War on Teachers?

Cari Wade Gervin over at MetroPulse in Knoxville has the story on the turmoil brewing there over education reform, teacher evaluation, and more.  Her story notes that while Knox County has seen a lot of tension, teachers are organizing and offering feedback across the state.

Knox County’s Lauren Hopson gained attention with this speech to the Knox County School Board.

At a more recent Board meeting, student Ethan Young made a plea that the Board reconsider its current path.

Knox County Teachers to Speak Out at Tonight’s Board Meeting

As a follow-up to Knox County teacher Lauren Hopson’s address to the School Board, a group of Knox County teachers plan to attend tonight’s Board meeting at 5PM and wear red to show their support for the key points she made — that students are subjected to too much testing, that teacher evaluation using TVAAS data is unfair because it is unreliable, that using student surveys like TRIPOD to evaluate teachers (a controversial issue in Metro Nashville as well) is inappropriate.

From the information post promoting tonight’s action:

knox teacher protest

For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow us @TNEdReport

 

Tennessee Department of Education Denies Request to Delay the Use of Surveys in MNPS Teacher Evaluations

This afternoon, MNPS teachers and staff were informed of the State’s decision on Dr. Jesse Register’s request for the state to delay using the TRIPOD survey in this year’s evaluations.  According to Dr. Register, this request was denied and thus, in this year’s evaluations, the results of the surveys will count for 5% of the qualitative (i.e., observational) portion of each classroom teacher’s evaluation.  The full email from Dr. Register is below.

From: Register, Jesse

Sent: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 3:18 PM

To: MNPS Teachers – All

Cc: MNPS Principals – All

Subject: Update on TRIPOD Request

Dear Certificated Staff:

As promised, I am updating you on our request to the Tennessee Department of Education to use TRIPOD on a formative basis this fall and allow teachers to choose whether to use spring TRIPOD data in their evaluations.

Last Friday, I learned both these requests were denied. I am disappointed, and I expect you are, that we will not be able to use the survey data for formative use only this fall. As I mentioned in my email last week, I am convinced the survey will be valuable to teachers and administrators in the longer.

Therefore, please understand that TRIPOD will count as 5% of the qualitative (observational) portion of each classroom teacher’s evaluation. Results from the two administrations will be averaged together, except in the case in which two administrations are not possible. In such cases, one administration will be used for the full 5% weight in the evaluation. If no survey administrations are possible, such as is the case for teachers with fewer than 10 students, then the 5% reverts back to observation.

If you have not already, I encourage you to look at last spring’s survey data, now available online in CODE, and to use those results as you plan your work for the balance of the year. If you are a new teacher or have no survey results for last year, please ask your principal to share school-level results with you. They are in much the same format as teacher results.

We believe the TRIPOD survey will ultimately be beneficial to teachers and our district and will help inform our instructional practices. If you are interested in reading research on the survey, consider reading the research linked below.

For the MET project:

http://www.metproject.org/downloads/Asking_Students_Practitioner_Brief.pdf

http://www.metproject.org/downloads/MET_Gathering_Feedback_Research_Paper.pdf

http://www.metproject.org/downloads/Preliminary_Finding-Policy_Brief.pdf

Article containing a literature review with further references:

http://scee.groupsite.com/uploads/files/x/000/08f/0fb/Student%20Perception%20Surveys%20and%20Teacher%20Assessments%20-%20Membership%20%282%29.pdf

A magazine article that discusses the research:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/why-kids-should-grade-teachers/309088/2/

In conclusion, please accept my gratitude for the hard work that you are doing. I look forward to working with you as we continuously improve our own performance and the success of children in Metro Schools.

Sincerely,

Jesse B. Register, Ed. D.

Director of Schools

MNPS Director of Schools Asks State Not to Use TRIPOD Survey in Teacher Evaluations

Today, MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register sent an official request to Commissioner Kevin Huffman asking that the TRIPOD survey not be linked to teacher evaluation, at least for this year. The email Dr. Register sent to MNPS teachers and principals follows below:

From: Register, Jesse

Sent: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 2:10 PM

To: MNPS Teachers – All

Cc: MNPS Principals – All; Thompson, Susan; Stenson, Christine M; Cour, Katie; Black, Shannon

Subject: TRIPOD Letter to Commissioner Huffman

 

Dear Metro Schools teachers and administrators:

Today I sent an official request to Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman and Assistant Commissioner Sara Heyburn asking that the TRIPOD fall survey not be linked to teacher evaluation. I do not expect to know if our request is granted until after the fall survey period ends. I have also requested for each teacher to have the choice of using the spring administration as a part of your evaluation for the year.

I made this request because you did not have the opportunity to review the results of the TRIPOD survey administered last spring until this week. Last year’s TRIPOD information is starting to appear in CODE now, and our Human Capital and Assessment Departments are working on a guide to explain teacher results and will send it to you soon.

Although the rollout has been problematic, in the long run I expect the TRIPOD survey will be recognized as valuable information for teachers to use in improving their practice. I also believe, although the survey will be a small part of teacher evaluation, it will be viewed as one of the most valid and reliable measures that we use.

TRIPOD has been extensively validated and is designed so it is not a popularity contest. Analysis from tens of thousands of surveys in other districts indicates less than one percent of students answer the survey in a biased manner. TRIPOD correlates strongly to student growth and gives us valuable information. Memphis is in its third year of using TRIPOD as part of their teacher evaluation model with good results. We believe that TRIPOD can be a positive and very valuable component of the TEAM evaluation process.

I know this uncertainty is difficult and I appreciate your patience. We will keep you informed of further developments.

Sincerely,

Jesse B. Register, Ed.D.

Director of Schools

Parents, Educators Challenge Over-Reliance on Testing

Stories out of Shelbyville and Knoxville over the weekend indicate a growing pattern of frustration on the part of parents and teachers about the amount of testing forced on Tennessee students and the use of those students (and now, student surveys) to evaluate teachers.

Jason Reynolds at the Shelbyville Times-Gazette reports that the currently used TCAP tests are coming under increasing scrutiny. Reynolds reported that Nashville parent  and education activist Jennifer Smith, suggests Tennessee students are subject to too much testing and it is having negative consequences:

“Children are being denied valuable classroom instruction, experiencing undue anxiety and stress, and receiving little — if any — recess time so they can prepare to take a test that is ‘not very strong,'” she wrote. Smith said she would like to see Tennessee follow the lead of California, which recently discontinued its version of TCAP so teachers could prepare to implement PARCC.

Reynolds also notes that J.C. Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) says Tennessee students are overloaded with tests.  Bowman has also expressed concern with the use of value-added scores to evaluate teachers.  His organization has called for a suspension of the use of TVAAS in evaluations until the PARCC test is implemented, which seems to echo Smith’s concern.

Teachers are speaking out as well.  A Knox County teacher recently addressed her School Board about the pressures teachers are facing.

And in this story out of Knoxville, parents and teachers both express concern over excessive testing.

One PTSO leader in Knox County noted: 35 days during the year at the elementary level were devoted just to math assessments, “and that’s not including the other four subjects.”

Concern from parents and teachers over testing combined with serious questions about the ability of value-added scores to actually differentiate between teachers seem to be behind the school systems of both Bradley County and Cleveland passing resolutions recently opposing the use of TVAAS data for teacher evaluation and licensure.

The same parent noted she is concerned about the use of student surveys to evaluate teachers. This is practice underway in Knox County, Shelby County, and Metro Nashville.  It’s called the TRIPOD survey and uses student answers on a battery of questions to evaluate teacher performance.  This year, the surveys count for 5% of a teacher’s overall evaluation score.  It’s not clear how the surveys are scored or what a teacher needs to do to earn the top score of 5.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow us @TNEdReport

 

Cleveland, Bradley County Speak Out on State Ed Policy

The School Boards of Cleveland and Bradley County have both passed resolutions this week calling on the State Board of Education to stop using TVAAS (Tennessee Value Added Assessment System) scores in teacher evaluation and licensure.

UPDATE:  Read the resolution here.  We’re told this resolution will be presented to the TSBA (Tennessee School Boards Association) Delegate Assembly for a vote in November.

Cleveland’s Board expressed support for Common Core while the Bradley resolution questions the appropriateness of Common Core standards for younger children.

The two districts join Roane and Marshall counties in passing resolutions raising concerns about state education policies and a lack of collaboration from state leaders.

Specific to TVAAS, Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) has also called on the state to stop using value-added data until 2016-17 when the PARCC tests are fully phased-in.

TVAAS has come under criticism recently for providing a smokescreen that has allowed Tennessee policy makers to claim schools are making gains while masking relatively low proficiency rates on tests like NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress).

Additionally, some question the ability of value-added data to provide meaningful differentiation among teachers.

For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow us @TNEdReport

 

 

Test Questions

A group of parents attempting to reduce the amount of standardized testing Tennessee students are subjected to each year is now raising questions about Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s testimony in defense of Common Core at a recent state Senate Education Committee hearing.

Huffman essentially admitted that TCAP is not a very strong test.  The parent group wants an explanation of why this weak test is being used to determine teacher licensure and possibly teacher pay.

For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow us @TNEdReport

20 Years of TVAAS has Told Us Almost Nothing

Valerie Strauss has an interesting piece over at the Washington Post dealing with Value-Added Modeling.  More specifically, the post analyzes what can be learned from 20 years of the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) implemented as a result of the Education Improvement Act — the Act that created the Basic Education Program (Tennessee’s school funding formula, also known as BEP).

The promise of Value-Added Assessment was that we could learn a lot about which schools were working and which weren’t.  We could learn a lot about kids and how they were progressing.  We could even learn about teachers and how they were doing with all their students and with specific groups of students.  With all this information, Tennessee would intervene and take action that would move schools forward.

Unfortunately, that promise has not been delivered.  At all.

Here, I highlight the key takeaways from the Strauss piece.  Tennessee parents and policymakers should take note – TVAAS is taking up tax dollars and impacting teacher evaluations and it doesn’t really work all that well.

1. Using TVAAS masked persistently low proficiency rates.

The Tennessee value-added assessment model basically identified the schools that were already making required annual proficiency targets, but it failed to distinguish between schools with rising or declining proficiency scores.

In short, the Sanders Model did little to address the essential unfairness perpetuated by NCLB proficiency requirements, which insisted that those student further behind and with fewer resources than those in economically privileged schools had to work harder to reach the same proficiency point.  More importantly, there was no evidence that the Sanders version of value-added testing did anything to help or even predict the future outcomes for those furthest behind.

 

2. TVAAS is unstable and inappropriate for high-stakes decisions — like hiring and firing teachers, renewing licenses, or determining pay.

And despite the National Research Council and the National Academies’ flagging of value-added assessment as too unstable for high-stakes decisions in education …

…states like Tennessee rushed to implement a federally recommended system whereby value-added growth scores would come to dominate teacher evaluation for educators who teach tested subjects.  And contrary to the most basic notions of accountability and fairness, two-thirds of Tennessee teachers who teach non-tested subjects are being evaluated based on school-wide scores in their schools, rather than their own.

3. Continued use of TVAAS as an indicator of “success” leaves the most vulnerable students further and further behind.

In a 2009 Carnegie-funded report, Charles Barone points out that focus on value-added gains, or growth in test scores, may downplay the need for interventions to address low proficiency rates:  “Due to the projection toward proficiency being recalculated annually [in the TVAAS model], there is not necessarily a significant progression, over time toward proficiency . . . causing a delay of needed intervention at appropriate developmental times” (p. 8). So while showing academic progress, gain scores or growth scores easily mask the fact that minority and poor children are far below their well-heeled peers in becoming intellectually prepared for life and careers. And in masking the actual academic progress of the poor and minority students, the state (and the nation) is let off the hook for maintaining and supporting an adequate and equally accessible system of public education for all students. At the same time, politicians and ideologues can celebrate higher “progress rates” for poor and minority students who are, in fact, left further and further behind.

4. Tennessee has actually lost ground in terms of student achievement relative to other states since the implementation of TVAAS.

Tennessee received a D on K-12 achievement when compared to other states based on NAEP achievement levels and gains, poverty gaps, graduation rates, and Advanced Placement test scores (Quality Counts 2011, p. 46).  Educational progress made in other states on NAEP [from 1992 to 2011] lowered Tennessee’s rankings:

• from 36th/42 to 46th/52 in the nation in fourth-grade math[2]

• from 29th/42 to 42nd/52 in fourth-grade reading[3]

• from 35th/42 to 46th/52 in eighth-grade math

• from 25th/38 (1998) to 42nd/52 in eighth-grade reading.

5. TVAAS tells us almost nothing about teacher effectiveness.

While other states are making gains, Tennessee has remained stagnant or lost ground since 1992 — despite an increasingly heavy use of TVAAS data.

So, if TVAAS isn’t helping kids, it must be because Tennessee hasn’t been using it right, right? Wrong. While education policy makers in Tennessee continue to push the use of TVAAS for items such as teacher evaluation, teacher pay, and teacher license renewal, there is little evidence that value-added data effectively differentiates between the most and least effective teachers.

In fact, this analysis demonstrates that the difference between a value-added identified “great” teacher and a value-added identified “average” teacher is about $300 in earnings per year per student.  So, not that much at all.  Statistically speaking, we’d call that insignificant.  That’s not to say that teachers don’t impact students.  It IS to say that TVAAS data tells us very little about HOW teachers impact students.

Surprisingly, Tennessee has spent roughly $326 million on TVAAS and attendant assessment over the past 20 years. That’s $16 million a year on a system that is not yielding much useful information. Instead, TVAAS data has been used to mask a persistent performance gap between middle to upper income students and their lower-income peers.  Overall student achievement in Tennessee remains stagnant (which means we’re falling behind our neighboring states) while politicians and policy makers tout TVAAS-approved gains as a sure sign of progress.

In spite of mounting evidence contradicting the utility of TVAAS, Commissioner Huffman and Governor Haslam announced last week they want to “improve” Tennessee teacher salaries along the lines of merit — and in their minds, TVAAS gains are a key determinant of teacher merit.

Perhaps 2014 will at least produce questions from the General Assembly about the state’s investment in an assessment system that has over 20 years yielded incredibly disappointing results.

For more on Tennessee education politics and policy, follow us @TNEdReport