Posts tagged ‘Performance indicators’

January 9, 2013

Leading mathematician debunks ‘value-added’

By John Ewing | Published September 5 2011 by The Answer Sheet Blog

Mathematicians occasionally worry about the misuse of their subject. G. H. Hardy famously wrote about mathematics used for war in his autobiography, A Mathematician’s Apology (and solidified his reputation as a foe of applied mathematics in doing so). More recently, groups of mathematicians tried to organize a boycott of the Star Wars [missile defense] project on the grounds that it was an abuse of mathematics. And even more recently some fretted about the role of mathematics in the financial meltdown.

But the most common misuse of mathematics is simpler, more pervasive, and (alas) more insidious: mathematics employed as a rhetorical weapon—an intellectual credential to convince the public that an idea or a process is “objective” and hence better than other competing ideas or processes. This is mathematical intimidation. It is especially persuasive because so many people are awed by mathematics and yet do not understand it—a dangerous combination.

The latest instance of the phenomenon is valued-added modeling (VAM), used to interpret test data. Value-added modeling pops up everywhere today, from newspapers to television to political campaigns. VAM is heavily promoted with unbridled and uncritical enthusiasm by the press, by politicians, and even by (some) educational experts, and it is touted as the modern, “scientific” way to measure educational success in everything from charter schools to individual teachers.

Yet most of those promoting value-added modeling are ill-equipped to judge either its effectiveness or its limitations. Some of those who are equipped make extravagant claims without much detail, reassuring us that someone has checked into our concerns and we shouldn’t worry. Value-added modeling is promoted because it has the right pedigree — because it is based on “sophisticated mathematics.”As a consequence, mathematics that ought to be used to illuminate ends up being used to intimidate. When that happens, mathematicians have a responsibility to speak out.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/leading-mathematician-debunks-value-added/2011/05/08/AFb999UG_blog.html

 

November 28, 2012

Why the School Turnaround Experiment Is Failing

By | Published 11/27/2012 by the Huffington Post

The disappointing results of the Duncan administration’s controversial School Improvement Grants exemplify the fundamental flaw of test-driven school “reform.” The preliminary analysis of the SIG’s first year indicated that some schools produced double digit gains in math and/or reading test scores, that more produced single digit gains, and one third saw declines in student performance.

A quarter of those schools showed a reversal of the decline in test scores that had been occurring before the infusion of millions of dollars. Another quarter had been improving however, and saw a reversal of their previous gains. It could be argued that SIG benefitted elementary schools, but not high schools or, especially, middle schools.

These findings are consistent with the conclusions of the National Academies of Science’s blue ribbon panel, which explained that test-driven reforms may pressure some schools to become more productive while encouraging others to increase primitive teach-to-the-test and push out the harder-to-educate children. They are also consistent with the research of Paul Tough, who showed that the contemporary reform movement has achieved some successes, especially in schools that can exclude the most troubled children, but that it has probably worsened the lives of children in our toughest schools.

That leads to the metaphorical question of what parent would continue an experimental treatment that significantly helped one of his children, perhaps produced some benefit for another, while damaging a third? Why do we keep trying risky experiments that are bound to harm some children as they may or may not improve outcomes for others?

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-thompson/the-failure-of_b_2177740.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

November 23, 2012

When ‘Grading’ Is Degrading

By | Published: November 22, 2012 by the New York Times

IN his speech on the night of his re-election, President Obama promised to find common ground with opposition leaders in Congress. Yet when it comes to education reform, it’s the common ground between Democrats and Republicans that has been the problem.

For the past three decades, one administration after another has sought to fix America’s troubled schools by making them compete with one another. Mr. Obama has put up billions of dollars for his Race to the Top program, a federal sweepstakes where state educational systems are judged head-to-head largely on the basis of test scores. Even here in Texas, nobody’s model for educational excellence, the state has long used complex algorithms to assign grades of Exemplary, Recognized, Acceptable or Unacceptable to its schools.

So far, such competition has achieved little more than re-segregation, long charter school waiting lists and the same anemic international rankings in science, math and literacy we’ve had for years.

And yet now, policy makers in both parties propose ratcheting it up further — this time, by “grading” teachers as well.

It’s a mistake. In the year I spent reporting on John H. Reagan High School in Austin, I came to understand the dangers of judging teachers primarily on standardized test scores. Raw numbers don’t begin to capture what happens in the classroom. And when we reward and punish teachers based on such artificial measures, there is too often an unintended consequence for our kids.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/opinion/grading-schools-isnt-the-answer-its-the-problem.html?_r=0

November 15, 2012

Phony school “reform” agenda takes a beating

The media barely noticed, but voters in three states rejected the profit-driven fraud that is education “reform”

By | Published November 13, 2012 by Salon.com

If your only source of news about American education came from docu-propaganda like “Waiting for Superman,” Hollywood politi-schlock like “Won’t Back Down” and elite-focused national news outlets in Washington, D.C., and New York City, you might think that the so-called education “reform” (read: privatization) movement was a spontaneous grass-roots uprising of good-old-fashioned heartlanders generating ever more mass support throughout the country. You would have no reason to believe it was a top-down, corporate-driven coalition of conservative coastal elites trying to both generally undermine organized labor and specifically wring private profit out of public schools, and you would similarly have no reason to believe it was anything but wildly popular in an America clamoring for a better education system.

In other words, you would be utterly misinformed — especially after last week’s explosive election results in three key states.

In Colorado, the out-of-state, corporate-funded group Stand for Children, which previously made national headlines bragging about its corrupt legislative deal making, backed a campaign to hand the state Legislature to pro-privatization Republicans, specifically by trying to defeat Democratic legislators who have stood on the side of public education. Though the group and its affiliated anti-union, pro-privatization allies have become accustomed to getting their way in this state, 2012 saw them handily defeated, as the targeted Democrats won election, giving their party full control of the statehouse.

In Indiana, the results were even more explicit. There, as the Indianapolis Star reports, Superintendent for Public Instruction Tony Bennett became “the darling of the reform movement” by “enthusiastically implement(ing) such major reforms as the nation’s most expansive private school voucher program; greater accountability measures for schools that led to the unprecedented state takeover of six schools last year; an expansion of charter schools; and an evaluation system for teachers that bases their raises, at least in part, on student test scores.” For waging such a scorched-earth campaign against teachers and public education, Bennett was rewarded with a whopping $1.3 million in campaign contributions, much of which came from out of state. According to Stateline, Bennett was underwritten by “some of the biggest supporters of education reform in the country, including Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, billionaire financier Eli Broad and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” and NPR reports that he also received big donations from private corporations that stood to profit off his school takeover policies.

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/13/phony_school_reform_agenda_takes_a_beating/

October 19, 2012

The Conflict in Context: A Québec high school teacher’s perspective on the movement for accessible education

By Robert Green

This article appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of ‘Our Schools / Our Selves’ edited by Erika Shaker and published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

I teach a secondary five level course called ‘The Contemporary World’ at a public English high school in Montreal. One of the messages I am constantly trying to pass on to my students is that in attempting to understand world events, we should always be wary of overly simplistic formulations. Events do not occur in a vacuum. The historical and political context in which an event occurs always matters.

In recent months, as the student strike in Québec has come to dominate the headlines, I have found myself repeating a very similar message in discussions with students, friends, neighbours and colleagues. The mainstream media has been very successful at framing this conflict in the narrowest of terms; as being strictly about students not wanting to pay a $1,625 tuition increase. With such a simplistic framing of the issue it has been very easy for people to agree with commentators who characterize Québec students as irrational and entitled because they already pay the lowest tuition in Canada.

The problem with this analysis is that if indeed this movement is merely about irrational, entitled students, how does one explain the series of historic demonstrations of between two and four-hundred-thousand people? How does one explain the fact that these demonstrations were filled not just with students, but with teachers such as myself, university and Cégep [college] professors, parents, senior citizens groups, union members, etc.? There’s something missing from the simplistic picture the media is offering us.

In examining the student strike within its broader historical and political context, I hope to offer a more complete picture of the issue. In so doing I also hope to articulate why, as a public school teacher and as a citizen of Québec, I find it important to actively support the movement for accessible education.

read more »

October 14, 2012

Video: Letter to Arne Duncan – Two Teachers and a Microphone

September 17, 2012

Grading Teachers, Failing Kids

By MOSHE ADLER. Published September 15, 2012 by Counterpunch.org

What would children gain from teachers who have the highest evaluations as measured by the metric that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to implement for Chicago’s public school (but not charter school) teachers?  This is precisely what three Columbia and Harvard economists researched in a study that has received wide attention from the media and politicians.  According to the authors’ own interpretation—the sky.  But if you read the study itself—nothing at all.

The study examined the incomes of adults who, as children in the 4th through the 8th grades, had teachers of different “Value Added” scores, with Value Added defined as improvement in the scores of students on standardized tests.  The researchers found that the average wage and salary of a 28 year old who had an excellent teacher was $20,509 in 2010 dollars, $182 higher than the average annual pay of all 28 year olds in the study.

How does this compare to the average salary and wage of a 28 year old in this country? The authors chose not to make the comparison, but we can make it for them.  They excluded from their study people whose income was higher than $100,000. As we shall see, this exclusion is problematic; but to do the comparison we must do the same. The average salary and wage in 2010 of a 28 year old who earned less than $100,000 a year was $29,041, 42% higher than the income of a 28 year old in the Columbia-Harvard study who had an excellent teacher. In other words, even if we accept the spin the authors put on their numbers, having an excellent teacher does not pull people out of poverty.

Read more: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/14/grading-teachers-failing-kids/

September 15, 2012

What research really says on teacher evaluation

By Richard Rothstein. Published September 15, 2012 by The Washington Post’s education blog ‘The Answer Sheet’

It was bound to happen, whether in Chicago or elsewhere. What is
(Scott Olson/GETTY IMAGES) surprising about the Chicago teachers’ strike is that something like this did not happen sooner.

The strike represents the first open rebellion of teachers nationwide over efforts to evaluate, punish and reward them based on their students’ scores on standardized tests of low-level basic skills in math and reading. Teachers’ discontent has been simmering now for a decade, but it took a well-organized union to give that discontent practical expression. For those who have doubts about why teachers need unions, the Chicago strike is an important lesson.

Nobody can say how widespread discontent might be. Reformers can certainly point to teachers who say that the pressure of standardized testing has been useful, has forced them to pay attention to students they previously ignored, and could rid their schools of lazy and incompetent teachers.

But I frequently get letters from teachers, and speak with teachers across the country who claim to have been successful educators and who are now demoralized by the transformation of teaching from a craft employing skill and empathy into routinized drill instruction using scripted curriculum. They are also demoralized by the weeks and weeks of the school year now devoted to gamesmanship—test preparation designed not to teach literacy or mathematics but only to make it seem that students can perform in an artificial setting better than they actually do.

I suspect, but cannot prove that the latter group of teachers is more numerous and that teachers in the discontented group are more likely to be seasoned, experienced, and successful. I suspect that teachers in the group supportive of standardized testing are more likely to be young, frequently hired outside the usual teacher training stream, and conditioned to think of education as little more than test preparation.

The research evidence is weighty in support of the discontented view; two years ago, EPI assembled a group of prominent testing experts and education policy experts to assess the research evidence on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. It concluded that holding teachers accountable for growth in the test scores of their students is more harmful than helpful to children’s educations. Placing serious consequences for teachers on the results of their students’ tests creates rational incentives for teachers and schools to narrow the curriculum to tested subjects, and to tested areas within those subjects. Students lose instruction in history, the sciences, the arts, music, and physical education, and teachers focus less on development of children’s non-cognitive behaviors — cooperative activities, character, social skills — that are among the most important aims of a solid education.

Read more:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/what-research-really-says-on-teacher-evaluation/2012/09/15/2e9de9fa-ff44-11e1-8adc-499661afe377_blog.html

September 13, 2012

What’s Driving the Chicago Teachers Strike

by BINOY KAMPMARK. Published September 12, 2012 by counterpunch.org

“To imagine the pupil-teacher relationship as one of finance, student growth, popularity scores and spread sheets is mind jarringly obscene, but this has not stopped the process from accelerating.  In fact, it is becoming more rigorous than ever, taking hold in universities at an alarming rate.  As part of the same mix, the U.S. Department of Education has proposed to use the test scores of graduates’ students to evaluate schools of education.  Never mind the fact that such scores are notoriously unreliable.

Once you make teachers servile to the market economy and the managerial classes, their performance ceases to be one of teaching but entertaining.  One is not getting so much better teaching than better circus acts, backed by the dull machinists of power point.  In that case, we get not only the teachers we deserve but the graduates we don’t want. This is truly a kingdom of dunces.”

Read more: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/12/whats-driving-the-chicago-teachers-strike/

September 8, 2012

The Finnish model: A beacon for education reform?

What can Canada learn from Finland’s commitment to education?

By Vivian McCaffrey | Posted September 7, 2012 by Rabble.ca

For the last decade, Finland’s success on international tests has caught the attention of education policymakers around the world. What is it about this small Nordic nation that has led to its students’ high performance in science, math and reading assessments? Are there lessons for other countries, such as Canada? Pasi Sahlberg, a former teacher and education expert, endeavours to answer these questions in Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

What is most perplexing for international experts is that Finland has produced top-performing students while eschewing market-based education reforms premised on competition and standardized tests. “Finland is an example of a nation that lacks school inspection, standardized curriculum, high-stakes student assessments, test-based accountability, and a race-to-the-top mentality with regard to educational change,” Sahlberg explains.

In Finland, the emphasis is on teacher-based assessment; teachers have the authority to design their own assessments and use them when they deem appropriate. External testing is limited. About 10 per cent of students participate in random-sample tests to assess aspects of the education program. The only universal test is the matriculation exams that high school students must pass to be eligible for post-secondary education.

The centrepiece of Finnish education is the nation’s teaching force. Teacher education reform dates back to 1979 when a new law on teacher education was introduced, along with a focus on professional development. Teachers are required to have a master’s degree and competition for spots in faculties of education is fierce. Only about 10 per cent of applicants are accepted.

The term “accountability” is not part of educational policy discourse. Finns place high trust in their teachers and provide them considerable professional autonomy. “The basic assumption in Finnish schools is that teachers, by default, are well-educated professionals and are doing their best in schools. In real professional learning communities, teachers trust each other, communicate frequently about teaching and learning, and rely on their principal’s guidance and leadership,” writes Sahlberg.

Read more: http://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2012/09/finnish-lessons

August 15, 2012

Education and the 2012 Quebec Election: Part Three – Where do the Parties Stand on School Autonomy?

By Robert Green

Thus far this series has looked at where Quebec’s political parties stand on education funding and curriculum. This article will examine where the parties stand on the question of school autonomy.

A week rarely passes in Quebec where there is not one news story or another about members of a local community clashing with school board or government bureaucrats over an issue involving schools. Because many feel that the centralized bureaucracies that manage our schools are out of touch with the needs of local communities, they argue for greater school autonomy. On the other hand, some degree of centralized management is needed in order to maintain equitable access to resources and system-wide standards. Indeed the question of local autonomy versus centralized management is one of the key issues every government must face in managing its education system.

One of the major trends in North America involving the issue of school autonomy is the use of incentivized ‘performance indicators’ as a means for government to impose its will on schools. This is the philosophy behind George Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB) law that ties school funding and/or teacher pay to various measurable indicators of school success. More often than not this involves standardized test scores.

After ten years of such policies, the US has not improved its achievement rates at all. It has, however, succeeded in transforming its public schools to serve a single purpose: prep for high stakes standardized tests. Not only have American schools been canceling art classes, phys ed and even recess in order to focus more on test prep, but there has also been a wave of high profile fraud scandals throughout the US, some involving hundreds of teachers and administrators systematically changing the test responses of students to avoid their schools being shut down or defunded. The only other thing such policies have achieved is millions in profits for the corporations that own the private charter schools and have been all too happy to receive the public dollars formerly dedicated to the public system.

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August 10, 2012

When Public Schools Answer to Markets

Citizens shouldn’t be seen as consumers choosing between education options, but active participants

By , published Jul 29, 2012 by Salon.com

“There are several problems with this model from the perspective of both efficacy and, more importantly, democracy. First, despite the grand intentions behind marketized programs, they do not get better results on average than traditional public schools. A study conducted by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, 46 percent showed no difference from public schools, and 37 percent were significantly worse. Additionally, introducing supposedly tough-minded material incentives to improve teacher performance, such as giving higher “merit” pay to more successful teachers and threatening to fire less successful ones, has yielded no measurable benefits for children and, instead, tends to divide and demoralize teachers.

Other studies have found that the competitive incentives designed to drive innovation in the classroom are not operating as intended. Instead of improving teaching and learning practices, market incentives have driven an increase in schools’ marketing and promotional activities – that is, advertisements that better sell their products. And as marketing is most effective when aimed at specified groups, schools usually beef up their academic achievement statistics by targeting families of higher-achieving students, thereby contributing to increased student selectivity, sorting, and segregation.

Efficiency considerations aside, the real problem with championing marketized models in education and other areas is the damage it does to democracy. We should not be upholding a model based on turning citizens into consumers. Democratic citizenship does not simply involve an individual’s choice from a platter of options. Rather, it requires active participation in collective decisionmaking.”

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/29/the_school_market_salpart/

June 13, 2012

Video: Are Teachers Too Accountable Over Student Achievement?

May 18, 2012

Three Evidence Based Strategies to Improve Quebec’s Public Schools

By Robert Green

Although the next provincial election in Quebec may still be well over a year away, education is already emerging as one of its central issues. While the student protests for accessible education have directed much of society’s focus towards a number of issues at the post-secondary level, there are also many reasons for Quebecers to be concerned about what is being proposed at the elementary and secondary levels.

Both Francois Legault’s Coalition pour l’Avenir du Québec (CAQ) and the governing Liberals (PLQ) seem intent on importing to Quebec aspects of the American corporate education reform agenda at the heart of George Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ policy. Legault wants to bring the American war on teachers unions north. If elected his party intends to remove the tenure process that provides teachers with professional autonomy and job security. Meanwhile the Liberals, through their Bill 88 passed last year, have been flirting with the notion of using performance indicators to determine school funding.

What all parties seem to agree on is that Quebec’s education system is in crisis and needs to be fixed.

This, however, is nothing new. For at least the last twenty years politicians have been wringing their hands over the Quebec education system’s poor performance and high drop-out rate. Their response has been one ill-fated policy-fix after another. Prior to this latest focus on performance-based incentives, it was curriculum reform that was supposed to serve as our miracle cure.

But the problem with miracle cures is that they tend not to be based on evidence.

Indeed evidence is what is missing most from the current debate about the future of Quebec’s education system. What is needed is a government willing to consider the numerous policy options that a wide body of research, both in Canada and abroad, has shown to be effective in improving educational outcomes.

Here are three such options:

read more »

April 3, 2012

High-stakes testing cheats children out of a quality education

Posted April 2, 2012 at ‘Get Schooled’ with Maureen Downey

“Across the U.S., the politically mandated misuse of standardized tests is damaging public schools and the children they serve. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s investigation of suspicious test scores around the nation is just the latest example. Experts may debate the methodology, but there is no question that cheating on standardized exams is widespread. In just the past three academic years, FairTest has documented confirmed cases of test score manipulation in 33 states plus the District of Columbia.

These scandals are the predictable result of over-reliance on test scores. As the renowned social scientist Donald Campbell concluded more than 30 years ago, “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” Campbell continued, “[W]hen test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

Testing experts have long recognized this problem. Their professional standards for educational assessment warn against relying on tests as the sole or primary factor to make high-stakes decisions.”

Read More: http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2012/04/02/high-stakes-testing-cheats-children-out-of-a-quality-education/?cxntfid=blogs_get_schooled_blog