Tag Archives: PARCC

Teaching Academic Tenacity: Why the SAT, Pearson and PARCC tests Are Poor Predictors of College/Career Readiness and Why Non-Cognitive Skills Trump Faulty Exams.

We are obsessed with judging teacher quality by measuring student achievement. To make it even more complex we are measuring student achievement by a brand new yardstick, the Common Core State Standards.

Parents, educators and the New York State governor are confused, two-thirds of students scored “below proficient” on the latest tests, which the State Education Department now defines as “approaching proficiency.” (smile) and half of all teachers scored “highly effective” and less than 1% scored “ineffective” on the extremely complex APPR teacher evaluation metric.

The governor asks: if two-thirds of kids are failing state tests how can teachers score so highly on the teacher evaluation tool? How can principals give teachers high grades on the 60% lesson assessment section of the teacher evaluation tool when so many kids doing so poorly on the tests?

Unfortunately we are using the wrong tools to measure the wrong outcomes.

We base a range of decisions on a test, a few hours of bubbling in answers and writing an essay; however the SAT and the ACT, which also use bubble sheets and essays, are poor predictors of college success. The best predictor is standing in class as measured by the student’s GPA. It should not be surprising; the GPA is determined by numerous tests over four years of high school reflecting the judgment of many teachers.

The largest study of students at colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores has found that there is “virtually no difference” in the academic performance (measured in grades or graduation rates) of those who do and don’t submit scores.

The study — involving 123,000 students at 33 colleges and universities of varying types — found that high school grades do predict student success. And this extends to those who do better or worse than expected on standardized exams. So those students with low high school grades but high test scores generally receive low college grades, while those with high grades in high school, but low test scores, generally receive high grades in college.

This is not an isolated example of research, in 2005 a study explains,

… researchers examined differences in the predictive strength of high school grades and standardized test scores for student involvement, academic achievement, retention, and satisfaction. Findings indicate that high school grades are stronger predictors of success than standardized test scores for both racial and religious minority students.

In another study the Council for Aid to Education and NYU supports the finding of the research supra

In spite of the evidence that the SAT does not achieve its purposes the folks at the College Board are rolling out a new exam in the spring of 2016, a test that reflects the Common Core standard competencies; at the same time more and more colleges are abandoning the SAT.

If tests, be it the SAT or Pearson-produced Grade 3-8 state tests or the PARCC exams are not accurate predictors of college success, or, teacher competence, how should we assess teacher performance and student achievement?

The answer may be in a Gates-funded study, Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills that Promote Long Term Learning, (Carole Dweck and others, Stanford University). The introduction is exceptionally important,

In a nationwide survey of high school dropouts, 69% said that school had not motivated or inspired them to work hard. In fact, many of the students who remain in school are not motivated or inspired either, and the more time students spend in K-12 education the worse it gets. What prevents students from working hard in school? Is it something about them, or it something about school? Is there a solution to this problem?

Most education reform focuses on curriculum and pedagogy – what material is taught and how is it taught? However, curriculum and pedagogy have often been narrowly defined as the academic content and students’ intellectual processing of that material. Research shows that this is insufficient. In our pursuit of education reform, something has been missing: the psychology of the student. Psychological factors, often called motivational or non-cognitive factors – can matter even more than cognitive factors for student academic performance …

Academic tenacity is about the mindsets and skills that allow students to:

* Look beyond short-term concerns to higher order goals, and

* Withstand challenges to setbacks to persevere towards these goals.

Dweck and her co-authors make it clear, it’s not the “right” curriculum or the “right” pedagogy, there are many paths to the same ends, the “solution” is not the Common Core, the “solution” is not in the Charlotte Danielson frameworks, without a teaching/learning environment that supports Academic Tenacity too many students, too many high poverty students and student of color will be left behind.

The authors specifically define “key characteristics and behaviors” that can be defined and taught,

Key Characteristics and Behaviors of Academically Tenacious Students

* Belong academically and socially
* See school as relevant to their future
* Work hard and postpone immediate pleasures
* Not derailed by intellectual and social difficulties
* Seek out challenges
* Remain engaged over the long haul

Scientific American affirms the research findings and links to a range of research findings (Check out here)

For academic achievement, ability is not enough. What’s also needed are mindsets and strategies for overcoming obstacles, staying on task, and learning and growing over the long-term … academic tenacity is not about being smart, but learning smart.

I was visiting a middle school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, a neighborhood at the top of the list of handgun violence and homicides. As I walked toward the office a student “introduced” himself, “My name is xx, can I help you?” Each classroom displayed the banner from a college and the advisory rooms had names, the name of a college. No one was yelling at kids, a student was talking loudly and a teacher simply put his find to his lips. The school leader took me into a classroom, and asked, “”What are we learning today?” The kids all raised their hands, anxious to tell me all about the lesson.

The middle school downstairs was chaos.

Danielson frameworks are a guide and set a standard; however, students in screened schools or schools with more middle class students are far more likely to reach the “highly effective” category, as evidenced by the teacher grades on the APPR, the state teacher evaluation metric.

Challenging content, rigorous curriculum and pedagogy combined with the teaching skills that promote academic tenacity is the path to creating successful schools and college and/or career ready students.

Are schools of education and school-based professional development emphasizing the teaching of Academic Tenacity? I fear not. Hopefully research will trump the current faulty teaching and learning trends.

Zombie Tests: Why Common Core Testing is Dead and Doesn’t Know It

A decade ago, with great fanfare, a bipartisan bill became law, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, renamed No Child Left Behind. The new law required testing of all children in grades 3 – 8 in English and Mathematics; the setting of goals called Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), and the publication of the results disaggregated by subgroups. The goal of AYP was to encourage states to make incremental progress with all children reaching grade level by 2014.

Behind closed doors the AYP requirement was called the Lake Woebegone law – you will remember the community of Lake Woebegone where all children are above average.

The assumption was that long before 2014 the law would be reauthorized and the punitive sections rewritten. As the years passed the House and the Senate moved further and further apart, with the Republican victory in the 2010 midterms the hope of a reauthorization faded. The House and the Senate have bills that are strikingly different.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were adopted by the National Governors Association and the US Department of Education dangled $4.4 billion in competitive grants, called Race to the Top. Among the preconditions for winning the grant was adoption of the Common Core, a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores and the creation of a student testing regime based on the CCSS.

Two organizations emerged, coalitions of states, called Smarter Balance and PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career); the coalitions, with federal and private dollars, created tests based on the Common Core. The PARCC website contains sample questions and the road to PARCC adoption.

Read a sample PARCC 4th Grade ELA questions: http://www.parcconline.org/sites/parcc/files/PARCC_SampleItems_ELA-Literacy_Grade4Items_082113_Final.pdf

As the timeline approaches for states to move to PARCC testing more and states are having second thoughts.

Barbara Byrd Bennett, the CEO of Chicago schools has doubts about PARCC

“The purpose of standardized assessments is to inform instruction. At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents, and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment”

As the PARCC empire continues to crumble New York State, at least the commissioner, is rushing down the path to PARCC. At the November 17th Regents meeting the Regents considered making field testing of PARCC questions mandatory, urging school districts to use the Technology Bond dollars to purchase computer hardware for computerized state tests; the next step is asking the Regents to give a green light to move to PARCC testing.

An item will go for public comment to force school districts to offer PARCC field testing, a power the commissioner insists he has had since 1938.

Regent Cashin sharply questioned the commissioner, was he moving to PARCC testing, without a clear answer. The hordes of e-communication to Regents members resonated as Regents members were uneasy.

The Commissioner seems to ignore the tens of thousands of parents who are part of the opt-out movement, a movement that is spread like wildfire across the state and the nation.

The Long Island Opt-Out Facebook page has over 17,000 members, and growing every day.

Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Longislandoptout/permalink/377404222432922/

As the legislature returns in January the opt-out parents will move their activism to the halls of Albany; members of the Regents are increasingly discomforted.

With the Republicans in control of both house of Congress it is altogether likely that a bill will arrive on the president’s desk, a bill that might have some Democratic support.

The bill will move accountability measures from the US Department of Education to the states, and the states may have wide latitude.

Why is it necessary to have annual testing of each and every student, why not use sampling techniques similar to the techniques used by NAEP – called the gold standard for measuring the achievement of American students?

The Republican House bill also removed the requirement for teacher evaluation based on student test scores.

Hundreds of thousands of moms and dads across the nation are telling states to quit the burdensome testing regime.

Alfred Spector Vice President of Research at Google muses about the future of education. The world is changing at an incredible pace, tests to measure accumulated knowledge are meaningless, the new tests are adaptive tests, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) the new tests learn from you, as you answer they craft new questions that emanate from your answer. The tests learn from you and your learning, your education is individualized to you. Once upon a time we would scoff, we shouldn’t, the future is now. Spector argues that all education should be based on a simple equation CS + X (computer science plus X), computational thinking in all domains.

Listen to Spector: http://www.wnyc.org/story/empowering-next-generation-world-changing-ideators/

The only purpose of the current testing regime is to “measure” the effectiveness of the $55 billion New York State spends each year as well as to “measure” the effectiveness of individual teachers.

The governor loves to talk about turning New York State into a high tech center, creating high paying jobs in the new cyber industries and harasses educators and demeans parents, he is the troglodyte.

The governor should be leading our school system into the new age, not wasting time and money and resources testing kids in a meaningless exercise.

The “No Stakes” Testing Shell Game Begins: How Can We Use Tests To Improve Teaching and Learning, not, to Flail and Fail?

In a recent letter to school superintendents, John B. King Jr., the state’s education commissioner, discouraged administrators from making placement and promotion decisions based solely on the tests. Speaking by telephone last week, Dr. King told me, “I worry that there’s a pedagogical mistake made in believing that if there’s more test prep, students will do better on the test.” … (Gina Bellafante, New York Times, March 28, 2014 )

A “pedagogical mistake?”

Over a dozen years the Bloomberg administration closed 150 schools based on poor test scores. The de Blasio administration has already retreated from their anti-charter school ideas, not to focus on test scores is foolish, the commissioner’s dismissal of test prep is simply a sign of his disconnect from the realities of life in schools in the world of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

Test scores drive school closings, tenure decisions, promotion decisions, attracting students and just plain ego … our kids “doing better” is an affirmation of our teaching skills.

New York State raced to the front of the line and decided to switch to Common Core tests without any substantive professional development, with results that should not have been surprising.

Commissioner King tried to forewarn parents, the scores were not terrible and we should look at the scores as a new beginning.

“These proficiency scores do not reflect a drop in performance, but rather a raising of standards to reflect college and career readiness in the 21st century,” King said. “I understand these scores are sobering for parents, teachers, and principals. It’s frustrating to see our children struggle. But we can’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by frustration; we must be energized by this opportunity. The results we’ve announced today are not a critique of past efforts; they’re a new starting point on a roadmap to future success.”

The scores were terrible, in fact, appalling, two-thirds of students across the state failed the tests and subgroup passing rates were considerably more distressing.

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
• The ELA proficiency results for race/ethnicity groups across grades 3-8 reveal the persistence of the achievement gap: only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students met or exceeded the proficiency standard
• 3.2% of English Language Learners (ELLs) in grades 3-8 met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 9.8% of ELLs met or exceeded the math proficiency standard
• 5% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 7% of students with disabilities met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

The commissioner created a tsunami led by suburban parents and parents from middle class neighborhoods in the cities pushed back, the pushback grew and grew. Over 55,000 viewers clicked on a U-Tube of King’s dismal performance in Poughkeepsie.

As parents met and advocated and threatened their electeds the legislature began to wriggle in their seats. The Board of Regents hastily passed a lengthy resolution slowing the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, however, moving ahead with the tests.

The resolution did not the assuage parent outrage; the governor appointed a task force that quickly released a number of tepid recommendations.

In the scramble to complete a budget a jumble of ideas to mollify parents was included in the budget

The governor’s website describes the changes in law,

The Budget puts into law a series of recommendations to immediately improve the implementation of the Common Core in New York State, including banning standardized “bubble tests” for young children, protecting students from high stakes testing based on unfair results, ensuring instructional time is used for teaching and learning and not over-testing, and protecting the privacy of students.

The 2014 tests, for students, would be a “no stakes” test; the tests alone cannot be used for promotion decisions. To summarize Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner, a “2” is the new “3.” Wagner describes a grade of “2” as “partial proficiency,” sort of a “partial pregnancy.”

Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner has been emphasizing that no students “fail” the state tests. Students are graded on a 1-4 scale, with a 3 or 4 indicating that a student is “proficient” in a subject. A 2 or 1 have long been understood to mean that a student had failed and needed remediation. “Level 2 does not indicate failure,” Wagner said. “It demonstrates that a student is demonstrating partial proficiency.”

South Orangetown Superintendent Ken Mitchell, president of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, called the redefinition of a 2 “Orwellian” and “a bureaucratic attempt to relieve political pressure from a public that is awakening.”

Orwellian is an excellent term. (Wikipedia definition – The encouragement of “doublethink”, whereby the population must learn to embrace inconsistent concepts without dissent, the revision of history in the favor of the State’s interpretation of it).

As I understand the new law, Common Core State Standards test scores have no impact on kids; however, they have full impact on schools, principals and teachers, and, oh yes, we should abjure test prep. Why would anyone fail to practice, especially if the end game was a high-stakes single event?

David Epstein in “The Sport’s Gene” explores the intersection of talent and practice, “Could … grit and determination overcome … lack of innate ability? Where does the intersection between talent and practice lie?”

State Ed, with a disclaimer, provides sample questions, you better believe teachers are going to integrate practice, aka, test prep, into their lessons. (See sample 8th grade ELA questions here). A few years down the road, unless sensibility intervenes, the state will adopt the PARCC tests, tests that measure achievement in the 26 states in the consortium, pretty close to a national exam. (See the sample 8th grade PARCC questions here).

The commissioner doesn’t seem to understand; as long as tests are the measurement of “principal/teacher effectiveness” the lead up to the tests will include practice, crafting lessons that enable students to master the tests. To make the task even more difficult the state tests are not based on a curriculum, the CCSS tests reflect the skills embedded in the standards (CCSS). The state has begun to release “voluntary” curriculum modules; teachers find the state produced modules, to be polite, “unwieldy.” (See Grade 8 ELA curriculum map here).

Ideally, students would produce artifacts, examples of a range of student work reflecting the standards, For example, one of the anchor standards in writing,

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

In the current world of George Orwell the state, or PARCC, will create multiple choice questions or a “structured” response to measure the extent the student has mastered the standard, absent a “content-rich curriculum.”

Tests should inform instruction, and by “tests” I mean student work, teacher-constructed tests, a range of tasks similar to the assessments used in the Performance-Based Assessment Consortium.

The current teacher evaluation law in New York State is a charade – only 1% of teachers scored an ineffective grade in the 12-13 school year.

Linda Darling-Hammond describes a totally different system that both assists teachers as well as leading to a summative assessment. (See Linda Darling-Hammond, One Piece of the Whole: Teacher Evaluation as Part of a Comprehensive System for Teaching and Learning, in the current issue of the American Educator).

Parents are still outraged, principals and teachers feel abused, kids are nervous, maybe it’s time for a close look at where we’re going and what we’re doing, maybe time for a “restart.”

Is a Moratorium on Common Core Testing a Violation of Federal Law? There is Ample Evidence That It is Not.

The New York State Board of Regents convened on Monday morning promptly at 9 am to begin debate on a 37-page Task Force Report responding to criticism of the implementation of the Common Core. Regent Bendit complained, the Report was posted at 9 pm Sunday night, he had not had time to read it and can the approval be delayed? Nope, responded Task Force chair Regent Norwood.

Commissioner King and Regent Norwood plowed through the 19 recommendations and tried to respond to question after question from the Board members.

Regent Cashin made a motion to delay the implementation for two years, a moratorium, and convene New York State practitioners to review the many complaints about elements of the Common Core.

Commissioner King objected – federal law prohibited any moratorium on Common Core testing.

The commissioner is in error.

1. This letter on college and career ready flexibility (ED’s version of the moratorium) says:

“States that have received a Race to the Top grant or flexibility under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) are responsible for working with districts to develop systems to evaluate and support principals and teachers based on multiple measures, including student growth. States have committed to different deadlines to implement these systems: some are implementing now; others will begin over the coming years. Given the move to college- and career-ready standards, the dramatic changes in curricula that teachers and principals are now starting to teach, and the transition to new assessments aligned to those standards, the Department will consider, on a state-by-state basis, allowing states up to one additional year before using their new evaluation systems to inform personnel determinations.”

It is here: (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/secletter/130618.html)

A related fact sheet on college and career ready flexibility says on page 4 that RTTT grants have to be separately amended: (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/assessment-transition/fact-sheet.doc)

Other docs related to this flexibility indicate that both RTTT and the ESEA waiver can be amended: (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/guid/esea-flexibility/college-career-ready/index.html)

2. This letter on waiver renewals says:

“Additionally, an SEA may wish to make additional amendments to its request to support its continuous improvement efforts. Consistent with the existing amendment process, an SEA will need to consult with stakeholders in the State regarding any changes to its approved ESEA flexibility request.”


3. Kentucky (a 3rd round RTTT winner) applied for and received approval to “have until the 2015–2016 school year (SY) to use the results of their teacher and principal evaluation and support systems that meet the requirements of ESEA flexibility to inform personnel decisions. Additionally, Kentucky requests to amend the timeline for integrating its teacher and principal evaluation and support systems into its State accountability system to SY 2015–2016 to coincide with LEAs’ use of evaluation results to inform personnel decisions.”

Letter here: (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/eseaflex/secretary-letters/ky4ltr.html)

Whether the commissioner is simply unaware of the actual policies or dissembling is irrelevant – his 37-page, nineteen point report, was an opportunity to quell the bubbling parent revolution across the state. The nineteen points attempt to assuage advocates for Students with Disabilities (SWD) and English Language Learners, delay full implementation for years and buy-in the teacher union by adding a fillip, easing the teacher evaluation law, and agreeing to review the standards, unfortunately by the folk who wrote the standards, he failed to assuage anyone.

The policy that would have mollified parents and legislators – to delay the implementation, calling for a moratorium on testing, was denied.

Within hours the governor trashed the report,

“Today’s recommendations are another in a series of missteps by the Board of Regents that suggests the time has come to seriously reexamine its capacity and performance. These recommendations are simply too little, too late for our parents and students.

“Common Core is the right goal and direction as it is vital that we have a real set of standards for our students and a meaningful teacher evaluation system. However, Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start …

“I have created a commission to thoroughly examine how we can address these issues. The commission has started its work and we should await their recommendations so that we can find a legislative solution this session to solve these problems.”

The leader of the Republicans in the Senate rapped the implementation.

“The whole implementation has been disaster,” Skelos, R-Nassau County, told The Capitol Pressroom. “It’s almost been as bad as Obamacare.”

John Flanagan (R), chair of the Senate Education Committee, after the release of the report, called “moratorium legislation a distinct possibility.”

In Henry V Shakespeare wrote,

For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:

That’s right; the game is afoot. Angry voters are looking for both a hero and a rogue, a hero who can rescue their children from the clutches of the Common Core and a rogue who they can punish at the polls.

The Republicans will try and pin the “rogue” image on the governor while the governor appeals to voters across the state and paints the members, the anonymous members of the Board of Regents as rogues.

Truly, the game is afoot.

BTW, are the upcoming tests really unfair? You decide:

Try out sample questions – click “Try sample questions” and click “high school” in the middle of the page

Has the Testing Craze Gone Too Far? Will the New NYC Mayor Challenge the Commissioner Over Excessive Testing?

It’s been a tough week for John King, and, it doesn’t look like it’s getting any easier.

After months of planning, and whispering to anyone who would listen, the test scores were released – down 30% across the state.

The only other state to construct Common Core congruent state tests, Kentucky, saw 30% drops last year. In spite of careful planning, extremely careful “managing” of the cut score setting process, the lining up of Common Core supporters, and the release of the scores caused a firestorm.

In the final throes of the mayoral campaign the leading democratic contenders attacked the over-testing regimen, principals from high tax, high performing districts panned the tests, Diane Ravitch called for the resignation of John King and others called for his firing.

Only 3% of English language learners “passed” the ELA exams and kids of color fell into the single digit passing range.

At the July Regents meeting the commissioner passed up an opportunity to declare a moratorium year, instead he asked superintendents to be “judicious” in the use of the scores.

The tsunami is just beginning.

The powerful Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, John Flanagan, announced hearings across the state.

The current city administration and the state have a cozy noblesse oblige relationship – the state ignores whatever the city chooses to do and the city is totally silent re state policies. This will change dramatically on January 1 with a new mayor and a new chancellor, whoever it is will be far less compliant.

The governor, an expert at testing the direction of the winds, has absented himself from educational policy discussions, with the aroma of 2016 in the air, you may expect less enthusiasm for the test-test-test folks from the mansion in Albany. King has already signaled that just maybe some breathing room is needed. At the July Regents meeting and in an excellent Gotham Schools Geoff Decker post the commissioner indicates that maybe the 14-15 school year is too early to move to the PARCC tests.

A little history: while national curricula are prohibited by statute the feds and the governors worked out a slick way around the law. The National Governors Association (NGA) adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the feds funded two coalitions of states, the coalitions are developing Common Core aligned tests to replace current state tests. The plan is to sell the tests to the states; the tests will be computer-based, with a rapid turnaround time.

How you can create meaningful valid and reliable tests without a curriculum is another question. One of the major raps on the current round of Pearson-Regents Research Fund created tests is how can you prepare and test kids on topics that were never taught?

PARCC, the coalition in which New York State is a lead partner, was poised to replace the brand new tests with yet another brand- new test. The state is vigorously defending the current tests, arguing the scores cannot be compared to last year’s result – a new test – you cannot compare apples to oranges, a new baseline. Wouldn’t the PARCC tests also be a new test with a new baseline?
While I’m sure the commissioner and his minions can explain the nuances, the politics and the realities are huge obstacles. New York State, especially New York City and the low wealth districts are not capable of providing the hardware and software for a full computer implementation of the test. The early, very early plans were to spread the testing days over a longer period of time, all the kids would not take the test at the same time on the same day, different kids would answer different test items, you can imagine the uproar.

And, of course, there is the little question of money – will the Congress continue to fund PARCC, and, if not, can they raise sufficient dollars to continue to move forward? Will New York State, and other states, want to pay the estimated $30 per kid and the local hardware-software costs?

How would the public feel about a massive national databank of individual test scores as well as personal data about kids – in whose hands? The current outrage over the feds “collection” of phone records bleeds over into the same outrage over the I-Bloom databank that the state engaged.

This testing megalith is based on the premise that a combination of Common Core standards, rigorous testing, teacher assessment and the close scrutiny of data will result in higher achievement, aka, college and career ready students, a premise without any evidence.

A sports parallel: over the last few years Nate Silver and other kids who were not very good at actually playing baseball (only kidding!!) created a field that is called sabermetrics – the use of data to create algorithms to predict outcomes. From the traditional batting average and runs batted in, to WHIP (walks plus hits per inning), OBA (on-base averages), WAR and endless others (click above to join the cyber world of baseball)
The book and the movie, Moneyball, popularized the “new” scientific approach to the national past time.

No one predicted that the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven’t had a winning season in twenty years would be leading the National League Central, or, that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were on the verge of firing their manager in June, would have a winning streak unparalleled in the history of baseball.

Data analysis is not destiny.

A teacher was telling me, she teaches kids in a high poverty school who are the same age as her daughter; her daughter’s vocabulary is way beyond the kids she teaches, her daughter spends hours “playing” challenging educational video games on an I-Pad, gobbling up book after book, sitting with other similar kids in school every day while in the class she teaches kids have never seen an I-Pad, have no books at home, commonly are poorly clothed and undernourished. The kids in her class can identify gang flags instantly and know to duck when they hear the “pop-pop” sounds from the streets.

“I’m an excellent, committed teacher, my Teacher Data Report grade is high, my principal loves me, the network crowd always wants to visit my class, and my kids show substantial progress. I see them in the streets a few years later, they’re in middle school, for too many the streets are winning.

The kids love Greek myths, I think next year I’ll teach them about Sisyphus.”

Who Will Teach the Poor, the Kids Living in Shelters, in Foster Care …? How Can We Incentivize School Leaders and Teachers to Teach in the Most Challenging Schools?

I suspect they are, as do many public schools. The real question is what would it take to get schools to fight to recruit the hardest to educate youngsters? How would we need to adjust funding for such students, as well as school, principal and teacher accountability metrics?

Eric Nadelstern’s response to “Transparency Required: Are Charter Schools Dumping Struggling Kids into Public Schools?”

Principals understand that the path to success is recruiting kids with “3s and 4s” and avoiding kids with “1s and 2s.” The Department has made it easier – there are over 200 schools and programs that are screened, schools in which the principal can chose his/her kids. Beginning in the 70s the Board created an education option program, high schools, with the approval of the powers-that-be could create a school-within-a-school, a special program with screening requirements for applicants.

The Midwood High School screened Bio-Med program attracted students from across Brooklyn, in essence two schools in the school building, the Bio-Med ed option program and the remainder of the school. As ed option programs expanded across the city some were successful in attracting students while others could barely fill seats. The ofttimes demeaned Board of Education created a choice program within the frameworks of the system that created options for parents and competition among schools.

On the other hand an “unwritten” policy was a triage model – troublesome kids and less successful teachers were shunted to a few schools to “save” the others. Taft and Theodore Roosevelt in the Bronx were sacrificed so that other schools might survive – few did.

The Department of Education has expanded the screened options, there are currently over 200 screened schools and programs – most can be traced back to a political solution to an educational program. Active, knowledgeable parents appealed to Tweed, to local elected officials and community organizations to create a local screened program for their kids. There are pros and cons: a screened program keeps kids in local public school on the other hand distributes lower achieving kids frequently to schools with many other struggling kids.

A high ranking Department official was invited to an “A” school in Queens – he walked the corridors and saw classroom after classroom with teachers lecturing, an occasional question requiring a brief reply – very little student engagement. Using a Danielson rubric the classes would be at best minimally satisfactory. When the Department official expressed his concerns the principal smiled, “We have a high A on our Progress Report – why mess with success?”

Schools with “3s and 4s” were succeeding, as measured by Department metrics in spite of the quality of the instruction.

Closing schools are in high poverty neighborhoods, schools with higher percentages of kids in foster care or groups homes and kids who live in projects.

These additional challenges are not recognized by any evaluative metric. I suspect if we track kids from let’s say the fifth grade the lower achieving kids will end up in lower achieving schools and higher achieving kids in higher achieving schools.

From what I can observe this year the Department assigned Leadership Academy graduates to phase-out schools – the least experienced principals, frequently with limited teaching experience and no supervisory experience assigned to schools with the least successful students. A rather cynical recipe.

The macro-solution as espoused by David Kirp is school integration, in his New York Times opinion article Kirp argues,

Amid the ceaseless and cacophonous debates about how to close the achievement gap, we’ve turned away from one tool that has been shown to work: school desegregation … To the current reformers, integration is at best an irrelevance and at worst an excuse to shift attention away from shoddy teaching. But a spate of research says otherwise.

Between 1970 and 1990, the black-white gap in educational attainment shrank — not because white youngsters did worse but because black youngsters did better. Not only were they more successful in school, they were more successful in life as well. A 2011 study by the Berkeley public policy professor Rucker C. Johnson concludes that black youths who spent five years in desegregated schools have earned 25 percent more than those who never had that opportunity. Now in their 30s and 40s, they’re also healthier — the equivalent of being seven years younger.

Today schools are more segregated and the policy-makers have no interest in addressing school desegregation.

On the micro-front, in the New York City school system, how can we reverse the trend, how can we attract and reward the “best and the brightest” for both leading and working in the highest poverty school?

1. Change the school measuring metrics.

The current Progress Report metrics place schools in peer groups – schools compete against “similar schools,” the peer metrics are shallow metrics and the closing schools almost all are identified in the lowest achieving peer groups. We need more nuanced metrics that acknowledge that kids in foster care, in group homes, living in projects, are much more likely to struggle in school and to drop out. You cannot make zip code the most important determinant of school success.

2. A coordination of community social services and resources

In New York City the wide range of social services available to families are not school-centered, they are too frequently fragmented with different city agencies and programs dealing with the same families. The school must be the hub of the services and the range of service providers clustered around a school building. The Cincinnati Model is one approach. The City Council is currently funding a six school Community School cluster and the about to be approved State budget does create a funding stream. The new Mayor, whoever he or she may be must be committed to continuing, enlarging and embedding the concept. RFP for new round of Coummunity Schools here

3. Attracting school leadership and teachers.

The jewels in the crown of the Department, the leadership programs, are tarnished. The programs have failed to produce school leaders who can thrive in difficult settings. The Department proudly points to a school in an inner city community that is thriving; it is frequently a school that screens students. Bushwick Community High School, a transfer high school accepts students with zero credits, and has been on the “chopping block” for years. Both the city and the state, until recently, failed to understand that the school was not a failure, it was an outstanding success. It was only with the intervention of Brooklyn member of the Board of Regents Cashin and State Deputy Commissioner of Education Ira Schwartz, who included a special section in the NCLB Waiver, that the school’s mission is acknowledged.

School leaders who were highly effective teachers and assistant principals or coaches, working with inner city youth, not data nerds, are needed to lead schools with challenging populations. Bi-monthly computer assessments of student progress are not the answer to school success – a school leader who is respected by the community – students and parents – is much more likely to change outcomes.

Yes, we can debate the lack of school racial integration, point to the re-segregation of schools and communities, there seems to be little appetite for creating proposed solutions – we can implement policies to support students and families in the poorest neighborhoods, policies that will invigorate and encourage, we can remove the specter of school closings and assess schools in a more meaningful way – accept the challenges and create metrics that do not doom schools from the onset.

The current system discourages school leaders from accepting “difficult” assignments and convinces teachers to flee. An NYU Study,

Among middle school teachers who entered their school during the last decade, more than half left that school within three years—significantly higher than the rates seen for elementary and high school teachers. Of the teachers who leave, most exit the NYC public school system altogether and only about 1 in 10 transition to another grade 6-8 school
The punitive PARCC assessments, the lure of online courses, plans written in the aeries of Albany will not impact the streets of East New York and Buffalo, local policies that support school leaders and teachers, mayors and superintendents and union leaders and community leaders creating a synergy, creating paths to “college and career readiness,” better known as a job., is what is needed.

It all comes down to, “Coach says I gotta pass the math test before I can practice with the basketball team – I’m not only going to pass it – I’m going to ace it.”

Teacher Evaluation: Are the APPR and the Common Core a Tsunami? Will a New Evaluation Plan and a New State Test Punish Principals and Teachers?

When the powerful say trust me the ordinary folk get pregnant.

All but four of the seven hundred school districts in New York State have negotiated principal/teacher evaluation plans with their unions and the Governor has placed a binding arbitration procedure in place that will determine a plan for New York City. With a “handshake” agreement between Chancellor Walcott and Union President Mulgrew torpedoed by the Mayor the binding arbitration procedure should be straightforward.

Read the “Guidance on New York’s Annual Professional Performance Review Law and Regulations” here for a detailed description of the law. The plan is a combination of state student test scores, a locally negotiated metric and principal observations. For the 70% of teachers who teach non-tested subjects “student learning objectives” (SLO) will be the metric.

The evaluation system is a growth model – using a complex algorithm – the subject of much debate and sharp criticism – teachers will be measured against anticipated student growth – meaning improvement in test scores and the other metrics. The State projects relatively small percentages of teachers – in 6-7% range will fall in to the lowest (“ineffective”) and the highest (“highly effective”) ranges.

The much hyped Gates-funded three year Methods of Effective Teaching (MET Project) found that,

…only 7.5 percent of teachers scored below a zero and only 4.2% percent of teachers scored above a three, this would suggest a large middle category of effectiveness with two smaller ones at each end.

MET Project teacher classroom observation scores were bunched at the center of the distribution, where 50% of teachers scored within 0.4 points of each other (on a four point scale) using the Charlotte Danielson Frameworks for Teaching.

Both the NYS APPR and the MET Project identified about the same percentages of teachers in the lowest category. The percentage of teachers scoring in the lowest tier for two consecutive years will undoubtedly be well below the percentages in a single year due to the “instability” of the scoring system.

When the dust settles we will probably identify 1-2% of teachers in the “ineffective category” for two consecutive years.

At the very same time New York State is racing down the Common Core State Standards path. Some schools/districts adopted the CCSS immediately while others have tarried. Teachers across the nation are wary and worried,

More than two-thirds said they were not well enough prepared to teach the standards to English-language learners or students with disabilities. More than half said they were not yet ready to teach them to low-income students or those considered at risk of academic failure.

In the 2014-15 school years the PARCC assessments will replace the current state exams – if the state chooses to adopt the exams. The PARCC assessments mean a sharp expansion of the number of tests with a number of interim assessments and the expansion of testing into the 11th grade. The item and task prototypes that PARCC had made available are far more difficult than the current tests.

At the March 11th Regents meeting Kristen Huff, a Regents Research Fund Fellow presented an update on the tests to be administered in April – Pearson-designed along with the State Ed staff. The power point here is a must read!

After the tests are scored the computers will spin and a group of human beings will determine a “base line” and “cut scores.”

The SED power point warns, and reassures,

We anticipate lower percentages of students who will score at or above grade level … we expect that the State-provided growth score will result in similar proportions of educators earning each rating category in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12.

So, I feel unprepared, my students are unprepared, not to worry we’re going to….. what is the State going to do? Set lower cut scores? Jiggle the numbers? Or just mouthing platitudes?

A Regents member explained to reporters

“We’ve changed the curriculum because we believe that’s what is necessary to get to the standards we want to achieve,” Regent James Tallon Jr. said. “We have got to say to people take year one with a grain of salt.”

Principals and teachers ask: If we have to take year one test scores “with a grain of salt,” why are the scores still high stakes? Principals and teachers can still face harsh discipline as a result of year one scores.

Some districts have plenty of dollars to buy Common Core compliant books, provide in depth professional development while others can barely pay their electric and heating bills. The EngageNY website has a plethora of information – great – are teachers on their own? What is the responsibility of the school district? the principal?

The education side of the New York City Department of Education is scrambling to provide supports for principals and teachers, unfortunately the political side of the Department continues to close schools, alienating parents and teachers.

The bipolar Department of Education should be asking the union to partner in providing high quality professional development – unfortunately the reputation of the Department is sullied by the ceaseless school closings.

For teachers the new teacher evaluation plan (APPR), the Common Core and the new testing regimen look like a tsunami – and the more the State and the Department say, “not to we worry,” we worry.