Tag Archives: testing

Teacher Evaluation: NYS Legislature Returns Teacher Evaluation to Local Districts within Collective Bargaining and Decouples from Student Testing

The New York State legislature voted to return the teacher evaluation process to school districts,

This bill would amend the annual teacher and principal evaluation system to eliminate the mandatory use of state assessments to determine a teacher or principal’s effectiveness. 

This bill seeks to maintain the rigorous standards set for teacher and principal evaluations, while simultaneously addressing some of the concerns from parents and educators. Allowing school districts and teachers, who know their students best, the ability to negotiate whether they would like to use the standardized tests in teacher or principal evaluations will ensure that a more fair and effective evaluation system will be established. Furthermore, in order to ensure that schools are not negatively impacted as a result of their choice between retaining their current evaluation system and choosing a new one, this bill provides that school districts will not lose their state aid increases while a district is in the process of negotiating/entering into a successor collective bargaining plan. 

The original law requiring school districts to use standardized test results to assess teacher performance was widely criticized by teachers and parents, and, in response to the criticism a four-year moratorium was placed on the use of standardized test scores, this is the last year of the moratorium. During the moratorium districts have been using a combination of supervisory observations and “student learning objectives,” aka, “measurements of student learning” determined at the district level, called the “matrix .”

With over 700 school districts in New York State the law returns the question of teacher evaluation to the local level and to the collective bargaining process. Districts will have flexibility within the frameworks set by the new law.

The larger question was whether teacher evaluation should be set by the Commissioner and the Board of Regents, set by the legislative process or driven, within guidelines set in statute, at the local level by elected school boards and teacher unions: that question has been determined.

The law has nothing to do with the administration of grades 3-8 tests, all fifty states must give annual tests.

The anti-testing factions within the state have vigorously opposed the new law  arguing that any changes should specifically reject the use of any testing in teacher evaluation, basically returning to supervisory evaluations only.

On the supervisory observation side New York State requires school districts to choose from among a range of instructional practice frameworks to assess teachers. New York City uses the Danielson Frameworks; other districts use Marzano, Marshall and a few others. These frameworks were originally designed to be used in teacher preparation programs, not to assess teacher performance. Experienced supervisors and teachers can generally agree on what constitutes a “highly effective” or “ineffective lesson,” less agreement on differentiating “effective” from “developing;” more troubling is the use of observations as a retributive act. As the relationship between the teacher union and the former mayor deteriorated in New York City the number of “unsatisfactory” observations increased dramatically. The number of unsatisfactory observations remained at about the same level for decades, tripled under Bloomberg, and returned to prior levels under the current mayor.

The current system places supervisory observations on one side of the matrix and locally developed tools, Student Learning Objectives (SLO) or Measurements of Student Learning (MOSL) on the other side of the matrix. The collective bargain agreement in New York City allows for an appeal if the observations and SLO/MOSL scores show a wide disparity.

There is a fear the smaller districts with fewer resources will choose an “off the shelf” standardized test in addition to the state standardized tests, an additional test for students. Parents have options: they can opt out, or, lobby their elected school board. The Bureau of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), regional student education centers, can coordinate the creation of SLO/MOSL in regions across the state.

Why does the federal law require annual tests? Current federal law requires standardized tests in English and Mathematics in grades 3-8 because a coalition of civil rights organizations lobbied vigorously to include testing in the law. In the run-up to the passage of the new iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) the Democratic co-sponsor of the law supported required testing,

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., stood on the Senate floor and called standardized testing a civil-rights issue. “We know that if we don’t have ways to measure students’ progress, and if we don’t hold our states accountable, the victims will invariably be the kids from poor neighborhoods, children of color, and students with disabilities,” she said. 

The NAACP and many other civil rights organizations support the annual student testing requirement,

Nineteen groups, including the NAACP and the Children’s Defense Fund, recently released a statement backing the law’s core testing requirement. “ESEA must continue to require high-quality, annual statewide assessments for students in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school,” Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said at a Senate hearing … 

The opt out parents, concentrated in New York State and Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education are vigorous opponents of annual student testing, and, in many cases, all student testing.

The NAACP president Derrick Johnson spoke at the Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis in October, the NAACP and NPE both oppose charter schools and the NAACP has called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools, a position taken a few years ago at their national convention; allies on one issue, opponents on another

New York State has a long history of testing. Regent examinations in New York State began in the late 19th century;  4th and 8th grade testing prior to the NCLB  annual testing. For decades the NY Times published the results of grades 4 and 8 tests, by district in descending school order.  The opposition to testing is partially due to the Obama/Duncan decisions to tests to assess the performance of individual teachers, to use tests to punish schools, the complexity of the algorithm coupled with disastrous roll-out of the Common Core: diverse constituencies melded.

A few days ago the state announced the latest round of schools requiring interventions, 

The State Education Department today announced district and school accountability determinations as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and New York’s ESSA plan. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia identified 106 school districts as Target Districts, 245 schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement and 125 schools for Targeted Support and Improvement.

 I suspect some of these schools were identified due to scores in subgroups: Title 1 eligible, English language learners and students with disabilities, one of the prime goals of the law. I do not know the impact of opt outs on the computation to determine a school’s accountability status. The law requires a 95% participation rate in schools, and, if schools fall below the required participation rate states must develop plans to increase the rate; Optout is only an issue in New York, Colorado and Washington.

It is highly unlikely that we will see any changes in the federal requirements in the near future. New York State receives $1.6 billion annually in federal dollars; the state is not going to take any actions that might jeopardize federal dollars.

If you are interesting in pursuing the methods by which the state determines accountability status click on the link(s) below.

Elementary School Sample PowerPoint Template: Explaining the New Accountability System

High School Sample PowerPoint Template: Explaining the New Accountability System

Understanding the New York State Accountability System Under ESSA

This document provides answers to questions about the New York State Accountability System under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Answers to questions are based upon the 2018-19 accountability determinations, which were made using the 2017-18 school year results

Democrats Rule!! Will the Democrats Pass a Moratorium on the Creation of New Charter Schools?

The democrats control both houses of the NYS legislature, and it’s a firm control, an overwhelming majority in the Assembly and 39 out of the 63 seats in the Senate. The last time the dems controlled both houses successive leaders of the Senate ended up in jail, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson; the incoming majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has been an excellent minority leader and is well-regarded as a conciliator. The dem majority can be a contentious group with widely varying interests, downstate (aka, NYC), versus the suburbs versus the other struggling “big five” cities.

The New York Times sees hard times ahead for charter schools with dems in control. The charter school political action committees (PACs) have been strong financial supporters of the republican side of the aisle, as well as of the governor; however, elections have consequences.

The Independent Democratic Coalition (IDC) was thrashed in the September primaries and their replacements have been clear in their opposition to charter schools

On the national scene charter school creation has waned, the 2017-2018 school year showed the lowest rate of expansion ever, only one percent.

The history of charter schools in New York State is quite interesting. Governor Pataki was completing his first term, running for his second term and during the 1998 legislative session pushed hard for a charter school law. The legislature adjourned in June without passing the law. Discussions continued over the summer and into the fall, Pataki was elected in November to a second term and the legislature returned to Albany for a lame duck session.

The charter school debate pitted advocates and enemies of charter schools, the New York Times wrote,

As if the public schools did not have enough to worry about, like trying to meet higher standards required by the State Board of Regents, curriculum mandates and other reforms, along comes a growing movement to offer alternatives that some observers say nibble away at public education.

Whether it is vouchers to offset private school tuition, allowing the formation of charter schools or offering tuition tax credits, such proposals are viewed by many people as threats not only to financing sources but also to the fundamental mission of public schools.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a New York State Surrogate Court judge, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

In spite of widespread opposition to charter schools the legislature took two actions during the December lame duck session  , they gave themselves a pay increase and facing a Pataki veto passed a charter school law. BTW, Sheldon Silver was the speaker of the Assembly and supported the “deal.”

After gaining potent leverage with a threat to veto a legislative pay raise, Gov. George E. Pataki won approval early this morning of a plan that would alter the state’s educational landscape by authorizing the creation of autonomous public schools.

The support for the plan in the Legislature capped weeks of negotiations that were dominated by the prickly question of how much lawmakers would yield to the Governor in return for a coveted salary increase, the first in a decade. In a final round of horse-trading, Mr. Pataki and legislative leaders agreed on a package of bills that included the school measure, a 38 percent pay raise and proposals to penalize lawmakers for late budgets and to help farmers receive higher prices for milk.

The State Senate approved the school legislation by a vote of 39 to 20 soon after 1:30 A.M. Leaders in the Assembly also agreed to back the bill early this morning, and were moving to pass it.

On December 10th a commission (the Comptrollers of NYC and NYS and the chair of the SUNY Board) will announce whether or not to grant a raise to the legislature, the first since 1998. No action is required by the legislature so no “deals” are necessary; however, this is Albany.

The newly elected legislature will convene the first week in January, the governor will give his state of the state address laying out his plans for the session and the all-democratic state leadership will begin passing its legislative package.

Early voting, the Dream Act, the Urstadt law (rent control) reform , and dozens of other pet bills; however, the dems will be careful to balance the needs of the suburban districts in which repubs were defeated with urban concerns. The 2020 legislature will redistrict the state and could entrench the dems for a decade, maintaining control in 2020 is essential.

My suggestions to the democratic leadership:

A moratorium on both the creation of new charter schools and the expansion of current charter schools

The original idea for charter schools was to create schools that were “engines of innovation;” outside the constraints of rules and regulations schools could experiment with new concepts in teaching and learning that could be rolled into traditional public schools. The original charter school concept morphed into charter schools as competition to traditional public schools, establishing a marketplace, the competition would raise all boats and those that did not improve/compete would fall by the wayside.

Charter schools are indistinguishable from public schools, except, longer school days and hours. Charter schools do not enroll “comparable” percentages of special education students or English language learners. Review the link http://www.uft.org/files/attachments/secure/demographics-charters-v-traditional.pdf that compares charter schools and traditional schools in school districts throughout New York City.

The NAACP called for a moratorium on the creation of charter schools, I agree, and would suggest a five year moratorium. The governor elected in 2022 could review the moratorium.

Fiscal transparency for all funding, public and private

 One of the untold stories is charter school philanthropy. The network charter schools (Success Academy, etc.) raise many, many millions of dollars , usually through 501© 3 organizations, tax-free dollars, and, many of the contributors are shielded from public scrutiny. The current charter school law and court decisions protect charter schools from the rays of sunshine. The charter school law should be amended so that all contributions will open to public inspections, including the barring of anonymous Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) contributions.

Tightening the charter school law to require enrollment of special education and English language learners at the percentages or greater in schools in the encompassing community school district

 The State Education Department has interpreted the current law so that charter schools can fail to enroll special education students and English language learners at the same level as neighboring schools: that loophole must be closed.  If anyone wants specific language I can forward.

 Legislation that would create Innovation Districts, clusters of schools, that can operate outside the constraints of current regulations, the original purpose of charter schools

 The current federal law, the successor of No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act, contains a section in which states can apply for innovation waivers, to create alternatives to the current required grades 3-8 testing. Only two states applied, although a number of states are conducting pilots in schools or school districts in the state. The NY State Education Department has shown no interest in either the original application or conducting local pilots. There are a number of innovative pilots operating below the radar, the forty or so consortium schools with waivers only requiring the English Regents exam, the highly successful International Schools Network, high schools that only enroll new immigrants and use their own instructional model and the PROSE schools in New York City that have waivers for school-created instructional or management models.

I would suggest a statute that would require the State Education Department create an application process by which schools/schools districts and unions could collaboratively apply for innovative waivers, in other words, create engines of innovation within public schools.

New York State, and many other states, are engaged in a “race to the bottom,” creating mechanisms that results in high test scores without increasing student proficiency.

Education Next,   the scholarly education journal published by the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance writes,

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed into law in 2015, explicitly prohibits the federal government from creating incentives to set national standards. The law represents a major departure from recent federal initiatives, such as Race to the Top, which … encouraged the adoption of uniform content standards and expectations for performance. At one point, 46 states had committed themselves to implementing Common Core standards designed to ensure consistent benchmarks for student learning across the country. But when public opinion turned against the Common Core brand, numerous states moved to revise the standards or withdraw from them.

 Although early indications are that most state revisions of Common Core have been minimal, the retreat from the standards carries with it the possibility of a “race to the bottom,” as one state after another lowers the bar that students must clear in order to qualify as academically proficient. The political advantages of a lower hurdle are obvious: when it is easier for students to meet a state’s performance standards, a higher percentage of them will be deemed “proficient” in math and reading. Schools will appear to be succeeding and state and local school administrators may experience less pressure to improve outcomes …

 So, has the starting gun been fired on a race to the bottom? Have the bars for reaching academic proficiency fallen as many states have loosened their commitment to Common Core? And, is there any evidence that the states that have raised their proficiency bars since 2009 have seen greater growth in student learning?

 In a nutshell, the answers to these three questions are no, no, and, so far, none.

 From Diane Ravitch to Linda Darling-Hammond, from the Fordham Institute to the Shanker Institute, the reliance on standardized testing to drive students to proficiency is waning. Sadly it’s easier for states to massage the rules to satisfy parents and at the same time “game the tests,” an example: unlimited testing time increases scores, of course, with an invalid baseline.

Let’s take a deep breath, charter schools and choice are not an answer, they are a trompe d’oeil; testing viewed as punitive is a failure: are performance-tasks, portfolios, looping teachers/grades viable alternatives?

Let’s put charter schools on the sidelines and encourage the folks in the trenches to create a wide range of strategies.

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.”