success after high school. Shael Suransky, NYC Chief Academic Officer

The headlines blare, “State Test Scores Plummet,” and the policy makers scatter for cover; for some an opportunity to further their ambitions, for others a disaster and, for too many, sadness, despair and fear.

Are the scores proof that the Bloomberg-Klein-Walcott years were a failure and a charade? or,

Are we finally on the right track – raising the bar for all students?

Cyberspace will be filled with punditry: gleefully using the scores to support some argument or other or solemnly using the scores to support another argument.

The Bloomberg/Walcott versus Mulgrew wars continue – a detailed analysis sent to the media by the union, Walcott calls it “despicable.”

We are a month away from city-wide primary elections.

As the scores are released who are the losers and winners?

The Losers:

* Student, Families, Teachers and Principals

On Monday “embargoed” scores were posted online for principals. A principal of a school filled with high poverty kids was succeeding, an “A” school, 40% of the kids were “proficient” and the percentage was edging up every year. This year, she recounted, everyone was working especially hard – the new Common Core – curriculum changes – tentative guidance from above- and only 25% of the kids “proficient” on the new test.

“I’m worried that we’ll end up on some ‘bad school’ list, mostly I worry about the students and teachers – they worked so hard and have so little to show for it.”

The psychological impact on kids is hard to quantify, how can you tell kids not to worry, that it wasn’t their fault when the kids say, “You never taught me how to do that problem,” how do you respond?

* Bloomberg/Klein/Walcott

I actually think in the early days the Mayor believed Klein’s public relations machine pumping out one “success” after another. The “successes” were, for the most part, a trompe d’oeille, a carefully etched counterfeit. Credit Recovery jacked up graduation rates by a few points, the constant school closings, an example of “addition by subtraction” with at risk kids concentrated in fewer and fewer schools, charter schools scooping up kids and families with high social capital, and pushing aside kids with disabilities and English language learners, a carefully plotted gambit.

The last few years have been a disaster for a legacy-engaged Mayor. In a Zogby Poll the public trusts the teacher union more than the Mayor on educational issues, Sol Stern in City Journal writes,

New Yorkers now trust the oft-maligned teachers more than they trust the mayor’s office: almost half of all respondents said that teachers should “play the largest role in determining New York City’s education policy,” compared with 28 percent who thought that the mayor-appointed schools chancellor should.

* Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch:

Kentucky was the first state to use Common Core items and scores dropped 30%. Perhaps it was hubris, perhaps political pressures from “across the street (the Governor’s Office), the Commissioner and the Chancellor rebuffed every effort to postpone the impact of the scores – to use a golf term, they refused to give the State a “mulligan.” The moratorium idea began in a widely covered speech by AFT President Randi Weingarten, gained traction, Education Secretary Duncan quietly said he would not stand in the way – New York State stood firm, no dice, and no postponement. At the July Regents meeting Regent Harry Phillips, a longtime member of the Regents, made a motion to delay for one year the impact of the State tests – Regent Tallon vigorously opposed the motion – Regents Cashin and Rosa spoke in favor and the motion died as the remainder of the Board said nothing.

The Commissioner asked superintendents to be “judicious” in the use of the scores – whatever that means.

The State made every effort to prepare superintendents, principals, teachers and kids for the far more complex test items. High wealth districts pumped in the dollars, low wealth districts are simply struggling to survive, and, in New York City, the readiness swings widely from school to school, with State Ed abdicating any responsibility for the city.

The Commissioner and the Chancellor fumbled an opportunity to gain widespread support across the state.

The winners:

* The Mayoral Candidates.

The candidates will use the test scores as an opportunity to bash the current administration – “As Mayor I will work closely with parents and teachers, I will oppose high stakes testing, I will select an experienced educator as chancellor, I will identify funds to do this and that and the other thing.” The candidates are both running against Bloomberg and being careful not to alienate the current Mayor too much – a tightrope. While the citizenry does not support the Mayor’s education policies most praise him for reducing crime and as a good fiscal custodian.

* The Teacher Union:

The union has been consistently declaring that schools were not adequately prepared for the new Common Core tests. With a Cheshire cat smile they can say, “We told you so.”

I suspect the union will not gloat, well, maybe a little – I suspect that they will do a careful parsing of the test, especially since many of the test items will be released in the coming weeks.

On September 10th Democratic voters will chose from among the pretenders – it appears that Quinn, Thompson and De Blasio will be battling for the two runoff spots on October 1.

The bickering, the recriminations, the warfare has to abate, the school system needs a mayor who can select a chancellor who can get everyone on board – you cannot drag a school system or a state, kicking and screaming, to higher standards.

The beatings will continue until morale improves is not a good slogan.