This is a Joke, Right?

The Tennessee Department of Education continues to demonstrate they don’t give a damn about teachers (or their students) as evidenced by the handling of the Pre-K/Kindergarten portfolio fiasco.

Here’s the latest email from the TNDOE on the portfolio situation and the very, very slow process of developing an alternative:


In August, the department submitted the pre-K and kindergarten (pre-K/K) portfolio review committee report to the House and Senate education committees. One of the recommendations included developing a path forward to support districts in pursuing alternative growth options in lieu of portfolio. The department is working closely with the State Board of Education on potential alternatives with the below timeline:

In November 2019, the department submits proposed alternatives to pre-K/K portfolios on first reading.

In February 2020, proposed alternatives submitted to the board for final reading.

By March 1, the department will communicate to districts a list of alternatives approved by State Board.

Districts will indicate in the annual evaluation flexibility survey any approved alternatives for pre-K/K they opt into for the 2020-21 school year or if they will continue with the current pre-K/K portfolio models.

To recommend an alternative growth option for consideration, directors of schools should submit any proposed pre-K/K alternatives to David Donaldson. All proposed alternatives will be reviewed to determine if they are nationally normed and are valid measures of student growth. We will be accepting proposed alternatives through Nov. 1, 2019. 

Here’s what this means: If you have a child in Kindergarten, they are losing valuable instructional time while their teacher complies with a ridiculous state mandate that Kindergarten teachers have repeatedly said is of little to no value.

Do these portfolios even get graded? NO!

Let’s be clear: Governor Bill Lee is trying to accelerate his voucher scheme (which will harm students) but the state department of education can’t get a portfolio alternative ready in time to actually help students.

What, exactly, is Bill Lee’s education agenda?

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No Approved Alternatives

The Tennessee Department of Education doesn’t give a damn about teachers. At all. Not one. And, apparently, they are also willing to ignore legislators. You know, the people tasked with both making laws and funding budgets. That’s the clear message from the attitude demonstrated by the TNDOE around the issue of Pre-K/Kindergarten Portfolios.

Here’s the deal: On May 10th, Public Chapter 376 became law — it’s legislation designed to create alternatives to the current portfolio disaster. The law states that districts may use the current (failed) portfolio model or “an alternative academic growth indicator approved by the state board of education.”

So, teachers will finally get relief from the fiasco that has been K portfolios.

IF the state has an approved alternative. Which they don’t.

Here’s the text of an email from Jaime Grimsley, Senior Director of Educator Effectiveness at the TNDOE (total bs job title):


The department is working with the State Board of Education to recommend alternative growth options to portfolio in early grades.  At this time, there are no approved alternatives to implement and all districts should move forward with implementing portfolios for the 2019-20 school year. Our goal is to have approved alternatives ready for use in the 2020-21 school year. 

Translation: We didn’t do what teachers asked and what legislators mandated. We don’t want to and you can’t make us.

Here’s more on how the TNDOE has failed educators and students in the portfolio process:


Kindergarten teachers I talked to estimate the evidence collection process takes up a minimum of five instructional days. This means students aren’t actively engaged in the learning process during the evidence collection days. As in the scenario with Eric, it requires the full attention of the teacher (and if possible, an assistant) in order to collect the evidence. This doesn’t include the tagging of evidence or the uploading to an often unreliable online platform known as Educopia. Some districts report hiring subs on evidence collection days so teachers can document the evidence from their students.

Eric’s story is just one more example of a Department of Education that claims victory when the evidence suggests much improvement is needed. It’s a Department hellbent on pursuing supposedly lofty goals no matter the consequences to students or their teachers.
Lost instructional time due to portfolio evidence collection? No problem!
Days of stress and chaos because TNReady doesn’t work? Outstanding!
Teachers faced with confusing, invalid evaluations? Excellent!
Eric and his teachers and Tennessee’s schools and communities deserve better.

So, teachers and students will have to wait ONE MORE YEAR until the DOE actually provides an alternative model. That means your Kindergarten student will be losing instructional time and that teachers across the state will be forced to jump through meaningless hoops in order to meet a ridiculous mandate.

Does the TNDOE care? Nope. Not at all.

Will legislators hold them to account? They haven’t yet, and there’s no sign the current crop of lawmakers or the Governor will do one damn thing to make the TNDOE responsive to the needs of those in classrooms.




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Portfolium Responds

On Monday, Tennessee a group of Tennessee teachers gathered in Lebanon to grade Pre-k and K portfolios. The process didn’t go all that well last year, and this year, it was more of the same.

Now, the founder of Portfolium has responded in the comments on this blog. I’m publishing his response here for all to see:

As the founder of Portfolium, I sincerely apologize that several technical issues caused the problems reported in this article and that it created such a challenge for this first day of the statewide portfolio scoring event. We need to, and will, continue to improve to ensure that our customers and partners don’t experience this again. We have since fixed the issue that caused the interruption. We have heard your feedback and welcome more of it. Please email support@portfolium.com with your feedback and ideas. I’m happy to also connect live with the team that was leading the event. Best, Adam Markowitz

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Hotel Portfolium

Today and tomorrow, the Wilson County Expo Center in Lebanon is hosting the statewide Pre-K/Kindergarten portfolio scoring event.

Well, they were. That is, until 350 teachers who were also trained peer reviewers showed up and the Internet didn’t work. At all.

Teachers present reported that some were able to access the Internet via cell phone hotspots. But … Then, the Portfolium platform didn’t work. At all.

Teachers who had traveled to Lebanon from outside middle Tennessee were advised to return to their hotel rooms and use hotel WiFi to attempt to access the evaluation platform. That also didn’t work.

Finally, teachers were advised they could just return home and attempt to assess portfolios. Or, they could spend another night in a hotel and return to Lebanon tomorrow. All at state expense.

Teachers who chose to be evaluators were told they would receive $750 stipends PLUS reimbursement from travel expenses for the statewide scoring event.

An email sent to teachers after today’s event indicated that teachers now MUST complete assessment of at least 10 collections by June 10th in order for the first wave of funds ($300) is released to districts. Upon final completion of 40 collections (roughly 60 hours of work), the final payment will be issued. So, to be clear, evaluators are paid a paltry $12.50 an hour to do this work.

Readers may recall that a similar scoring event in Lebanon last year was also met with problems.

It’s also worth noting that Portfolium has an interesting background:

Portfolium is a startup company designed to provide college students with a way to highlight accomplishments and work samples for future employers. Yes, you read that right: The new evaluation platform is a startup company that was founded in 2013 and just three years ago, began raising a small amount of capital to launch:

Portfolium, a Web-based social network for students preparing to start their careers, said it has closed on $1.2 million in new venture funding, bringing its total funding to $2.1 million since 2013, when the San Diego-based startup was founded.


It’s nice to know that even with a new vendor and a new Education Commissioner, the same rank incompetence can be expected from TDOE.

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Timely Guidance

By now, readers know the TNDOE’s Kindergarten portfolio system is a complete and utter fiasco. The flawed evaluation system takes time away from instruction and, quite simply, doesn’t work. The state is now on its second vendor in two years of the program. Still, the online system for uploading content is sketchy, at best.

Here’s more on the new vendor:

Since last year, the Department of Education has moved to a new platform for portfolio evaluation — a group called Portfolium. More on this “new” group:


Who is Portfolium?
Portfolium is a startup company designed to provide college students with a way to highlight accomplishments and work samples for future employers. Yes, you read that right: The new evaluation platform is a startup company that was founded in 2013 and just three years ago, began raising a small amount of capital to launch:
Portfolium, a Web-based social network for students preparing to start their careers, said it has closed on $1.2 million in new venture funding, bringing its total funding to $2.1 million since 2013, when the San Diego-based startup was founded.

And, according to teachers, the Portfolium platform is pretty frustrating. Kindergarten teachers report frequently receiving the “Uh-Oh” screen and also note they’ve been told not to upload material during the TNReady testing window so as not to stress the state’s computer system.

Now, just two weeks before portfolio materials are due, teachers are receiving “guidance” from the Department of Education. Here’s the email sent last week late in the afternoon:


Thank you for all you have done so far during this year’s portfolio process. We wanted to provide some additional guidance and reminders to help support you during this final push of uploading and submitting your student artifacts. A walkthrough of how to login, choose a model, and upload artifacts has been provided by Portfolium and can be watched here.


Supported Browsers
It has come to our attention that some educators are having challenges utilizing the platform via Internet Explorer. As a reminder, Internet Explorer is no longer supported by Microsoft (meaning using it will reduce your experience on all websites). It is recommended that teachers utilize Chrome or Firefox when accessing the platform. 
When playing back videos, please be sure that you are using the most updated version of your media software (e.g., Quicktime, Windows Media Player, etc.). 


Supported File Formats
The TEAM Portfolio platform supports multiple file formats which include but are not limited to:
Images: .png, .gif, .jpeg
Documents: .doc, .docx, .pdf
Audio/Visual: .mp4, .mp3, .wav, .wma
For a full list of supported file formats, please see the guidance provided here. Please note that Wi-Fi speeds could impact upload time.
Contacting Technical Support
If an educator is having trouble with the technical aspects of the platform, including slow uploads and/or artifacts disappearing or showing up incorrectly, please utilize the chat feature on the platform itself. The educator having the issue should reach out to Portfolium for support via the chat feature so that they can check the individual account. Please be prepared to share some of the following when contacting Portfolium:


What browser were you using when the problem occurred? Did the problem occur right away or after some time in the platform? Please provide any relevant details around any conditions that were present when problems arose.
Does the problem occur when you use a different browser? 
Was there an error code or any messaging when the issue occurred? 
The chat function is the blue circle at the bottom right-hand corner of the platform screen. This feature allows an educator to interact with someone in real-time during Portfolium’s business hours: 11 a.m. CT/12 p.m. ET – 7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET. For after-hours issues, teachers can still utilize the chat feature, but will receive a response on the following business day. Educators may also email support@portfolium.com with technical questions. 
Please note there is no phone number for support. All inquiries should be made by direct chat or email.

So, TNReady starts next week, which means teachers heeding the state’s warning will not be uploading material during the school day. I’ve heard from some teachers that uploading very late in the evening or very early in the morning is a great time to do so because the servers are not overloaded.

To be clear: The Tennessee Department of Education is mandating a disastrous portfolio model while providing little support. This model requires teachers to spend the equivalent of 4-6 days away from direct instruction of students. The platform for uploading materials is not reliable. Teachers either spend hours attempting to upload material OR must do so at extremely odd hours — all with no additional compensation.

How are these portfolios evaluated? Well, last year, that process didn’t really work, either. More on that:

The bad news: That’s because there was no scoring as the state’s vendor, Educopia, could not provide access to the portfolios in order for them to be graded.

To be fair, some portfolios were graded in certain locations before the infrastructure was overloaded and all grading stopped.

This means trained reviewers sat in rooms around the state looking at blank screens instead of assessing portfolios. It means they were fed sandwiches and then told to go home. It means they were promised $500 for the lost day.

While lawmakers debate whether or not to continue the portfolio model in coming years, the state continues to make errors and, subsequently, make the lives of Kindergarten teachers miserable.

Will relief in the form of legislation come this year, or will the Senate Education Committee side with the state and against the trained educators doing the actual work in classrooms every day?

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Fiasco

That’s how one Kindergarten teacher described the state’s portfolio assessment program for teachers at a legislative committee meeting last week. At the final meeting of the House Education Subcommittee on Curriculum, Testing, and Innovation, legislators presented bills that would fundamentally change the way Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers are evaluated. One bill would allow local districts to choose to use the current portfolio model or use an approved alternative evaluation. Another piece of legislation would simply move away from portfolio evaluation altogether.

Readers will remember the story last year that exposed the current portfolio model as a complete failure. Here’s more on that:


Kindergarten teachers I talked to estimate the evidence collection process takes up a minimum of five instructional days. This means students aren’t actively engaged in the learning process during the evidence collection days. As in the scenario with Eric, it requires the full attention of the teacher (and if possible, an assistant) in order to collect the evidence. This doesn’t include the tagging of evidence or the uploading to an often unreliable online platform known as Educopia. Some districts report hiring subs on evidence collection days so teachers can document the evidence from their students.


Eric’s story is just one more example of a Department of Education that claims victory when the evidence suggests much improvement is needed. It’s a Department hellbent on pursuing supposedly lofty goals no matter the consequences to students or their teachers.
Lost instructional time due to portfolio evidence collection? No problem!
Days of stress and chaos because TNReady doesn’t work? Outstanding!
Teachers faced with confusing, invalid evaluations? Excellent!
Eric and his teachers and Tennessee’s schools and communities deserve better.


Many teachers also recall the nightmare that was the portfolio scoring process from last year:


Anyway, after this year’s blame the teachers portfolio event, the state finally agreed to review portfolios and re-score them. In fact, the state offered $500 each to reviewers who would meet at centralized locations and on a single day (September 8th) to assess the portfolios in question. This would allow for immediate feedback and assistance should problems arise.
The good news: No assistance was necessary because problems didn’t arise during the scoring.
The bad news: That’s because there was no scoring as the state’s vendor, Educopia, could not provide access to the portfolios in order for them to be graded.
To be fair, some portfolios were graded in certain locations before the infrastructure was overloaded and all grading stopped.
This means trained reviewers sat in rooms around the state looking at blank screens instead of assessing portfolios. It means they were fed sandwiches and then told to go home. It means they were promised $500 for the lost day.

Since last year, the Department of Education has moved to a new platform for portfolio evaluation — a group called Portfolium. More on this “new” group:


Who is Portfolium?
Portfolium is a startup company designed to provide college students with a way to highlight accomplishments and work samples for future employers. Yes, you read that right: The new evaluation platform is a startup company that was founded in 2013 and just three years ago, began raising a small amount of capital to launch:
Portfolium, a Web-based social network for students preparing to start their careers, said it has closed on $1.2 million in new venture funding, bringing its total funding to $2.1 million since 2013, when the San Diego-based startup was founded.

And, according to teachers, the Portfolium platform is pretty frustrating. Kindergarten teachers report frequently receiving the “Uh-Oh” screen and also note they’ve been told not to upload material during the TNReady testing window so as not to stress the state’s computer system. With dump trucks already preparing to attack this year’s test, it’s certainly not reassuring that there are concerns about capacity.

While teachers were raising concerns with legislators, the Department of Education, always eager to call teachers liars, suggested that MOST Kindergarten teachers loved the portfolio model and were enjoying this year’s experience. No, I’m not joking. A TN DOE representative claimed that more than 80% of Tennessee Kindergarten teachers actually liked the portfolio model.

In any case, the legislation to change portfolios advanced to the full Education Committee in the House. That’s where lawmakers will decide the likely path for next year.

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Lemon

It’s no real surprise that high stakes testing drives staffing practices in our state’s schools. Now, however, there’s evidence to support this widely-suspected claim.

Chalkbeat reports:

Researchers examining 10 years worth of state data through 2016 found that low-performing teachers in grades 3 through 5 were more likely to be reassigned to non-tested early grades than their more effective peers.

The findings, released Friday by the Tennessee Education Research Alliance and Vanderbilt University, may be an important piece of the puzzle in figuring out why almost two-thirds of the state’s students are behind on reading by the end of the third grade.

The Tennessee research lines up with similar research on high-stakes accountability systems based on tests in other states:

But research elsewhere has shown that the pressures of such accountability systems for higher elementary grades can unintentionally give administrators incentives to “staff to the test” and move their weakest teachers to the early years.

The research is based on data from teacher observations and student achievement scores (TVAAS). I’ve written before about the problems with using value-added data to accurately assess teacher quality. Unfortunately, those problems have yet to stop Tennessee from marching down this misguided path.

That said, let’s look at the impact of a policy where one test, TNReady, drives much of our practice. Principals are heavily incentivized to move low-performing teachers to grades and subjects that are not tested. We now have solid data suggesting that’s actually happening in Tennessee schools. The unintended consequence of a policy that relies on a single test to determine the value of a teacher, student, and school is that students end up being poorly served.

Oh, and of course, the test used to drive all this policy is TNReady. You know, that test our state STILL can’t get right despite trying really hard year after year?

Bad policy drives bad practice which is bad for kids.

We’ve known this for some time now…will any of our policymakers move to change it?

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Nine is Fine


I’ve written before about the disaster that is the Tennessee Fine Arts Portfolio. I’ve also published a guest column from an art teacher explaining the nightmare this process creates.

Now, after a semester of attempting to work with the state, Sumner County has opted-out of the Fine Arts Portfolio for this academic year. Sumner was the only new system to opt-in this year, a year that has seen the total number of systems participating drop to only nine.

In a letter to teachers, Sumner’s Assistant Director of Schools for Curriculum and Instruction Scott Langford notes:

Over the course of the last few months, our instructional coordinators have worked tirelessly to get information to you and to address issues that arose with the Tennessee Department of Education.

…Further, fine arts teachers from across the state did not receive their scored portfolios until November 2018 after TDOE extended the data several times.

Effective December 11, 2018, Sumner County Schools is opting out of the Fine Arts Portfolio.

The issues with the Fine Arts portfolios roughly mirror those with the Pre-K/Kindergarten portfolios.

This is yet another example of the failed leadership of Commissioner Candice McQueen, who will soon move on to even greener pastures.

Tennessee’s next Commissioner of Education must take immediate steps to right the ship on a range of issues from how teachers are treated and compensated to testing to establishing a modicum of professional respect for our state’s educators.

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Nullification


Remember when the Tennessee General Assembly first past “hold harmless” legislation and then added “no adverse action” language so that TNReady scores from another failed administration would not negatively impact students, teachers, or schools?

It turns out, the return of TVAAS scores may in fact result in some adverse actions. I’ve reported on how the incorporation of TVAAS scores based on this year’s TNReady test into overall student growth projections could have lasting, negative impacts on teachers.

Now, Coffee County educator Mike Stein has a blog post up about this year’s TVAAS scores and a teacher’s Level of Effectiveness (LOE).

Here are a couple key takeaways:

Today is Thursday, October 25th and, as of today, I am 29% of the way into the school year. This afternoon, I received my overall teacher evaluation score from last school year (called the “level of effectiveness,” or L.O.E. for short). I have some major issues with how all of this is playing out.

To begin with, why am I just now finding out how well I did last school year? Teachers often times use the summer to make any kind of major adjustments to their curriculum and to their teaching strategies. It’s quite difficult to make changes in the middle of a unit in the middle of the second grading period–a situation where most teachers will find themselves right now. I remember a time not so long ago when teachers knew their L.O.E. by the end of the school year. Since the state’s implementation of TNReady, that hasn’t happened.

If I were a principal, I’m also upset about the timing of the release of the L.O.E. scores. They shouldn’t have to wait this long into the school year before finding out who their effective and ineffective teachers were last year. Part of their job is to help the ineffective teachers get back on track. Granted, a good principal will probably already know who these teachers are, but nothing can be made official until the L.O.E. scores are released. These scores are also used to determine whether teachers are rehired the following school year and if teachers will be granted tenure. Personnel decisions should be made over the summer, and the late release of these teacher effectiveness scores is not helpful in the least.

NULLIFY

If you find out, as Mike did, that including the scores may have an undesirable impact, you have the option of nullifying your entire LOE — in fact, even if the score is good, if TNReady makes up any part of your overall LOE, you have the nullification option. Here’s more from Mike on that:

What immediately struck me is that all three of these options include my students’ growth on a flawed test that, by law, isn’t supposed to hurt me if last year’s test results are included, which they are. My overall L.O.E. score is a 4 out of 5, which still isn’t too bad, but the previous three years it has been a 5 out of 5. This means that the TNReady scores are, in fact, hurting my L.O.E. So what do I do now?

As the president of the Coffee County Education Association, I received the following message from TEA today that I quickly forwarded to my members: “To comply with the [hold harmless] legislation, teachers and principals who have 2017-18 TNReady data included in their LOE may choose to nullify their entire evaluation score (LOE) for the 2017-18 school year at their discretion. An educator’s decision to nullify the LOE can be made independently or in consultation with his/her evaluator during the evaluation summative conference. Nullification is completed by the educator in the TNCompass platform. The deadline for an educator to nullify his/her LOE is midnight CT on Nov. 30.”

In addition to the valid concerns Mike raises, I’ve heard from teachers in several districts noting mistakes in the LOE number. These may result from including TVAAS data in a way that negatively impacts a teacher or using the incorrect option when it comes to factoring in scores. It is my understanding that several districts have alerted TDOE of these errors and are awaiting a response.

One key question is: What happens if you nullify your scores, and therefore have no LOE this year? Here’s an answer from TDOE:

Educators who choose to nullify their 2017-18 LOE may still be able to earn Professional Development Points (PDPs). Educators who choose to nullify their 2017-18 LOE may use their 2016-17 score to earn applicable PDPs;

So, PDPs are covered if you nullify. Great.

For educators who nullify their 2017-18 LOE, the number of observations required in 2018- 19 will be calculated based on 2016-17 data in conjunction with the educator’s current license type.

Looks like classroom observations have also been covered.

If a teacher chooses to nullify his or her 2017-18, LOE he or she may still become eligible for tenure this year. Pursuant to T.C.A. § 49-5-503(4), “a teacher who has met all other requirements for tenure eligibility but has not acquired an official evaluation score during the last one (1) or two (2) years of the probationary period due to an approved extended leave; transfer to another school or position within the school district; or invalidated data due to a successful local level evaluation grievance pursuant to § 49-1-302(d)(2)(A) may utilize the most recent two (2) years of available evaluation scores achieved during the probationary period.”

The bottom line: If you do nullify (and many are in situations where that’s a good idea), there should be no future adverse impact according to TDOE’s guidance.

The larger issue, in my view, is the one Mike raises: It’s pretty late in the year to be returning evaluation feedback to teachers and principals. The LOE determines the number of observations a teacher is to have (which impacts principal workload). It could, as Mike indicates, also point to areas for improvement or teachers who need additional support. But providing those numbers well into the school year significantly reduces the opportunity for meaningful action on those fronts.

Despite all these stubborn facts, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education points to the teacher evaluation process a “key driver” of our state’s education success.

It seems highly unlikely a process this flawed is making much of a positive impact on teachers and schools.

 

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Key Driver


Much is being made of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system as a “key driver” in recent “success” in the state’s schools.

A closer look, however, reveals there’s more to the story.

Here’s a key piece of information in a recent story in the Commercial Appeal:

The report admits an inability to draw a direct, causal link from the changes in teacher evaluations, implemented during the 2011-12 school year, and the subsequent growth in classrooms across the state.

Over the same years, the state has also raised its education standards, overhauled its assessment and teacher preparation programs and implemented new turnaround programs for struggling schools.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that BEFORE any of these changes, Tennessee students were scoring well on the state’s TCAP test — teachers were given a mark and were consistently hitting the mark, no matter the evaluation style.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that “growth” as it relates to the current TNReady test is difficult to measure due to the unreliable test administration, including this year’s problems with hackers and dump trucks.

While the TEAM evaluation rubric is certainly more comprehensive than those used in the past, the classroom observation piece becomes difficult to capture in a single observation and the TVAAS-based growth component is fraught with problems even under the best circumstances.

Let’s look again, though, at the claim of sustained “success” since the implementation of these evaluation measures as well as other changes.

We’ll turn to the oft-lauded NAEP results for a closer look:

First, notice that between 2009 and 2011, Tennessee saw drops in 4th and 8th grade reading and 8th grade math. That helps explain the “big gains” seen in 2013. Next, note that in 4th and 8th grade reading and 4th grade math, our 2017 scores are lower than the 2013 scores. There’s that leveling off I suggested was likely. Finally, note that in 4th and 8th grade reading, the 2017 scores are very close to the 2009 scores. So much for “fastest-improving.”

Tennessee is four points below the national average in both 4th and 8th grade math. When it comes to reading, we are 3 points behind the national average in 4th grade and 5 points behind in 8th grade.

All of this to say: You can’t say you’re the fastest-improving state on NAEP based on one testing cycle. You also shouldn’t make long-term policy decisions based on seemingly fabulous results in one testing cycle. Since 2013, Tennessee has doubled down on reforms with what now appears to be little positive result.

In other words, in terms of a national comparison of education “success,” Tennessee still has a long way to go.

That may well be because we have yet to actually meaningfully improve investment in schools:

Tennessee is near the bottom. The data shows we’re not improving (Since Bill Haslam became Governor). At least not faster than other states.

We ranked 44th in the country for investment in public schools back in 2010 — just before these reforms — and we rank 44th now.

Next, let’s turn to the issue of assessing growth. Even in good years, that’s problematic using value-added data:

And so perhaps we shouldn’t be using value-added modeling for more than informing teachers about their students and their own performance. Using it as one small tool as they seek to continuously improve practice. One might even mention a VAM score on an evaluation — but one certainly wouldn’t base 35-50% of a teacher’s entire evaluation on such data. In light of these numbers from the Harvard researchers, that seems entirely irresponsible.

Then, there’s the issue of fairness when it comes to using TVAAS. Two different studies have shown notable discrepancies in the value-added scores of middle school teachers at various levels:

Last year, I wrote about a study of Tennessee TVAAS scores conducted by Jessica Holloway-Libell. She examined 10 Tennessee school districts and their TVAAS score distribution. Her findings suggest that ELA teachers are less likely than Math teachers to receive positive TVAAS scores, and that middle school teachers generally, and middle school ELA teachers in particular, are more likely to receive lower TVAAS scores.

A second, more comprehensive study indicates a similar challenge:

The study used TVAAS scores alone to determine a student’s access to “effective teaching.” A teacher receiving a TVAAS score of a 4 or 5 was determined to be “highly effective” for the purposes of the study. The findings indicate that Math teachers are more likely to be rated effective by TVAAS than ELA teachers and that ELA teachers in grades 4-8 (mostly middle school grades) were the least likely to be rated effective. These findings offer support for the similar findings made by Holloway-Libell in a sample of districts. They are particularly noteworthy because they are more comprehensive, including most districts in the state.

These studies are based on TVAAS when everything else is going well. But, testing hasn’t been going well and testing is what generates TVAAS scores. So, the Tennessee Department of Education has generated a handy sheet explaining all the exceptions to the rules regarding TVAAS and teacher evaluation:

However, to comply with the Legislation and ensure no adverse action based on 2017-18 TNReady data, teachers and principals who have 2017-18 TNReady data included in their LOE (school-wide TVAAS, individual TVAAS, or achievement measure) may choose to nullify their entire evaluation score (LOE) for the 2017-18 school year at their discretion. No adverse action may be taken against a teacher or principal based on their decision to nullify his or her LOE. Nullifying an LOE will occur in TNCompass through the evaluation summative conference.

Then, there’s the guidance document which includes all the percentage options for using TVAAS:

What is included in teacher evaluation in 2017-18 for a teacher with 3 years of TVAAS data? There are three composite options for this teacher:

• Option 1: TVAAS data from 2017-18 will be factored in at 10%, TVAAS data from 2016-17 will be factored in at 10% and TVAAS data from 2015-16 will be factored in at 15% if it benefits the teacher.

• Option 2: TVAAS data from 2017-18 and 2016-17 will be factored in at 35%.

• Option 3: TVAAS data from 2017-18 will be factored in at 35%. The option that results in the highest LOE for the teacher will be automatically applied. Since 2017-18 TNReady data is included in this calculation, this teacher may nullify his or her entire LOE this year.

That’s just one of several scenarios described to make up for the fact that the State of Tennessee simply cannot reliably deliver a test.

Let’s be clear: Using TVAAS to evaluate a teacher AT ALL in this climate is educational malpractice. But, Commissioner McQueen and Governor Haslam have already demonstrated they have a low opinion of Tennesseans:

Let’s get this straight: Governor Haslam and Commissioner McQueen think no one in Tennessee understands Google? They are “firing” the company that messed up this year’s testing and hiring a new company that owns the old one and that also has a reputation for messing up statewide testing.

To summarize, Tennessee is claiming success off of one particularly positive year on NAEP and on TNReady scores that are consistently unreliable. Then, Tennessee’s Education Commissioner is suggesting the “key driver” to all this success is a highly flawed evaluation system a significant portion of which is based on junk science.

The entire basis of this spurious claim is that two things happened around the same time. Also happened since Tennessee implemented new teacher evaluation and TNReady? Really successful seasons for the Nashville Predators.

Correlation does NOT equal causation. Claiming teacher evaluations are a “key driver” of some fairly limited success story is highly problematic, though typical of this Administration.

Take a basic stats class, Dr. McQueen.

 

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