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Okay, so we're up at my sister's house this past Christmas, and somebody says we just have to play this Wii game they've got called Just Dance. It's sorta like dance karaoke: there's a list of songs to pick from, and each song has a video of a choreographed dancer to accompany the music. The object is to mimic the video dancer's moves as closely as possible; the more precisely you duplicate the moves, the higher your score.

Let me tell you, this game is a freaking riot. Even sober. We were ROTFLOAO as siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins embarrassed themselves to "Rock the Casbah" and "Rasputin" and "Tik Tok."

There's no place to hide in my sister's living room, it's just not that big, so I knew that sooner or later somebody after being ROTFLOAO'ed at would turn and extend the Wii controller to me, insisting that I, too, debase myself just as they had, all in the name of good wholesome family holiday fun. There would be no escaping it.

Two things here:

First, I try to make it a point to include myself out of any Public Displays of Rhythm. Anyone unfortunate enough to have witnessed my participation in one will understand why this is so: the sight is sufficiently alarming that "Someone call 911!" seems a response both reasonable and compassionate.

Second, I am a wily competitor, always looking for any advantage to be gleaned by dint of sheer cunning. What this translated to in the case of Just Dance was that my brain was preparing to write a check that I knew my hips couldn't cash -

- but I also knew my hips wouldn't have to.

See, here's how I figured it: the Wii system (the basic Wii system, mind you) is a fairly primitive one, involving just one controller (in the case of Just Dance, to be held in the right hand), the motion of which is tracked by the Wii sensor mounted on the television set. Regardless of whatever gyrations the karaoke/video dancer was going through on the screen that the competitors were supposed to mirror, it was no great feat to realize that the way to get the highest score was to focus on the motion of your right hand; nothing else mattered. The system could only track the motion of the competitors' right hands; everything else was irrelevant.

So I got up to "dance." It would not be much of a stretch to say that if god forbid whatever it was that I was doing in that living room that evening had made it onto YouTube, no one even vaguely conversant with all of the countless iterations of that millennia-old human art form known as dancing would have recognized my movements as such.

Now, my wife - she knows how to dance. Seriously, girlfriend got it goin' on. She has rhythm, she's utterly uninhibited, she has complete command over her body as a vehicle for expressing whatever's happening in the moment with her mind and spirit - she's an open book. I can watch her on the dance floor for hours, getting variously prouder and hotter by the minute. So you'd think that Just Dance would be the perfect opportunity for her to clean up at the expense of the, ah, more choreographically challenged among us.

But I kicked her butt. Which - rightly - pissed her off.

Let me be more precise:

By the standards that the game was able to measure,

I Am An Awesome Dancer. A regular freaking Fred Astaire.

 

But, see, the thing is, I wasn't dancing. I was trying to score the greatest number of points on Just Dance.

HUGE difference.

And I understood the difference going in.

Yeah, yeah, I know: I'm a total buzzkill, a Debbie Downer - how could I take something as joyful, as creative, as fulfilling as dancing, and make it so cut-and-dried, so boring, so depressingly quantifiable?

Because I recognized Just Dance for what it was: an overly simple way of purporting to measure a very complex set of skills, skills whose asssessment are subject to as many interpretations as there are humans on the planet. I mean, really:

How could something so intangible, so individual, so complex and multi-faceted be reduced to a number?

Well, of course, it can't.

Which brings us, unavoidably, to the question of "standardized" testing and teacher evaluation.




The Measure of a Good Teacher


You wanna know what makes a good teacher? I'll tell you what makes a good teacher. In fact, no - I'll let the Los Angeles Unified School District tell you what makes a good teacher, given that they have just spent a buttload of my money figuring that out.

Here, according to the Los Angeles Unified School District, is the measure of a good teacher:

y = Xß + Zv + e where ß is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(e) = 0, Var(e) = R; Cov(v,e) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xß) = Var(Zv + e) = ZGZT + R

And in response to your next question, No, I am not making this up.

I must admit, I do feel a bit cheated, knowing that my daughters are nearing the end of their student careers in the LAUSD and as such will likely never reap the benefit of this simple common-sense assessment method. I guess we will have to satisfy ourselves that the rusticated practices of talking with and listening to and observing over time the various instructors our daughters have had, and asking our daughters and school officials what they thought of those teachers, provided sufficient insight into those teachers' respective levels of effectiveness.

But you know, now that I think about it, an equation like

y = Xß + Zv + e where ß is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(e) = 0, Var(e) = R; Cov(v,e) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xß) = Var(Zv + e) = ZGZT + R

really does just make so much more sense. I mean, who doesn't hold a special place in their heart for those teachers who made it a point to help them raise their percentiles on the STAR test, who took the time to show them that the truly important thing in life was achieving a higher AYP in their reading scores? Right? Especially the ones who helped us understand that cheating was totally justified in order to achieve all of that - those lessons will always stay with us. On the other hand, forget all those teachers who wasted our time with stupid things like "character building," or "life skills," or "critical thinking" - who remembers any of that shit, anyway?

Because, as everyone knows - especially Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan - the truest measure of a teacher is how well his students do on a "standardized" test.

No matter what it takes.

I mean, what's a little cheating between friends?

Right, Michelle? Riiiight?

From yesterday's USA Today:

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?

USA TODAY examined testing irregularities in the District of Columbia's public schools because, under [former Chancellor Michelle] Rhee, the system became a national symbol of what high expectations and effective teaching could accomplish. Federal money also was at play: Last year, D.C. won an extra $75 million for public and charter schools in the U.S. government's Race to the Top competition. Test scores were a factor.

(Read the whole article; it's damning.)

Yeah, that Michelle Rhee - the one the Republican state legislature of Florida creamed its pants over, the one "Waiting for Superman" deified, the one even Barack Obama was duped by - the one who, as long as four years ago, astute observers - people who evidently had developed critical thinking skills before public schools dumped them in favor of multiple-choice erasable tests - expressed serious, ahh, reservations about. See, even the sainted Michelle Rhee can't escape the pressure of resorting to cheating on "standardized" tests. Besides the more recent examples discovered by USA Today, in an effort to improve her position as educational reform's Deliverer, down from the mountain with a scannable test form in one hand and a No. 2 pencil - with an eraser - in the other, it looks like Ms. Rhee might've found it more expeditious - 15 years ago - to, ahh, enhance her former students' test scores in a way that strains the bounds of standard deviation.

And Bill Gates - lemme tell ya, that guy really knows a thing or two about education, yessirree, bob. Like this:

"Once somebody has taught for three years their teaching quality does not change thereafter."
                    -- Bill Gates

(Yes, he actually says that, about 12:33 in; the entire “education” portion of the lecture is painful to watch, it’s so rife with stupidity.)

Whew, boy, that's good to know - I wonder if software CEOs have the same three-year shelf life.



My wife and I had a dance teacher once, for a few months before we got married. We hired him to teach us to waltz, so that we wouldn't embarrass ourselves at our wedding reception when we stepped out to do our first dance.

Had he been so motivated, I am certain that that dance instructor could have made it his mission to see to it that we scored the greatest number of points while playing Just Dance. I will be forever grateful that instead he made it his mission to see to it that my wife and I could pull off a passable first dance.

For the record, he succeeded. Our waltz was reasonably well-executed and politely well-received.

If I were asked to provide a standard by which to measure to what extent our dance teacher was effective, I would cite the preceding paragraph.

Amazingly, though, there are a lot of people out there in the world right now - including Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, most Republicans and, sadly, our current president and his education secretary - who think it would make much more sense to evaluate our dance teacher based not on how well we actually danced, but rather on our scores while playing Just Dance.

Not to put too fine a point on it, these people don't know what the fuck they are talking about.

Right now in this country a number of jurisdictions – including, indirectly, the United States government - are seriously weighing proposals that would tie teachers' compensation - and, in some cases, even their employment status - to their students' "standardized" test scores.





High-Stakes Testing: If You Build It, They Will . . . Cheat

When compensation, tenure and indeed entire careers are riding on the outcome of high-stakes testing, guess what happens?

CHEATING.

Duhhhh! To wit:

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?
                    -- USA Today,
                       March 28, 2011

Under Pressure, Teachers Tamper With Tests
                    -- New York Times,
                        June 10, 2010

L.A. Unified set to renew charter contract despite evidence of cheating
                    -- L.A. Times,
                        February 28, 2011

When test scores seem too good to believe
                    -- USA Today,
                        March 7, 2011

Questions arise over big gains on AIMS
                    -- Arizona Republic,
                        March 7, 2011

But no one should be surprised by the cheating; it's hardly a new phenomenon:

In 1969, what was then called the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare wanted to increase reading and math scores for some 300 junior high and high school students in Texarkana, Ark. The district was under intense pressure to desegregate its schools and narrow the achievement gap between black and white students. (Does this goal sound familiar today?)

Under a program called performance contracting, federal funds would be returned for students who failed to pass the "standardized" tests at a stipulated level. The plan provided incentives for teachers, administrators and students. The initial evaluation seemed too good to be true. After only 48 hours of instruction, students averaged gains of more than two grade levels in reading and one in math. But the Texarkana miracle turned out to be a mirage when it was discovered that cheating was rampant. In the hope that what transpired in Texarkana was an aberration, performance contracting moved on to 18 other cities in the state. The lack of results there eventually put an end to the experiment.

There are other examples from other countries, but they all make a similar point: When too much is on the line, educators will engage in conduct that undermines taxpayer trust in public schools. Unless Campbell's Law can be repealed, expect to see further evidence of cheating.



Wait – So You Think “Value-Added” Teacher Assessment is Terrific, but Global Warming Is a Hoax?

The National Academy of Sciences would beg to differ with you. Regarding “Race to the Top,” here’s what they had to say:

“Too little research has been done on these methods' validity to base high-stakes decisions about teachers on them.”

Research is pretty clear that the correlation between “standardized” test scores and teacher effectiveness is, generously, tenuous.

- Last year researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley found this (emphasis added):

[T]eachers who were teaching greater proportions of more advantaged students may have been advantaged in their effectiveness rankings . . . Each teacher appeared to be significantly more effective when teaching upper-track courses than the same teacher appeared when teaching lower-track courses.

The default assumption in the value-added literature is that teacher effects are a fixed construct that is independent of the context of teaching (e.g., types of courses, student demographic compositions in a class, and so on) and stable across time. Our empirical exploration of teacher effectiveness rankings across different courses and years suggested that this assumption is not consistent with reality. In particular, the fact that an individual student's learning gain is heavily dependent upon who else is in his or her class, apart from the teacher, raises questions about our ability to isolate a teacher's effect on an individual student's learning, no matter how sophisticated the statistical model might be.

Even if it's this "sophisticated?:"

y = Xß + Zv + e where ß is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(e) = 0, Var(e) = R; Cov(v,e) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xß) = Var(Zv + e) = ZGZT + R

- Here’s a nice compilation of other debunkings:

* The Board on Testing Assessment wrote an open letter to Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in October, 2009, stating that not enough research had been done on VAM’s validity to use it as a basis for determining teacher effectiveness. It also concluded that a student’s scores can be affected by various factors other than their teacher.

* The Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences published a 36-page analysis of VAM in July, 2010, in which it stated that “more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under the control of the teacher.”

* The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) assembled a panel of experts in August, 2010, who warned [PDF file] against giving substantial weight to VAM scores as a tool for measuring teacher effectiveness.

* Researchers for the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision making through research and analysis, concluded, “The research base is currently insufficient to support the use of VAM for high-stakes decisions about individual teachers.”

* And in the wake of the L.A. Times debacle, Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker concluded, after an analysis of the study, that its ratings of teachers are racially biased. He cited that the lowest VAM scores were earned by black teachers while the highest were earned by Asian teachers.



But It MUST Be Meaningful – We Spent A Lot of Money on It!

Let’s just drop in a few other inconvenient facts that supporters of “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” – both programs that tie school funding with “standardized” test results - would rather you not know:



- Here's how well No Child Left Behind and all of its associated "standardized" testing and "accountability" has worked (from 2007):

Since 2002, fourth grade reading scores have gone up 2 points, and eighth grade reading scores have dropped one point. (The national average for grade 4 in 2007 was 221, with the lowest 10 percent scoring 174, the highest scoring 264. A two point gain is very small.)

The gap between students from high and low income families is also nearly unchanged, reduced by one point in grade 4, and two points in grade 8.
Students in Reading First, the reading component of NCLB, get much more instruction, an extra 100 minutes per week, or an extra semester every two years. What the NAEP scores tell us is that this huge investment is not paying off. Even if Reading First were only mildly effective, we would see noticeable improvement, not just two points after several years at one grade level and a drop of one point in another.




- Here's how successful “No Child Left Behind” has been: SAT scores FELL under NCLB.

Holy shit!! You mean to tell me, all that time and money we spent on getting our kids to raise their "standardized" test scores actually HURT their scores on another "standardized" test?!? WTF!?!!?



- Teaching to the test – selecting a very narrow band of “correct” information to transmit to students, and then rewarding them for successfully anticipating what the expected answer is, can have very negative long-term consequences:

[D]irect instruction made the children less curious and less likely to discover new information . . .

[The study’s authors] provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific - this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions.

(Of course, if you’re a rightwing corporatist feudalist, who wants future serfs “discovering unexpected information” or “drawing unexpected conclusions” anyway, right?)



- Standardized test scores are higher in unionized states than in non-union states:

[T]he states in which there are no teachers covered under binding agreements score lower than the states that have them.


- Guess what? News flash: Poverty directly affects test scores:

American students in schools with less than 10% of students on free and reduced lunch averaged 551, higher than the overall average of any OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country. Those in schools with 10% to 25% of students qualifying for free and reduced lunch averaged 527, which was behind only Korea and Finland.

In contrast, American students in schools with 75% or more of children in poverty averaged 446, second to last among the 34 OECD countries.

But – but – but! But Bill Gates! Finland!! That’s right: Bill Gates, that educational titan, has decided that the performance of Finland's students is a good benchmark for American students. So has that Genius-of-all-trades Tom Friedman.

Finland? Seriously? You want to point to Finland as an example of how to raise teaching standards? Brilliant idea, assholes:

Finnish children never take a standardized test. Nor are there standardized tests used to compare teachers or schools to each other.

Oh, and -

Ninety-five percent of Finland's teachers belong to labor unions, and those teachers tend to enjoy many of the same rights and privileges (including "tenure") that unionized teachers in the U.S. do.

But don't try to convince the "free-market" "reformers" of the truth or wisdom in any of these mere facts - they couldn't care less. That's because "free-market" "reformers" in education don't give a shit about children, or education, or the future of this country. No, "free-market" "reformers" in education want exactly what every "free-market" "reformer" in every industry wants: a completely unregulated business environment where they can make as much money as possible in the shortest time possible with absolutely no accountability or consequences for their action, irrespective of the welfare of American citizens, ideally while acting with the full support and assistance of government in their systematic extraction of money from the American taxpayer. And the reason they're going after K-12 education is a reason that Willie Sutton would understand very well: It's Where the Money Is - $500 billion a year, to be precise.

It's that simple. All the rest of the bullshit - "accountability," "excellence," "Race to the Top" - all of it - you can shove up your ass.

Millionaire Union Thug Teachers are Limiting My Freedom of Choice

No offense, but these people are morons.

Well, actually, they're not morons. They're actually old-school greedy fucking motherfuckers who don't give a shit about children or this country. The people who buy into the bullshit these greedy motherfuckers are peddling about "standardized" testing, however, are morons.

"Standardized" testing does a few things very well: (1) it enriches companies that sell "standardized" tests, as well as the shareholders and executives of those companies, and the hucksters and politicians who back those companies' products; (2) it incentivizes those whose livelihoods depend on their students' scores on those tests to find ways to increase their students' scores on those tests; and (3) it shifts resources away from other educational goals and programs. That's about it.

"Standardized" testing is fraught with pitfalls and caveats and limitations - but it is also in service to several pillars of the Republican corporatist vision for this country. To wit:

It leads to the limitation of curriculum, away from hard-to-quantify skills like critical thinking and creativity. This ultimately makes for much more pliable worker drones, well conditioned for plugging in to the low-pay service-oriented work force much desired by so many corporate titans (cf. "feudal society").

When used in the context of a narrowly defined, failure-guaranteed program like “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top,” it makes inevitable the portrayal of public schools - and the teachers who staff them - as failures.

As such, it opens the door to the "logical" replacement of public schools by private schools.

Thus, it is the Shock Doctrine brought home to your child's classroom.

In the process, it allows private test-making and administering companies to make a buttload of money selling their crap to school districts.

Republicans and their greedy corporatist cronies hate the idea of an informed and critical-thinking electorate and work force. Much better for their purposes to have a compliant, servile horde of serfs who are content with the thin gruel of their miserable lives, and unaware of anything better that might once have been in this country.

In case you've forgotten the "education crisis narrative," let me try to summarize. According to the reformers, American public schools are failing. Reformers know public schools are failing because according to a bevy of "standardized" tests, students in American public schools are not proficient, below basic, and failing. Not only are students failing, they also drop out of school in mass numbers. However, if American public school students do graduate, most of them are not even capable of signing their own name. To address this mass failure, a ton of taxpayers' money has been dumped into public schools over the past 15 years and nothing has changed. The public schools are still failing, the economy is in distress, and it's all because of the "crappy" teachers and a misguided public school system. Done!

But why go to such lengths? Why the effort? The reality is that if the reformers were honest they would just admit that they abhor a "public" anything. It's hard to find any honest reformers, but I actually know one. This person at least has the decency to admit that according to her, "government" schools (most of us call them public schools) are federally unconstitutional and at the state level public schools should be eliminated and replaced by a "thriving" private school system. Also, this person believes the government should not "steal" her money and redistribute it to bureaucrats and create a government institution (public schools) designed to indoctrinate children with socialist ideologies. It is an individual's responsibility to pay for and obtain an education. For some readers, this may sound a little scary but at least it's honest. What it also reveals is that many reformers are not really interested in making public schools better. Their main goal is to thrust their market based ideology on society and dismantle the American public education system -- scary, but honest.

This makes me wish that the reformers would just admit their position and honestly try to convince the American public that their ideas for the privatization of the American public school system would better serve our nation's children. Let's stop all the No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core Standards dishonest reforms that are damaging children and educators and truly debase the wisdom of a totally private American school system.

This latest push for ""standardized"" testing - including the demonization of teachers and unions – demonstrates, if nothing else, three things: (1) People want easy answers; (2) There's a sucker born every minute; and (3) Right-wing corporatist Republican types who want to suck the profits out of every public sector endeavor are relentless and persistent.



Bartleby and Me

I always have been the beneficiary of "standardized" testing. I kicked ass on the Stanford-Binet when I was 11; as such, I was "tracked" into gifted classes throughout the rest of my school career. I had SAT scores high enough to get into virtually any school in the country. But it was only once in high school that I had my eyes opened to the soul-crushing destructiveness of so much of the educational system. While I was a very successful student, I also saw that the system was not nearly so well constructed as it could have been to address the needs of as many students as possible.

The first book I read on education was John Holt's classic How Children Fail. From there in short order I devoured Crisis in the Classroom and various other tomes, culminating in what I still consider some of the finest books on education (and on the much larger world as well), The Student as Nigger by Jerry Farber, and Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner's Teaching as a Subversive Activity and The Soft Revolution.

I haven't done an exhaustive study of the subject of education and “standardized” testing. But I lived in it, I swam in it, for 12 years, and so did my kids. Does that make me an expert? Mmm, I don't know. But I damn well know it doesn't make me someone with a financial axe to grind. Let me repeat: I have been a lifelong beneficiary of "standardized" testing.

Somehow, that path led me, when I was a senior in high school, to engage in what to date has been my greatest act of civil disobedience. I led an uprising among my senior classmates to utterly sabotage the statewide "standardized" test that was administered every year to California students.

The test was scheduled for some time just after the middle of the school year, as I recall. The school (there was only one high school in our district at that time) bused us over to a local hall to administer the test. I had started the buzz a few days earlier: we were going to deliberately perform as poorly as possible on the test.

Before hatching the plot, I had taken care to ask several school personnel what the purpose of the test was. I never got a satisfactory answer. I asked whether any school funding rode on the outcome of the test; I was told no. No teacher’s job or salary was tied to the outcome of the test. I knew that the test was certainly not diagnostic - it was anonymous, as I recall; in any event, we were seniors, and our respective individual results meant nothing. No one's graduation hung in the balance; in fact, the state never released results until after the end of the school year.

It was therefore clear that the test was a huge waste of time and resources. By the time the buses dropped us off at the testing venue, the electric tingle of rebellion was in the air.

I remember that testing session being one of the most satisfying experiences of my high-school career. Virtually every student in the room treated the process with the contempt it deserved. I know for a fact (since the questions on the test all were fairly easy) that I got every single answer on the multiple-choice test wrong. A monkey with a No. 2 pencil literally would have done better.

The school administration had caught wind of some of this, and were nervous about it, but powerless to do anything. When the results finally came out - after all of us were safely graduated - they expressed their righteous indignation, telling of "a small group of misguided students," or something like that. The scores were the lowest the district had ever received by orders of magnitude.

This was, incidentally, long before I had ever heard of the Bartleby project (PDF file), which urges students to respectfully decline to take any “standardized” test:

Mass abstract testing, anonymously scored, is the torture centrifuge whirling away precious resources of time and money from productive use and routing it into the hands of testing magicians. It happens only because the tormented allow it. Here is the divide-and-conquer mechanism par excellence, the wizard-wand which establishes a bogus rank order among the schooled, inflicts prodigies of stress upon the unwary, causes suicides, family breakups, and grossly perverts the learning process - while producing no information of any genuine worth. Testing can't predict who will become the best surgeon, college professor, or taxicab driver; it predicts nothing which would impel any sane human being to enquire after these scores.



Value-added screen testing

No assessment system is perfect. The story goes that when Fred Astaire had his first Hollywood screen test, the MGM underling who was tasked with reviewing it jotted the perfunctory comment,

"Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little."

(For the record, Astaire allegedly remembered it slightly differently; in any event, David O. Selznick agreed that the screen test was "wretched.")

Now, the fact that Fred Astaire dancing in front of an MGM scout and me "dancing" in front of a Wii console produced nearly identical assessments, one generated by a human, the other by a machine, should be enough to give one pause.

(I'm guessing the scouting report on Michelle Rhee would've read something like this:

Can't teach. Can't administer. Lying. Can sell a little.



Thanks for reading.

Originally posted to Important if True on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 03:43 PM PDT.

Also republished by J Town.

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  •  Value-added jar (213+ / 0-)
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    BlackGriffen, Wayward Wind, lineatus, Colorado is the Shiznit, Snud, monkeybrainpolitics, SC damn yankee, Ebby, Seneca Doane, navajo, millwood, gooderservice, Senor Unoball, fritzi56, SadieSue, Dreaming of Better Days, OHdog, lilypew, Mary Mike, Shockwave, eXtina, silence, feeny, luckydog, bubbanomics, yuriwho, litho, fiddler crabby, Sirenus, yet another liberal, lcrp, Reino, begone, Lorikeet, milkbone, BalanceSeeker, JekyllnHyde, BachFan, ARS, bkamr, McMeier, soaquarian, wader, shanikka, CJnyc, a gilas girl, rhubarb, vicki, Kinak, WI Deadhead, One Pissed Off Liberal, icemilkcoffee, John Peterson, freelunch, mrkvica, happymisanthropy, chrississippi, peregrine kate, sboucher, Youffraita, nancat357, Glen The Plumber, Exurban Mom, Deward Hastings, seabos84, shayera, erratic, drmah, TexDem, CS11, freeport beach PA, vivian darkbloom, marleycat, FrY10cK, airportman, Joieau, Eddie in ME, barbwires, trashablanca, joanbrooker, CA coastsider, gloriana, jabney, thePhoenix13, Involuntary Exile, Emerson, vahana, vigilant meerkat, Oh Mary Oh, TexDemAtty, blueoasis, greengemini, FWIW, Simplify, Pohjola, NBBooks, jacey, jwhitmill, nosleep4u, NMRed, DWG, GreyHawk, kurt, elfling, northsylvania, SneakySnu, mjfgates, princesspat, Jesterfox, CherryTheTart, MartyM, DRo, agincour, Clues, HiKa, Edge PA, teachergonz, Nowhere Man, reginahny, OregonOak, bigrivergal, nominalize, letsgetreal, xanthippe2, lgmcp, jcrit, Tracker, Dragon5616, FishOutofWater, quarkstomper, KimD, cyncynical, sandblaster, Keith Pickering, GeorgeXVIII, PBen, jarbyus, emilymac, kay dub, zerelda, roses, quill, linkage, terrypinder, catleigh, gizmo59, possum, mawazo, FrankCornish, MooseHB, TheGreatLeapForward, martyc35, doe, foucaultspendulum, greycat, Tinfoil Hat, Gareth, Eric K, teemel, Xapulin, Eddie L, MsWings, Laughing Vergil, Catte Nappe, pbearsailor, Chirons apprentice, weaponsofmassdeception, jennifree2bme, leftist vegetarian patriot, The Hindsight Times, K S LaVida, blackjackal, tin woodswoman, Temmoku, Houston Gardener, p gorden lippy, Hayate Yagami, theunreasonableHUman, Shakespeares Sister, VA Breeze, aerie star, histopresto, zedaker, dotsright, DvCM, belinda ridgewood, Words In Action, zenbassoon, WiseFerret, QuoVadis, implicate order, ursoklevar, Geenius at Wrok, eztempo, envwq, shermanesq, nancelot, Gabriel D, commonmass, lavaughn, badger, TexMex, SoCalSal, clutch1, vinylgirl, ctsteve, Ms Citizen, nonnie9999, toys, churchylafemme, JanL, Turbonerd, Grassroots Mom

    With respect to "dancing," so-called:

    I take some comfort in the knowledge that when it comes to my approach to Just Dance, I am in some (very) Good Company. In The Making of the Atomic Bomb, author Richard Rhodes told of the makeshift social scene that evolved in the relatively rustic conditions at the top-secret Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab among the engineers and scientists posted there with their families. He relates this story of Nobel Prize winning physicist Enrico Fermi:

    Square dancing evolved as a natural Saturday evening activity in that Southwestern setting . . . Eventually even the Fermis attended with their daughter Nella to learn the vigorous reels. Long after mother and daughter had been persuaded from the sidelines Fermi sat unbudging, mentally working out the steps. When he was ready he asked Bernice Brode, one of the leaders, to be his partner. "He offered to be head couple, which I thought most unwise for his first venture, but I couldn't do anything about and the music began. He led me out on the exact beat, knew exactly each move to make and when. He never made a mistake, then or thereafter, but I wouldn't say he enjoyed himself . . . He [danced] with his brains instead of his feet."



    - and a little Fred and Cyd to take us out:

     exme would approve .



    (Pardon my rudeness, but I can only stick around for about 30 minutes right now to respond to comments; I'll be back much later tonight.)

  •  Here's the problem, politically (6+ / 0-)

    If it's true that 90% of variation in student performance isn't teacher-related, on what basis would we put any emphasis on having excellent teachers and compensating them as skilled professionals?  It's just untenable, logically and rhetorically and politically, to argue that teacher quality isn't a significant variable but we should still compensate teachers as if only the best will do.

    Todo tiempo pasado fue mejor. I don't believe that, but I hear this sig is permanent.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 04:10:19 PM PDT

    •  How about what the Finns do? (24+ / 0-)

      You know: person-to-person evaluations, observation over periods of time, input from all stakeholders (including parents and students)? Makes perfect sense to me.

      •  If we proposed that... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        occams hatchet, Shockwave, wader, Sparhawk

        ...is there any chance teachers would accept it?  Our society is much more contentious, for one thing.

        Todo tiempo pasado fue mejor. I don't believe that, but I hear this sig is permanent.

        by Rich in PA on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 04:15:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Those touchy-feely methods won't work. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, debedb
        "...person-to-person evaluations, observation over periods of time, input from all stakeholders..."

        Those methods are subjective. This means that they are subject to the personal biases and political whims of the administrators running the evaluations.

        They are also non-standardized. This means that we cannot compare a "person-to-person" evaluation from one school with a "different person-to-different person" evaluation from another school. We will never be able to reward the best teaching.

        Attempts to substitute fuzzy measures for solid measures are really just a dog-whistle: "Hey, just suck up to your peers and superiors and you'll get a good eval, whether your kids learn or not..."

        •  If you were being sarcastic, I would rec (5+ / 0-)

          There are objective outcomes, the improvement in the ability to learn from one year to the next. Notice I said the improvement in the ability to learn, not the improvement of kids on standardized tests. When the test maniacs actually devise a fair test, I might take them seriously. Right now, I distrust them.

          The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

          by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:12:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Finding a "fair test" is not difficult. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk, debedb

            The AP tests, for instance, do a very good job of measuring how well a kid knows Calculus.

            We know how to test reading, math, science and history.

            We could even ask teachers (shock!) to design a test -- as long as it is standardized.

            •  You are still trying to test the wrong thing (5+ / 0-)

              It matters more that students learn how to learn. Sure, learning basic skills are necessary, but they are not sufficient.

              Which student does better: one student has memorized a number of technique for solving particular calculus problems. If the problem fits, he can solve it, but he has no idea how to solve a problem he has not been introduced to. Another student hasn't learned the book techniques, but is always able to develop one when the problem is presented.

              The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

              by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:41:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                debedb
                It matters more that students learn how to learn. Sure, learning basic skills are necessary, but they are not sufficient.

                So you admit, then, that standardized tests are good measures of examining whether students know certain skills?

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:09:28 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  How do we measure other subjects? (5+ / 0-)

              Special education, health, PE, art, journalism, foods, foreign languages, etc...  How do we measure these subjects?

              And, rather unfairly, the core content teachers (primarily math and English) are facing the brunt of the unceasing pressure since passage of the NCLB legislation.  Today, there is a push to only emphasize and offer subjects that can be measured throug testing.  As a result, kids are becoming increasingly bored and disinterested in school...

              We cannot solve the problems that we have created with the same thinking that created them." - Albert Einstein

              by CarolinW on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 09:12:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ManhattanMan

                But just so you know, they have AP tests for languages, art, and a lot of other stuff now. I think it's probably a load of crap for a lot of it, but just letting you know.

                •  That's only at the elite level (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ManhattanMan, badger, martyc35

                  and the states don't offer them to every kid. (Indeed, did you know the kids have to pay to take them sometimes?)

                  No AP test for kindergarten yet.

                  Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                  by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:27:41 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Sometimes? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    martyc35
                    did you know the kids have to pay to take them sometimes

                    I don't know about other school districts, but in mine, unless a student fills out a financial needs form, he or she has to shell out $87 per AP test.

                    •  In the olden days, in some districts (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      martyc35

                      the school would pony up to improve their ratio of AP takers. Those days are probably gone now.

                      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                      by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 11:23:01 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  That was my school as well (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        martyc35

                        The school did have money to pay for AP tests.  And you're right.  They got the kids to take as many AP tests as the could.

                        My main problem with AP?
                        Tests scores don't come back until July, so the actual score does nothing for a student's GPA  This means that a senior who has already taken 3 AP tests in a week can walk into my test on the last day, sign the paper and connect the dots on the answer sheet.  They get a '1' on the test (there is no zero) and who gets the credit for blowing the test?  ME!

                        AP Tests are very thorough, well-written, and graded by professionals (AP teachers who have taught AP for many years), but there is NO student accountability as far as the scores are concerned.

                  •  I'm well aware of this. (0+ / 0-)

                    I graduated from high school last year, and I had to pay for the tests. Everyone always has to pay for the tests, but in some cases the schools will pay for it instead of the students. My school also only offered maybe 10 of the 30 or 40 AP classes available, and I know there are some schools that don't offer it at all.

                    I wasn't defending the testing at all, I was just saying that they do offer AP classes in a lot of subjects.

                  •  Kindergarten (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    elfling, occams hatchet, zett

                    I'm a retired linguistics instructor, so when the public school where my granddaughter was to attend insisted on testing her for "reading readiness" (she could read at age four and read herself to sleep at night) and announced that she wasn't ready, I asked to see the test they had given her. She had lived her life up to that point in an urban neighborhood near the Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco. They showed her a picture of a lawnmower and she didn't know what it was. There were no lawns in her experience. They showed her a picture of a flag pole with no flag on it, and she said it was a tall stick. Wrong again! Our family is not particularly flag conscious. Then they asked her what a kitten said. She said "Meow." They said she was wrong, because a kitten said, "Mew, mew." They were using the Gesell Reading Readiness test, devised in Great Britain for British kids. In Great Britain, storybook kittens say, "Mew, mew."

                    They were deducting 12 points from her intelligence quotient  for every wrong answer.  I requested that whoever designed their testing program be fired because he/she wasn't ready for it. And we put the success or failure of our children into THESE hands?

                    "That story is not worth the paper it's rotten on."--Dorothy Parker

                    by martyc35 on Fri Apr 01, 2011 at 11:09:28 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  That is a tough problem... (0+ / 0-)

                ...and I don't have an answer to how to measure art and PE.

                But we are not facing a crisis in international competitiveness because Americans lack Art skills. Or Sports skills.

                And I would rather have kids "increasingly bored and disinterested", then illiterate and/or innumerate.

                •  Of course you do (3+ / 0-)

                  Suddenly you lack imagination.

                  PE is easy. Teachers are judged on whether their kids can run a mile in 8 minutes. If any kids cannot run the mile in 8 minutes, the teacher is a failure and should be fired.

                  And art? Piffle! Computers can score those. They can judge projects for symmetry, mass, and durability (a function of technique).

                  Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                  by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:31:29 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You are being unfair and snarky. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    catleigh
                    "Teachers are judged on whether their kids can run a mile in 8 minutes. If any kids cannot run the mile in 8 minutes, the teacher is a failure and should be fired."

                    C'mon. We all know that you measure the kid's speed in September and pay the teacher $500 for each 10 seconds she improves the time by June.

                    Otherwise, no teacher would ever accept a job in a school full of slow kids!

                    •  That's not how anyone is doing "value add" testing (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      occams hatchet, badger

                      today.

                      But even if it was: the student has no particular motivation to run faster in this test. Why do you assume the times only get better over the year? It's highly possible that the times would actually be slower for some students.

                      Of course, kids who love their teacher and who are bright would see the optimal strategy, which is to saunter in September and sprint in June. The converse is also true.

                      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                      by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:59:38 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Motivating kids to love learning... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...is a part of the job of teaching.

                        I don't pretend that it is easy, but it's gotta be done.

                        If the kids hate you so much that they spike their own future by failing tests on purpose, you are probably the exact sort of teacher this system is designed to weed out.

                  •  Grading art on its durability? (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    nancelot, badger, ManhattanMan

                    Based on that metric, I'd expect a huge increase in art teachers expecting their kids to work in granite, composite materials and titanium alloys. I guess that's one way of preparing high school grads for the job market.

                    Obama: At least he gives a good speech.

                    by Permanent Republican Minority on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 10:08:32 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  As the parent of a child in Spec Ed, this is (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                occams hatchet, martyc35, Gabriel D, zett

                one of the huge frustrations that I have.  In VA, our kids are expected to take and pass the state-mandated standardized tests--other assessment methods are being phased out.  It's ridiculous.  Public schools educate everyone, to the best of their abilities, and our schools do a great job of pushing even disabled kids to their full potential.  But my son, who has autism, will not pass these tests that are designed for typical kids.  How is it in any way sane to expect such a thing and to base school and teacher evaluations on the test results?

                "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

                by catleigh on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:37:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  I wouldn't give AP too much credit (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ManhattanMan

              We can test math and vocabulary and most of science through standardized tests, but trying to apply it everywhere isn't a good idea. The AP Calc test is a good and fair judgement of whether or not a high school kid should get college credit for the class. AP Lit? Much more ambiguous. In fact, any essay-based or reading interpretation test is too ambiguous for my tastes.

            •  The AP tests are good for measuring student ... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SneakySnu, ManhattanMan

              acheivement. A student with a 4 or 5 gets calculus, I'll totally agree with you there.

              AP tests do not tell you as much about a student who gets a 1 or 2.

              Was it because the student melted down on test day? Was it because the student was not instructed in calculus? Was it because the student was incorrectly instructed in calculus? Was it because the student kept thinking 2x3 = 5? Was it because the student was not appropriately prepared to take calculus that year? Was it because the student hadn't slept properly all week because he was working late nights at McDonalds to help his mom pay the rent? Is this a student who had to take the test at a strange school and who was struck by test stage fright?

              The student has a great deal of control of the situation, and tests where he tests. The teacher only affects a few of the variables in play.

              In California, a lot of the lowest achieving students move multiple times during the school year. They don't tend to end up in AP Calculus for obvious reasons.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:26:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The problem is (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              nominalize, ManhattanMan, elfling

              to define what you're measuring.

              For example, you've changed your measurement target even just between two comments, although both your comments are valid, I think.

              Those methods are subjective. This means that they are subject to the personal biases and political whims of the administrators running the evaluations.

              They are also non-standardized. This means that we cannot compare a "person-to-person" evaluation from one school with a "different person-to-different person" evaluation from another school. We will never be able to reward the best teaching.

              The AP tests, for instance, do a very good job of measuring how well a kid knows Calculus.

              In your first comment you are talking about methods for measuring how a teacher teaches.  In your second comment you are talking about measuring how well a kid learns calculus.

              There are two parts to the problem -  how well a teacher teaches, and how well a student learns.  If we only measure one piece, and base our improvements on only one piece, we will never improve anything.  It's also ridiculous to hold any one part of this equation responsible for the whole result, which seems to be what so many are trying to do these days.

              •  We use one for the other. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                nancelot

                1. First, we use a test to measure what the kids know.

                2. Then, we unleash a teacher upon the kids. We give the teacher broad authority to determine what teaching style, materials etc., will be used.

                3. Next, we use a test to see what the kids learned. We compare these numbers to step #1.

                4. We adjust the numbers to be fair to teachers who have classes full of difficult kids. This may require a Math Formula that the Diarist will make fun of.

                5. We credit the teacher with having Imparted Knowledge to the students and pay out an appropriate reward (cash, recognition, authority, training, or whatever makes them happiest).

        •  All testing is subjective. (19+ / 0-)

          Humans design the tests.

          "Standardized" testing is a misnomer. Read the comment downthread from the Hawai'ian teacher about his students getting tests with storm-cellar word problems on them.

          I work in commercial real estate as a landlord. We use our own lease form. We tell prospective tenants it's a "standard" form - which it is: our standard. Thing is, only "mom and pop" tenants give the word "standard" any weight; sophisticated national and international tenants know better than to assign any value to it. Same principle applies to so-called "standardized" tests.

          I've read through every comment you've made on this thread, MM, and many you've made in earlier diaries on this subject. I would urge you to take a closer look at the 2010 Stanford/Berkeley study cited in the diary:

          Each teacher appeared to be significantly more effective when teaching upper-track courses than the same teacher appeared when teaching lower-track courses . . .

          The default assumption in the value-added literature is that teacher effects are a fixed construct that is independent of the context of teaching (e.g., types of courses, student demographic compositions in a class, and so on) and stable across time. Our empirical exploration of teacher effectiveness rankings across different courses and years suggested that this assumption is not consistent with reality.

          In other words, the very same teachers were "more effective" (as measured by their students' "standardized" test results) when they taught "upper-track" students than when they taught "lower-track" students.

          Let me make that clear: Same teachers. Different levels of effectiveness.

          If using students' "standardized" test results were a reliable way to measure teacher effectiveness, such an outcome would be impossible.

          "Not consistent with reality." That summarizes the assertion that "standardized" testing is a reliable way to assess teacher effectiveness.

          •  If I could recommend this ten times I would. (5+ / 0-)

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:32:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  "Standardized" means something different. (0+ / 0-)

            The word "standardized" in educational literature has a specific meaning.  It does not mean "industry standard" or "widely accepted", as you imply to your tenants.

            A "standardized" test means that any two tests will be treated the same way, scored the same way, by the same standards. That is all I'm asking for.

            Anti-reformers don't like standardized tests. Without standardized tests, each teacher, school, or district can do an "qualitative" evaluation and claim to the taxpayers that the kids are learning. The parents only discover the fraud when their kids graduate, unable to function.

            If I am an administrator, I can reward a teacher whom I like (because she is of my same ethnic group, or because she is hot-looking) by doing a "qualitative" evaluation of her students and saying:

            "Ms. Megan Fox shows a remarkable holistic, child-centered, emotionally-intelligent manner in dealing with her children. Her children all show positive self esteem and have a deeply spiritual focus on learning..."

            But if we make the kids take a standardized test, the fraud would be discovered.

            •  Wow. Talk about straw men. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              nancelot, badger, martyc35

              I'm sorry - I don't remember advocating for Megan Fox, or any other hot-looking teacher. (Although I totally get how that's exactly how teachers would be evaluated.)

              You know, that sexist straw man, when combined with your persistence at invoking "holistic, child-centered, emotionally-intelligent self esteem and spitituality" when, to the best of my knowledge, no one here has even remotely hinted about anything even vaguely resembling such a thing, has a tinge of right-wing-talking-point-troll odor to it.

              But that could just be something in my nose.

              •  This is what I read... (0+ / 0-)

                ...when we were discussing Olympic training. Instead of focusing on the actual result of the race, it was proposed that we focus on "bad habits", "perspective", "sportsmanship", "teamwork", or "appreciating one's accomplishments".

                None of these things can be quantitatively measured.

                If there is no hard data by which to evaluate teachers and no penalty for mis-evaluating teachers, there is no reason (other than naive hope) that teachers will be judged fairly. And currently they are not.

                That is why our outcomes are so bad.

                •  ". . . our outcomes are so bad." (4+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  nancelot, badger, elfling, martyc35

                  Which outcomes? Certainly not the normalized outcomes, where our kids who aren't in poverty are compared (via "standardized' test scores) to kids around the world?

                  To which outcomes, exactly, are you referring?

                  And for the record, all of the above characteristics that you dismiss with respect to coaching are ones which I stressed, and by which I would measure a coach's worth. I coached my share of national champions and world record holders, and if you think the measure of a coach can be taken with a stopwatch, then I certainly wouldn't want my child training under your tutelage.

                  Likewise if you think the measure of a teacher can be taken with a scannable form and a No. 2 pencil.

                  •  Stop talking about rich kids. (0+ / 0-)

                    Our outcomes for rich kids or, "normalized outcomes", are great. That's not the problem.

                    When I talk about bad outcomes, I'm talking about poor kids.  I understand that most of the problem is that they are poor. But we must still offer them better than what they are getting.

                    Saying that ,"We do better by our poor kids than the OECD does by their poor kids" isn't good enough (although I'm not sure we are even saying that).

                    Every time I complain about the schools in my neighborhood (northern Manhattan) people say, "Public Education is great! My kid loves his Public School in Scarsdale!"

                    •  Another straw man: (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      badger, martyc35
                      Every time I complain about the schools in my neighborhood (northern Manhattan) people say, "Public Education is great! My kid loves his Public School in Scarsdale!"

                      "People say"? Really? What - now you work for Fox News? Which people? Where? When? Who - exactly - said that? I don't recall reading those words anywhere in the diary, nor, for that matter, in this thread. Please enlighten me.

                      Otherwise, please quit erecting straw men.

                      •  Read my posts... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...a common theme of those who respond to me has been the attempt to gloss over the failure of schools in the inner city with the glowing success of US schools overall.

                        You have done this yourself -- saying that American Rich Kids are as well-prepared as any kids in the world.

                        Most Americans are satisfied with their kid's school. This "comfortable majority" resists any change -- even change that might help kids in the inner city.

                        •  I'm not sure how much clearer I can be: (3+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          nancelot, badger, martyc35

                          I am not

                          gloss[ing] over the failure of schools in the inner city with the glowing success of US schools overall.

                          Please direct me to exactly where in the diary or comments I imply, hint, advocate, state, posit or otherwise assert that U.S. schools cannot be improved. The entire thrust of the diary - consistently - is that efforts to "assess" teachers through the use of "value-added" methods (i.e., results of their students' "standardized" testing) are ill-founded and disingenuous. This diary is about teacher evaluation. (Hint: note the sneaky, subtle title of the diary.)

                          This diary is not - NOT - about the quality of U.S. education. You seem to think it should be - an opinion you certainly are entitled to. The beauty of this site is that - huzzah! - you have the absolute freedom to create your own diary about any subject you desire. I would suggest therefore that you write your own diary about that subject rather than continually attempting to take this comment thread down a path of your own making.

                •  Oh, and, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  badger, martyc35

                  please point out to me where I "proposed that we focus on" those things. I merely pointed out that a "simple outcome" was not simple.

                  Another straw man.

                  •  No. (0+ / 0-)

                    You were attempting to deflect attention away from the number (stopwatch) onto intangible and un-measurable factors.

                    The same thing anti-reformers do when you ask them "Why can't Johnny read?"

                    Of course you betray yourself when you brag that that you coached, "national champions and world record holders".

                    Unless you coached the National Keep-It-In-Perspective Champion, or the holder of the "World Sportsmanship Record", I think that deep down, you understand as well as I that results do matter.

                    Maybe your kids could have won those imaginary titles -- but you obviously base your reputation, credibility, and your (justifiable) pride on the fact that they turned in Very Good Numbers.

                    If more teachers taught Algebra like you taught sports, the USA would be much better off. We have plenty of "perspective". We need some wins, dammit!

                    •  You keep talking about "anti-reformers" (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      badger

                      Where are these "anti-reformers"?

                      And you said,

                      You were attempting to deflect attention away from the number (stopwatch) onto intangible and un-measurable factors.

                      That's not at all what I was doing. Please stop misrepresenting what I write.

                      Just to refresh your memory, here's exactly what I wrote:

                      If you think the outcome of teaching is simple then we will have to disagree.

                      I coached an Olympic sport for many years. You want to talk about simple outcomes? Stopwatch. Time. End of discussion. Except it's not: Have I injured my athlete to get him to perform that feat? Have I instilled bad habits that will in the long run actually impede his performance? Have I burned him out so that by the time he's 15 he won't have any interest in this sport, or even in athletics in general? Have I taught him to keep this activity in perspective, to maintain good sportsmanship, to work as part of a team, to set goals and break down the pursuit of those goals to simple tasks? Is this athlete so naturally gifted that I need to teach him to appreciate his accomplishments?

                      I could go on and on.

                      This was in response to what you wrote, which was:

                      Teaching is a complex process (very complex) with a simple outcome. And, despite all the obfuscation of the anti-reformers, this outcome can be easily measured.

                      You posited a "simple outcome" to teaching. I declined to accept your flawed premise. That's what happened there.

                      •  Whether or not... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...a child can read is a very simple outcome.

                        Why do you believe that tests cannot measure reading?

                        Which intangible un-measurables do you propose as being more important than reading?

                        •  Tell me where I said this: (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          badger
                          Why do you believe that tests cannot measure reading?

                          I'm done dueling your straw men.

                          hasta

                          •  You said it... (0+ / 0-)

                            ...right here:

                            "...we can see which schools and teachers do the most to increase test scores...That's all you can measure. To assert anything else is utterly specious.

                            Increasing test scores does not equal increasing knowledge."

                            So a kid with a high Reading test score does not read better than a kid with a low Reading test score? Seriously?

                        •  Language Arts is what is tested in California (0+ / 0-)

                          which is not the same as reading.

                          As you say, we need better tests. We also need to give people more clarity about what is tested. Perhaps in New York they are reading tests. I do not know.

                          The reading evaluation that we used to have, where a human who was not the regular classroom teacher sat down and read with every child in the school was cut from the budget.

                          Language arts includes some reading comprehension questions, but it is not even half the test. And, those are the kinds of questions that can be messed up by perspective - the asking kids in Hawaii about snow situation, for example.

                          I know the kids in my daughter's classroom pretty well, and more than I would like test at Below Basic and Far Below Basic. But, I have personally witnessed all of these kids reading books and reading their own written essays in front of an audience. They are not all the most fluent readers, and certainly they can and must improve. But I have evidence before my eyes that the worst reported score band for Language Arts in California includes kids who can read, from my sample size of 20.

                          The sad thing is that we all know exactly what we want to do to improve reading fluency, which is to bring back the reading specialist and the reading program that had proven results. All this time and energy being spent on dissecting test scores is kind of a waste, because in our school we have no resources to do what we know needs doing.

                          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                          by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:58:37 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

              •  Holistic, child-centered, emotionally-intelligent. (0+ / 0-)

                I use those terms because that is the sort of crap that anti-reformers toss out whenever you ask them why the kids can't read.

                I am not making this up. It is not caricature.

                Here in NYC, we have a (low-performing) school that has actually changed it's name to "Multiple Intelligences School".  When they were called out on failing to develop their kids' Regular Intelligence, they began to claim that there were different types of intelligence that they actually were developing.

                Conveniently, none of these other intelligences could be measured by tests.

                •  Scarecrow: (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  badger, drmah
                  the sort of crap that anti-reformers toss out whenever you ask them why the kids can't read.

                  I am not making this up. It is not caricature.

                  Eagerly awaiting links.

                  •  Here is one. (0+ / 0-)

                    Champion Middle School in Columbus, Ohio is a bad school:

                    "It is the worst middle school in Ohio. Only 11 percent of seventh-graders passed the state math test last spring, one of six academic areas in which Champion was in last place."

                    So the district hired "consultants". The consultants delivered 81 pages of edubabble containing gems such as:

                    Champion needs to "...integrate concepts and provide a holistic approach to instruction and learning".

                    They need a "developmentally responsive" curriculum.

                    And, of course, instead of being evaluated by the Wicked OAT (Ohio Achievement Test) the teachers should be "...helping students grasp concepts, make meaning of information, develop critical thinking skills, and value learning."

                    All of which are conveniently non-measurable. This school is burning to the ground, kids lives are being ruined and The System offers up "holistic instruction" and "critical thinking skills".

                    What about the fact that 90 percent of the kids can't do math??

                    •  Here's something you can measure (5+ / 0-)

                      And from your own source:

                      Last school year, Champion students were disciplined 404 times for fighting; 95 times for physically assaulting one another; 22 times for sexual misconduct; 19 times for weapons, arson or drugs; and 10 times for assaulting school staff, according to district data. Students also were disciplined more than 1,600 times for being truant, disruptive or insubordinate.

                      And also:

                      In 2005, when the district first reconstituted Champion, officials replaced most of the staff. But the overhaul was foiled when the teachers kept leaving. After the first year of the overhaul, one third of the regular classroom teachers left. After the second year of the overhaul, about 29 percent left. And after the third year of the overhaul, more than half of the teachers left.

                      If you would care for a graphic representation of neighborhood's challenges, try comparing it to other parts of Columbus in the online crime reports here.  Not surprisingly, the middle schools in the highest crime areas like Champion have some of the lowest performing students. Imagine that!

                      "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

                      by histopresto on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 02:00:28 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I hear you... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...I know that 90% of the problems are not the fault of the school. It is parents, the economy, criminals, etc.

                        But that is no reason to toss out quantitative metrics in favor of psycho-babble. When the educators at a place like Champion rail against standardized tests, they are just "killing the messenger".

          •  I can't believe this! (0+ / 0-)

            After you mocked the LAUSD model (y = Xß + Zv + e) you're now going to complain that we don't take the socioeconomic variables into account? That was what that model was for!

            Given your screen-name, I understand your suspicion of complicated models, lol.  But we have a complicated problem, and we need to throw some serious math and science at it.

            Lastly, the Stanford/Berkeley study tells a Big Lie:

            "The default assumption in the value-added literature is that teacher effects are a fixed construct that is independent of the context of teaching (e.g., types of courses, student demographic compositions in a class, and so on)..."

            I don't know of any credible research that assumes that a class of Rich Kids is as easy-to-teach as a class of Poor Kids. The Stanford/Berkeley study is mis-representing the state of current research in order to create a straw man. Don't fall for it!

        •  Humans are the best tools for many things (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          OhioNatureMom, bigrivergal

          because they can use subjective criteria.

          It's a strength, actually.

          The key is to hire good administrators. I would argue it's even more important than hiring good teachers. A good administrator MAKES good teachers.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:19:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Enough with Finland. (7+ / 0-)

        Finland has a child poverty rate of 5.4%

        Ours is well over 20%.

        If 94.6% of our kids were not poor, if our neighborhoods had low crime rates, if we were Finland, we could get away with, "...person-to-person evaluations, observation over periods of time, {and} input from all stakeholders..."

        As it is, we need to teach our kids to read, do math, and understand science. Once that's done, we can talk about having dessert.

        •  Or, we could fix the child poverty issue (11+ / 0-)

          and then our kids will do much better on reading, math and science.

          It's pretty much proven that student demographics determines outcome. There are certain things you cannot change: parents' educational attainment, ethnicity, ESL. But there is one thing you could conceivably change: poverty.

          •  True... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk, debedb

            ...but that is a big problem that requires winning many elections over many decades.

            We need real-world solutions that help the kids in kindergarten today.

            I don't want to be the guy to tell an inner-city parent, "We know your public school sux, but you can't try a Charter school until we Fix Child Poverty..."

            •  What solutions might those be? (4+ / 0-)

              If the critics of education cannot be bothered to learn how education works, why would anyone bother to listen to their recommendations for improvement.

              I don't listen to creationists when they tell me about biology. I don't listen to teacher-haters when they offer meaningless tests to decide who a good teacher is.

              The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

              by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:13:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ManhattanMan
                I don't listen to creationists when they tell me about biology. I don't listen to teacher-haters when they offer meaningless tests to decide who a good teacher is.

                Creationists ignore data. Standardized tests generate and use data for evaluative purposes. There is a huge difference.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:11:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wrong. Creationists don't "ignore data," (5+ / 0-)

                  they make up their own data. Just like advocates for "value-added" teacher assessment do. Exhibit A: Bill Gates. Exhibit B: Michelle Rhee.

                  •  I gotta call you out on this. (0+ / 0-)

                    Which specific data did Bill Gates or his minions) fabricate concerning Value-added assessment?

                    •  Listen to his speech. (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      badger, martyc35

                      Read the report. Contrary to what you state in another comment, they both assume that students' "standardized" test scores are a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. It's a lovely logical circuit.

                      Thus, when Gates says, "Once somebody has taught for three years their teaching quality does not change thereafter," he is pulling that statement out of his ass. If he were speaking truthfully (and accurately), he would say, "According to the standards of our study, teacher effectiveness does not show statistically significant improvement after three years." I would hope that the assumptions inherent even in that qualified statement are obvious.

                      There's no need to  fabricate data when the premises used to generate your data are deeply flawed.

                      •  Anyone who has observed individual teachers (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        occams hatchet, freelunch

                        knows that it is not true that there is no change (or worse, cannot be change) in teaching style, strategy, and savvy after 3 years.

                        If you want to improve teaching, the best way to do it is to coach existing teachers rather than to bring in new graduates and have them sink or swim.

                        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                        by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 10:53:11 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

            •  What are you going to tell the inner city parent? (3+ / 0-)

              What we're suggesting to you is that the kids in kindergarten will not be able to score well on these tests as long as they are homeless and moving from school to school and their parents are working three jobs and worrying about how to pay the motel this week or counting pennies to buy food.

              Children who show up for kindergarten ready to read, who know their letters, mostly do okay. Although - it can be hard when they are in a class of 30 kids and most are not ready to read. The peers may be as important as the teacher, and they're harder to change.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:44:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I find myself disagreeing with a lot of your (5+ / 0-)

          comments, but you're spot on about Finland there. That's always been my problem with comparisons to countries with either much smaller or much wealthier (or both) populations. I think China is a much more relevant comparison, since they're passing us and they have a lot of poverty and triple our population.

          But as for your last statement, as a musician, I'm offended.

          But as someone planning on going into engineering, I think it would be great if more people had a higher standard of education in those basic subjects.

          But as someone who did 12 years of public school in a fairly poor area, I can tell you that some people really have no need for algebra or physics. They have absolutely no desire to have anything to do with it, and they will never have to use it in their life.

          And another thing, since I haven't said enough about that yet, is many kids' motivation to go to school and do well in things like math and science is because they get to do music or film or art or whatever supposedly non-essential thing a school offers. These classes do a lot more for kids than you'd think.

          •  Same with all the expensive sports programs (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ManhattanMan

            These have pretty much no educational value at all, and soak up a lot of scarce money, but a lot of kids stay in school just for a chance to be on the team.

            That said, perhaps a one-size-fits-all school is the wrong approach.  Instead of putting all the kids in the same high school, why not put those not intending on going to college into more vocational schools, where they can learn things they will use in their life?  

        •  Read the blockquote in the diary (4+ / 0-)

          where scores are normalized for poverty levels:

          American students in schools with less than 10% of students on free and reduced lunch averaged 551, higher than the overall average of any OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] country.

          We already outperform Finland, apples to apples, without basing teacher assessment, pay or employment status on students' test scores. Now what?

          I'm not going to keep doing your homework for you, MM. When I'm using passages from the diary to refute your points, I'm doing your homework. This is my second response to you in this thread, and the second in which a cite from the diary has refuted your assertion.

          •  But it's not "apples-to-apples" (0+ / 0-)
            "We already outperform Finland, apples to apples, without basing teacher assessment, pay or employment status on students' test scores."

            I know we are doing fantastic with our rich kids and the middle-class kids. I have no complaints about the Performance of US Public Education for Rich Kids.

            Where we are failing is with the poor kids. And it is there that we need to dispense with the idea that Finland can be a model. Finland is a rich country and Finnish education works for rich kids.

            But people keep advocating Finland as a model for our poor kids. And that is a bad idea. Non-evaluations and unaccountable teachers may work in rich places like Finland and Scarsdale -- but they have failed in Harlem.

            •  Not the point. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger

              The point of the diary - sorry if I didn't make it effectively - is that using students' "standardized" test scores to measure teacher effectiveness is absurd and unnecessary. The fact that our "non-poverty" kids are performing better than their peers worldwide - when "value-added" assessment is by far NOT yet the norm in this country - demonstrates that we don't need "value-added" assessment in order to make our kids competitive internationally, at least as far as "standardized" international tests can measure that.

              The key question, which you tangentially approach, is why is it that our "non-poverty" kids are scoring well (please note the important distinction: NOT "why they are learning," but rather, "why they are scoring well"), but our poverty-stricken kids aren't? And the Stanford/Berkeley study confirms that it ain't the teachers who are the problem - their "effectiveness" goes down with their students' tracking levels, when, according to those who advocate "value-added" assessment, it should be stable with the same teacher over the same period, regardless of what students he teaches.

              If a given teacher's effectiveness is the same regardless of the students he teaches, then the problem is in the measure of student learning; i.e., the test.

        •  I would point out that there are no standardized (6+ / 0-)

          tests that I'm familiar with that actually test reading.

          They test language arts, which may include answering questions about a selection that is read. But they do not actually test whether a child reads or can decode language.

          For example, a question about a baseball passage ALWAYS will be easier for a child who is interested in baseball than one who is not. Often our child #1 can answer those questions accurately without even reading the passage.

          And the math tests don't just test math, but require substantial language skills to decipher the directions and the problem to be solved. A child who can do arithmetic with the problems laid out in a worksheet may not be able to do word problems.

          Now, word problems are valuable and important. I highly endorse them. But if we have an english language learner child who gets below basic on the math section but who knows how to do numeric-only problems accurately and quickly, we are lying to ourselves about where the issue lies.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:37:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'd happily accept the Finnish system IF (7+ / 0-)

          The US were also to adopt these Finnish policies which aid their childrens' school performance:

          Free school lunches.
          Free school supplies.
          Free health care for children at school.
          Free school trips.
          A longer school year.
          National standards for education and textbooks.
          Federally run, locally administered schools.
          Early emphasis of foreign languages.

          Oh, yeah, and:

          Single payer healthcare.
          A military establishment that consumes <2% of  GDP.
          More progressive taxation.
          Fewer disadvantaged ethnic minorities.
          Better treatment of recent immigrants.
          Greater social equality.
          More livable cities.
          Extensive public transportation infrastructure.
          Quality of life index higher than that of the US.
          Monocameral national legislature.
          Parliamentary government.
          An electorate which is extremely liberal by US standards.

          Obama: At least he gives a good speech.

          by Permanent Republican Minority on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 10:36:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I retired from teaching in 2005 (4+ / 0-)

        when the whole movement to quantify effective teaching heated up. I felt sorry for my younger colleagues, because the result was bound to be the false quantificaton of something that can't be quantified. We used a system of self-evaluations, observations and follow-ups by peers in our fields, student evaluations, and as much administrative feedback as we needed. Parents were not involved in our evaluations as a rule because state law said that community college students were adults, but I think parental involvement existed at the high school next door to us.

        Time of day. I just want to push for one factor that cannot be easily quantified. I taught intro linguistics at 9 A.M. Students had to meet certain prerequisites just to be in the class, so I reasoned that they could be up and thinking by 9. But developmental reading was another matter. Students in that class had failed to learn critical reading skills in K-12, so I found through trial and error that they weren't about to learn those skills at 11 or 12, and forget about any time after lunch. I taught developmental reading at 7:30 A.M.,  even though I hated having to be there that early. If they could get up, get to the classroom, and stay awake for an hour and a half, they could learn to read. But they had to have something to read that kept them looking for what will happen next, no vocabulary lists or drills. Just content.  This worked.

        I had the academic freedom to design the class so that it would work. Teaching to a standardized test does not allow for the teacher to be a thinking person, let alone the student. Thank you, OH, for a brilliant diary. I only wish Obama would read it. I hope we are not doomed, and a little ray of light is slipping through with the exposure of Ms. Rhee and her confidence game. The Bush years nearly knocked the fight out of a lot of my colleagues. I saw one fine young man cower in fear when he was assigned to take my former office as his own. A sticker on the door said, "Card Carrying Member of the ACLU." I was politely asked to take that down before I left.  

        "That story is not worth the paper it's rotten on."--Dorothy Parker

        by martyc35 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 09:32:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  How about what the Brits do? (3+ / 0-)

        They have an independent team of people physically go to the school, observe classes, meet with parents, students and teachers and look at student portfolios.  It would be cheaper and would encourage holistic teaching, not teaching to the test.

    •  There is no way to quantitatively measure (12+ / 0-)

      "a good teacher"

      If you go simply by test scores you're not measuring what teaching is all about.

      I had teachers, when I was in school, who were brilliant at their subject and yet were unable to reach out to students who were having problems.  I had a Calculus teacher who just let me get F's.  He never tried to help me.  He never asked me to stay after class to see what he might be able to do to make me understand.  He wasn't interested.  Much of it was due to the fact that my parents couldn't afford to buy me a fancy calculator like the rest of the kids had--a calculator that they were allowed to use on the exam.

      I also had a Biology teacher who probably wasn't the greatest "teacher" in the world in terms of giving lessons.  He was very shy and a bit confusing.  But he cared about us all.  He made sure we all understood and that we were all invested in lab experiments and that we all were learning.

      Who cares if they are great at teaching kids to take tests but can't teach them how to be human beings?

      School is about more than learning subjects...it's about becoming socialized.

      I'd rather have a teacher who cares about his or her students and works with each of them on an individual basis.

      •  Re (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ManhattanMan, drmah

        There is no way to quantitatively measure (5+ / 0-)

        Recommended by:
            wader, Kinak, fiddler crabby, Ebby, mrkvica

        "a good teacher"

        OK, let's just hire people with no degree, for example, people who were just fired for sniffing glue. After all, there is no way to evaluate whether a teacher is doing a good job or not... might as well hire as cheaply as we can get, right?

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:18:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do you know the difference.... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          thePhoenix13, nominalize, martyc35

          between Quantatative and Qualatative?

          Or, are you just an idiot?

          •  You know (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            martyc35

            I normally wouldn't support name calling, but hawk definitely lost that one.

            •  Yes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ManhattanMan

              I lost it so badly that I can actually spell qualitative.

              Secondly, qualitative analysis is useless. My opinion is that Bill is doing a good job: look at him, he's working hard, right? Except that he produces 5 widgets an hour, while Jessica produces 40 widgets an hour. When we take a quantitative look (you know, the other word the grandparent poster misspelled), we see that Bill isn't really that good a worker at all, at least compared to Jessica.

              Qualitative analysis is almost useless. It's the first thing you learn in any science class.

              (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
              Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

              by Sparhawk on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 09:27:43 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  So tell me... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk

            ...who will be the people who administer this qualitative evaluation of educators?

            Wait, let me guess...other educators! Am I right?

            We let the housing industry police itself, and we got a housing bust. We let the banks police themselves and we got a financial meltdown. We let BP police itself and we got the gulf spill.

            Why should we let the education industry police itself? It has not done a good job this past generation -- especially for the kids in poor areas who don't have educated parents.

            We need outside, third-party, independent oversight measuring teacher performance. The days when we let the foxes guard the henhouse are over. Education is too important to let a blow-up happen...and a blow-up appears to be in progress...!

            •  Why? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              OhioNatureMom, badger, occams hatchet

              BECAUSE IT WORKS.

              The best educational systems all work that way.

              Ive had it up to here with regurgitated anti-teacher corporate spew.

              "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

              by nosleep4u on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 10:49:55 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  If "it works" so well... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk

                ...why are the public schools in my neighborhood so crappy?

                Our system works well for middle-class suburbs and rich areas. It fails the poorest, the immigrants, and the uneducated.

                It is time break down the schoolyard wall and let America see what our kids are actually learning. Why is the Establishment so afraid of a little sunshine?

              •  Re (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ManhattanMan
                BECAUSE IT WORKS.

                The best educational systems all work that way.

                Ive had it up to here with regurgitated anti-teacher corporate spew.

                How do you know it works? Can you convince a disinterested third party that it works? How?

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 09:28:49 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  We let engineers evaluate other engineers (5+ / 0-)

              and doctors evaluate other doctors.

              Perhaps a committee of laypeople would be better?

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:47:06 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Not really. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk

                If an engineer or a doctor makes a mistake, they can be sued and held liable.

                Also, consumers can choose which engineers or doctors to use. Bad ones (or overpriced ones) can be avoided.

                Families have no choice when it comes to their local Public School. The money is taken from them through taxation and the service is delivered without recourse.

                Here in New York City, if I am dissatisfied with my local school I have no ability to influence the school other than to personally defeat Mayor Bloomberg in a city-wide election.

                (I know there are PTAs, Community Boards, Forums, etc. But these are all "advisory". They have no real authority).

            •  You're grasping at straws, here (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger, occams hatchet, zett

              "It has not done a good job this past generation --"

              Really? How so?  The stuff students are learning and grasping goes well beyond what my generation did, not 15 years ago.  

              "especially for the kids in poor areas who don't have educated parents."  

              These kids will be screwed forever until we either dissociate school funding from property taxes, or regionalize school districts so they have a healthy mix rich and poor families.  I'm for either of these, myself.  

              "We let the housing industry police itself..."

              People in corporate America work in highly competitive environments.  Competition breeds immorality, in all walks of life.  Subjected to extreme competition, people in corporate America have repeatedly proven to cheat.  Just like people in sports, and all sorts of competitive endeavors.

              That's precisely why competition should stay out of education, and why corporate America cannot be trusted to police itself.

              •  Overall... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk

                ...public education is good. It works well.

                The failure has come in the poor neighborhoods. That is where we need new ideas and reforms.

                Lastly, I don't understand why anyone would believe that teacher are more "moral" than other Americans. I know that the meme of the Teacher-as-Saint is an important one, but I don't know of any evidence to support it.

                If you cut a Teacher's salary, she will (rightfully) walk out on strike just like any other human being.

        •  Straw man. n/t (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          martyc35
      •  Then do not expect anything to change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ManhattanMan

        If you cannot measure performance then do not expect to be rewarded for performance. That is a huge part of the problem. The teaching profession refused or could not  establish performance criteria that teaching effectiveness could be judged on.  So politicians and bureaucrats have.

        •  Untrue... (5+ / 0-)

          in so many ways.

          Teachers and administrators all over the country have many ways of evaluating performance.  

          Politicians and bureaucrats want to replace that multitude of methodologies with one system for all and that's utterly stupid.

          •  Show me one. (0+ / 0-)

            Show me one method that evaluates performance that enables objective comparisons of teachers in different schools.

            That's the key, you see. As a parent, I need to know which school has the best teachers. As a Taxpayer, I need to know if my district is getting as much value as the suburb next door. And as a Citizen, I need to know which districts, schools, and teachers should be singled out for more resources, money, etc.

            A cozy little self-evaluation where a school rates itself doesn't do that.

            •  There is no such thing (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              martyc35, occams hatchet, zett

              because every class of students is different.

              One can't standardize a measure of output when the inputs are random.

              But don't let that get in the way of your talking points.

              "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

              by nosleep4u on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 10:52:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Seriously? (5+ / 0-)

              Then when your kid gets to be college age, you are well and truly fucked, because you will have no such yardstick to measure school "quality" by.

              •  What a lovely, balanced phrase (0+ / 0-)

                "you are well and truly fucked"

                I would like to see that as a billboard.

              •  You are correct! I agree with you! (0+ / 0-)

                We don't have a way to measure the quality of Colleges, that is why we have such a scandal with for-profit colleges whose graduates cannot pay their loans back, among other abuses. It is why the "Top 20" colleges are so ridiculously overpriced.

                My family will have to deal with that problem in 15 years. It deserves another Diary. It deserves a dozen other Diaries.

                But for now, we can test the K-12 students and see which schools and teacher so the most to increase the knowledge covered by the test.

                We can adjust the scores to give more credit to teachers who teach difficult kids.

                It is a whole lot better than the "shut up and trust us" which is offered now.

                •  edit (0+ / 0-)
                  But for now, we can test the K-12 students and see which schools and teacher so the most to increase the knowledge covered by the test.

                  But for now, we can test the K-12 students and see which schools and teachers do the most to increase the knowledge covered by the test.

                •  Really? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  martyc35, badger
                  we can test the K-12 students and see which schools and teacher so the most to increase the knowledge covered by the test.

                  "Increase the knowledge"? Um, no. Actually, we can see which schools and teachers do the most to increase test scores, regardless of how they do that. That's all you can measure. To assert anything else is utterly specious.

                  Increasing test scores does not equal increasing knowledge.

                •  For-profit colleges are a unique issue (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ManhattanMan, elfling

                  separate from any problem with other public or non-profit private colleges. So I'm just going to set that aside and focus on other colleges. This is a great analogy to public schools to fully support the point of view of those who are against relying so much on testing to judge a K-12 school. Let me just say this flat-out: there will never, I repeat never be a way to fully measure the quality of a college in every respect that a potential student wants to know. The only way to accomplish this is by visiting each and every school that the student is interested in and touring around and talking to students and faculty.

                  When I actually went to see potential schools, it completely changed what schools I wanted to go to the most. UC Berkeley is a good example of this. If you could think of a bunch of ways to judge a college, UC Berkeley would do pretty great. Besides class sizes, there aren't many bad numbers you could find on them. When I first started thinking about where I wanted to go, UC Berkeley was number 1 because of these things. But after I went and actually saw and experienced the campus from my own perspective, which is unique from anyone else visiting Berkeley that day, it dropped down to number 5 or 6 on my list.

                  So I hope you get two things out of this. One, when your daughter starts looking at colleges, it is absolutely vital that you go and see them. Two, wouldn't it be better for the public school system to be evaluated in a similar way? Not by every student looking to attend, but maybe by teams of people who go in and evaluate every piece of a school and recommend ways to improve like teemel said the brits do. Education is just too ambiguous to judge by numbers, no matter what you say. Yes, they should be able to read and add, but there are so many things surrounding those goals that those numbers alone are not as significant as one may assume.

                  •  Colleges are different. (0+ / 0-)

                    I can choose a college.

                    My Public School is chosen for me.

                    If we had Vouchers/Charters/School Choice then we would need fewer standardized tests. Parents could visit schools and pick based on whatever factors they wished. Schools that had an anti-test philosophy could simply decline to report test scores -- and parents who shared that philosophy would  send their kids.

                    If I had more choice of schools, I would be less insistent on standards and scores. But since NYC chooses my school for me, I am fighting to make sure that that school is the best.

                    •  So you mean (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      elfling

                      you support the standards and scores not in order choose a better school, but so schools with worse scores are held accountable?

                      I thought we were talking about choosing schools, but I see what you're saying there.

                      But still, I think the idea of having groups go in and evaluate the school on many levels as opposed to basing it solely on test scores would be much more valuable. I think that idea would work whether it's being used to choose what school to go to or choose what school needs help or more funding or less funding or whatever. It's true that those groups would likely require some standards to compare to, but it still would be a much more comprehensive overview.

                      This seems like a win-win to me. You get your accountability, teachers get to teach more freely as opposed to readying kids for some test, and I can't imagine it would cost much more than the $14 billion the fed already spends on testing.

                      •  This the accreditor for California (0+ / 0-)

                        I am not certain if all schools have something like this:

                        WASC

                        In California, there are specific high school classes (the "a-g requirement")  that you must pass to meet the entrance requirements for the University of California. To offer those classes, whether public or private, a high school must be accredited with this agency.

                        It's a fairly rigorous process, kind of a PITA, but the good kind of PITA where you feel like something was accomplished at the end. It functions not only as a cop but also as a mentoring and networking opportunity, giving principals and superintendents a chance to learn what is going on at other schools.

                        And they do accredit EVERY school. One of the members of the team that came here had been on the accreditation team for a high school in the state prison system. Some interesting stories there!

                        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                        by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:13:33 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  Those first couple sentences kind of sound (0+ / 0-)

                      like I was trying to be sarcastic, but I wasn't just so you know.

            •  Show me one method that evaluates (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              nominalize, badger

              quantitative performance that enables objective comparisons of computer programmers working on different projects.

              Show me one quantitative-only method that evaluates the performance of doctors that enables objective comparisons between doctors in different areas that you're ready to bet your life on.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:49:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  And I don't know about you (3+ / 0-)

                but the doctor I'd choose for myself and for my husband and for my mother and my daughter would be different, because we have different styles and different needs.

                A teacher who is great with math prodigies may be... and often is... terrible at working with kids who are not naturally talented in math. The math prodigies need someone like him, and the kids who are struggling need someone different.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:51:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  But you said the magic word! (0+ / 0-)
                  "...the doctor I'd choose for myself and for my husband and for my mother and my daughter would be different, because we have different styles and different needs."

                  Choice.

                  All of this talk of Doctors and Programmers forgets that you have a choice of which one to hire. Parents have no such choice of Public Schools.

          •  No, 'tis true (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ManhattanMan

            Most schools for years did not evaluate themselves or teachers in any valid or reliable fashion. After Nation at Risk there was a movement to evaluate schools and teachers. his movement came from business and politicians precisely because educators dropped the ball. Resulting in the state's end of grade tests in the 90's and finally the federal version with NCLB.

            I do not necessarily agree that standardized snapshot of kids' performance are a great barometer of a teacher's effectiveness, but without an alternative ...

    •  It's not that there is not variation (4+ / 0-)

      It's that simplistic evaluation methods are easily gamed and totally misleading.

      The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

      by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:52:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Everything counts (3+ / 0-)

      There are different ways of looking at significance.

      If only 10% of the variation in student performance is teacher-related, you might think that teacher performance is not significant.  But there are different ways of looking at the problem.

      Like so many issues that we all deal with every day, some portion of the result is not going to be entirely under your control.  If you care about the results, the most important thing you can do is to ensure that the parts that ARE under your control are as good as they can be.
      We have to go after the hard goals of student poverty, uninvolved parents, and the other factors that make up the 90% ,  but that is no excuse to neglect the 10%.  The 10% is under our control and easier to accomplish.  (Although it's hard to measure and subject to massive political whims at the moment)

      •  But why are you placing your attention on (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigrivergal, elfling

        teacher performance rather than the system within which they teach? Given how much of what a teacher can teach and the manner in which they are able to do is standardized, why the hell are you focusing on the individual teacher instead of the structural system? You've completely ignored that component. There's a pretty big elephant in your room here!

        Nevermind that it's damn callous and willfully dense to argue that poverty isn't under our control.

        •  We place attention... (0+ / 0-)

          ...on teacher performance because that what is politically feasible to control.

          When we get Dennis Kucinich in the White House, we can work on poverty. But he is not in the White House yet, so we must do what we can, with the political power we have.

        •  Who says I am? (0+ / 0-)

          Only binary thinkers do only one thing at the expense of another.  I don't know many of those.  Hell, I don't know anybody like that..but I keep seeing arguments on Dkos indicating it's the case.

          What I was saying is simply that, if you're an adult, nearly every problem you have is going to have multiple causes.  Sometimes you can't fix all the causes right away or even at all, but that's no reason not to fix the parts you can, even if it's not the major cause.

          •  I definitely believe in the value of good and (0+ / 0-)

            great teachers. I am a firm believer too in mentoring, to help every person improve. And the slackers need to go.

            The problem with these test score initiatives as they are presented currently, where it would be half or more of all evaluations, is that they tie the hands of good administrators. They would force the retention of teachers who really aren't so hot in some cases and force the dismissal of teachers who are worth keeping and working with.

            Good administrators are really important. They make your hiring and firing and HR and professional development decisions, and they need to be good ones.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:20:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It's weird (17+ / 0-)

    I've played the drums professionally for over 30 years but if I even think about dancing... well... I have flashbacks to the "Seinfeld" episode of Elaine doing her thumbs-up "jerk-dance".

    I won't even go there. Fuhgettaboutit.

    Nicely, done, btw! T&Rd!

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 04:13:33 PM PDT

  •  Bad Analogy: You're not dancing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sparhawk

    Dancing is a complex process with a complex outcome.

    Teaching is a complex process (very complex) with a simple outcome. And, despite all the obfuscation of the anti-reformers, this outcome can be easily measured.

    Just ask the kids to read and see if they can read. Give them math problems and see if they get the correct answers.

    Teachers complain that if they get stuck with certain demographics of kids, their job will be harder. Their complaints are well-grounded, but the fix is simple: give teachers who teach difficult kids more credit than those who teach easy kids. It is not hard to do.

    For the record, I don't think that "bad teachers" are a big problem in US education. They probably aren't even a moderate problem. But we should do what we can to make things better.

    •  If you think the outcome of teaching is simple (29+ / 0-)

      then we will have to disagree.

      I coached an Olympic sport for many years. You want to talk about simple outcomes? Stopwatch. Time. End of discussion. Except it's not: Have I injured my athlete to get him to perform that feat? Have I instilled bad habits that will in the long run actually impede his performance? Have I burned him out so that by the time he's 15 he won't have any interest in this sport, or even in athletics in general? Have I taught him to keep this activity in perspective, to maintain good sportsmanship, to work as part of a team, to set goals and break down the pursuit of those goals to simple tasks? Is this athlete so naturally gifted that I need to teach him to appreciate his accomplishments?

      I could go on and on.

      We disagree. And I appreciate your adding to the discussion. I have to run now, I'm sorry to say, but I'll be back very late tonight.

      •  The strategy is obvious. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk

        If the kids can't read, claim that reading wasn't the desired outcome. Point out that, although the kids can't read, they have "high self-esteem", or great "social skills".

        Except that, in the case of US education, reading, science, and mathematics are the desired outcomes. That is where we are failing (at least in poor neighborhoods) , and that is what we must fix.

        It is disingenuous to slyly attempt to hide failure by re-defining success. Once again, I say:

        Just ask the kids to read and see if they can read. Give them math problems and see if they get the correct answers.

        If they can't and don't we have a problem. It is probably not the teacher's fault, but it is a problem that cannot be redefined, ducked, dodged, or danced away from.

        •  I am sorry to say (or not) (14+ / 0-)

          that when disaggregated by income, the US is ranked first in the PISA results.  The question is not why race and poverty influence education outcomes so much.  The question is why is education is tasked with fixing inequities that influence its outcomes instead of fixing the inequities.  Education "reform" has become a distraction from more serious problems that affect it and many other things.

          I don't think anyone is substituting "self-esteem" for "reading."  

          "Nothing is more real than nothing." Beckett

          by rx scabin on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:51:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That is what Value Added Measures *are* (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Sparhawk
            "The question is why is education is tasked with fixing inequities that influence its outcomes instead of fixing the inequities."

            They came up with a way to not penalize teachers for the social factors that they cannot control. It was "y = Xß + Zv + e" which this Diary takes such delight in mocking.

            But yes -- we must task Educators with fixing poverty, even though poverty makes education difficult. Kids are smart because they are rich -- but many kids are rich because their parents are smart.  Improving education in the poorest neighborhoods is where we must begin to break the cycle.

            And no, it won't be easy.

            •  kids AREN'T rich because their parents are smart (10+ / 0-)

              kids are rich because their parents, or their grandparents had access to wealth and to social systems that allowed their families to acquire, maintain and pass on that wealth.

              smart doesn't have anything to do with it, though smart and wealth may coincide.  they are just as likely not to.

              Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

              by a gilas girl on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:34:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I said "smart"... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sparhawk

                ...I should have said, "better educated".

                If you get a better education, you will make more money. Your kids will be more likely to get better educations and make more money themselves.

                But it starts with education.

                •  up to a certain point (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  trashablanca, bigrivergal, badger

                  there is also a point at which "higher education" no longer translates into higher salary.  so even those fairly simple formulas do need to be properly contextualized in order for them to measure the outcome you are looking to measure.

                  (p.s. I'm pretty certain about this one, because I belong to that category of "higher educated" but not higher compensated. But you could probably have that conversation with any number of people who hold, for example, Ph.Ds in the humanities or any of the social sciences other than economics. )

                  Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

                  by a gilas girl on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:06:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  and it doesn't always "start" with (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    trashablanca, OhioNatureMom, badger

                    education as the pantheon of rich folks our culture seeks to admire and honor are filled with those apochryphal tales of the self-made millionaire who made good despite having no higher.  so again, those relationships while usually coincident, also need contextualizing.  

                    Though I do agree with your general point that higher levels of education tend to travel with higher wealth, especially when you concentrate on the distinction between high school education and then some kind of training beyond high school.

                    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

                    by a gilas girl on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:10:56 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  That might be the goal (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bigrivergal

              But there's no evidence that suggests that the equations are successful at that, and rather a lot of evidence that suggests that they're not.

              For example, some "value added" analysis can be used to predict the performance of a student in 4th grade based on who the 5th grade teacher was.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:01:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  That is not what I said. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger, elfling

              What I said perhaps too subtly is that as long as policy makers and politicians can point to education as being an effort separate from social factors or as a way to address those factors, those things can be ignored in a substantive way.  The part of the equation you cite is not necessarily the most correct way to account for factors outside the classroom or school just because it is an equation.  I am sure you are familiar with the concept that there are a number of ways to write an equation for certain results.  That is not to say that I even believe that complex human behavior can be measured so simply.  

              I do not know of any studies which support your smart parents = rich kids unless you are speaking of more than monetary wealth and even then I fear it is not as consistent as you say.  

              I know where education can be improved, and I know where society can be improved; I am a teacher who has taught and is teaching to those ends.

              "Nothing is more real than nothing." Beckett

              by rx scabin on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:07:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  this: (6+ / 0-)
            The question is why is education is tasked with fixing inequities that influence its outcomes instead of fixing the inequities.  Education "reform" has become a distraction from more serious problems

            Absolutely.

            •  Just the opposite. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              drmah

              The "serious problems" are used to distract from education reform.

              Whenever anyone tries to improve education, anti-reformers say, "It won't work until you cure Poverty/Illegitimacy/Crime/etc...!"

              This is a delaying tactic used to stop small achievable reforms (such as Charters) by diverting attention to Big Huge Problems that we may never solve. Every year progressives fall for it...and every year we lose another class of kids to failure.

              So, yeah...Poverty is a bigger problem, but I still want a Charter school in my neighborhood. Because the Charter School makes things better right now while we may never get enough votes in the Senate to solve Poverty.

              •  Charter Schools have lower test scores and poor (5+ / 0-)

                outcomes for most students.  Indiana is closing several Charters this year because they have proved totally ineffective.  The only thing these Charter Schools did was take money from the sadly needed programs in Public Schools and wasted it on "experimental" learning with weak research.  Get real!  Charter Schools are a Red Herring devised to privitize public schools and encourage racism.  What a crock!

                •  Some charters work... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  drmah

                  ...and some don't.

                  Here in NYC they work very well.

                  Even in places where they are not as good, they have one Big Advantage over Public Schools -- unlike Public Schools, nobody is forced to attend a Charter.

                  When a Charter doesn't work, it gets closed (like in Indiana). But a bad Public School seldom gets closed...it only gets worse.

                  •  No so. Bad Public Schools close here and children (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    trashablanca, bigrivergal, badger, mrkvica

                    are sent to successful schools, nearby.  The big surprise is the following year scores drop at the "good" school. No TIME ia allowed for improvements, so children are them moved to a third school, and scores drop again.  Do you see the pattern?  It's not the teacher with a much larger class size with funds sent off to Charter Schools who should bear all the blame.  It's the ADMINISTRATION.  Get real and recognize the impediments to learning and cool your hate for teachers.

                  •  Could you point (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    trashablanca, drmah

                    me to a study that shows NY charters work well?

                    •  Yes. (0+ / 0-)

                      Stanford (CREDO) released a study in January:

                      “Our findings show New York City charter schools on average have provided superior academic results for their students,” said Dr. Margaret Raymond, director of CREDO at Stanford University.

                      Some other facts about NYC Charters:

                      1. All admission is by lottery - no cherry-picking.
                      2. They must take any student who wins the lottery - bad students, special needs, whatever.
                      3. They get less money per student than the public schools do.
                      4. They are not anti-union, in fact some are run by unions.
                      5. My daughter attends one. If the Charter had not opened in our neighborhood, we would have had to move to Westchester.

                      •  By definition, though (4+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        OhioNatureMom, badger, drmah, mrkvica

                        Even having parents that will go to the trouble of entering a lottery puts them in a different class than kids whose parents will not.

                        I am glad you have a solution that is working for you. I suspect, though, that it is more about the kids being better and more committed to education than about differences in the teachers.

                        I personally think that is a real effect and something we have to figure out how to address.

                        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                        by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:09:06 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I used to believe that... (0+ / 0-)

                          ...until the other CREDO report explained it to me.

                          This is the national (not NYC-specific) report that bashes Charters. They said:

                          "(p. 14) "Further, the presumption of a positive selection bias may be speculative for other reasons. It implies that parents of TPS {Traditional Public School} students do not themselves exercise choice as to where their students attend school. While the proportion of 'choosers' to 'non‐choosers' among TPS parents is unknown, the notion of an entirely passive parental population in TPS schools seems inappropriate. In the absence of hard data, the best estimate is that the two groups are evenly split."

                          Think of it this way. If your kid is doing very well in the Public School, why would you switch to a Charter? For every "motivated parent" in my daughter's Charter school, there is a "hard case" who was failing at the Public School.

                          Charters are more likely to attract bad apples than they are to cherry-pick. And in NYC, no kid can be turned away, no matter how "challenging".

                          •  Actually there are good cohort studies (0+ / 0-)

                            They compare kids who enter the lottery between the groups who get in to the charter school and the ones that do not.

                            The data shows that there's no significant difference between those two groups.

                            And as for this:

                            In the absence of hard data, the best estimate is that the two groups are evenly split."

                            That statement is ridiculous on its face. You could estimate that 80% of parents actively choose their local public school (or that 80% of parents would prefer to move) and it would be just as "best."

                            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                            by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:48:57 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  The demographics of charters (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            badger, drmah

                            in New York don't match the demographics of the public school system as a whole.

                            They may not be cherry-picking, but somehow they have far fewer ESOL and special education students.

                  •  I know I've gotten into this with you before (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    elfling, badger

                    but I just want to say again, I think it's fine to advocate for charters in NYC, but I am quite certain they would fail miserably in the entirety of rural America, and maybe suburban as well.

                  •  I am a fan of public school choice (4+ / 0-)

                    I think you should be able to enroll your child at any public school that has space, as I can in my area.

                    Why you think you need to tear down teachers to get that access is beyond me.

                    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                    by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:06:33 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Why does anyone... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...think I am anti-teacher?

                      In every post, I have advocated that the teachers who take the toughest classes, who teach in the poorest neighborhoods, should get more rewards.

                      •  Because (a) that's not what you write (5+ / 0-)

                        and (b) if you ask the teachers themselves, I think most of them would say that they want a living wage and funds for their classroom rather than be engaged in a dog-eat-dog fight with their fellow teachers for scraps of money.

                        Teaching is a team effort. The 5th grade teacher cannot make a great 5th grade on her own. She counts on all the teachers before her to bring skills to those kids.

                        Teachers who teach in the toughest neighborhoods are not going to get more rewards by the measures you have proposed. If that is your goal, let's talk about that, and let's talk about the demoralizing work environment of Program Improvement and the like.

                        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                        by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:55:33 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

              •  The subject of this diary is (5+ / 0-)

                using "standardized" test results to assess teachers.

                Charter schools are another matter entirely.

                And, BTW, charter schools are no panacea, not by any stretch. A statement like, "the Charter School makes things better right now" is breathtaking in its generalization and oversimplification.

                And both of my girls went to a charter school.

              •  There's a lovely charter school in our area (4+ / 0-)

                The parents love it, the kids love it. The kids seem to graduate to be happy, healthy, successful kids. It uses Waldorf methods, so has an alternative curriculum. I am glad it is there and I think it is a great resource.

                It scores a 1 on a scale of 1-10 , with one being worst, when compared to schools with similar socioeconomic demographics.

                Is this a successful school? Should it be closed?

                Note: if knitting was tested, it would clean the clock of every other school in the area.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:04:33 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  And everything else is "dessert"? (13+ / 0-)

          Let me ask you something, one science guy to another: do you think that some of the unstated assumptions you've made in your Back to Basics (except writing and social studies) hypothesis may be deficient?

          How about this question: under what circumstances are children best able to learn "the Basics"?  Is it on a steady diet of nothing but "the Basics"?

          And this: under what conditions are students more or less likely to seek out later self-educational experiences beyond school, either short-term or long-term?

          And another: does the mental diet you propose ultimately make for better citizens?

          I don't know the answers to these questions.  Maybe you do, but it diesn't look like you've even asked them.  (And this is before we even get into questions of evaluation.). You comments remind me of some father who has heard that beets are full of iron and vitamins, and so sets a sack of them in front of the kids and says "Eat 'em," then walking away convinced that he has provided them with a nutritious diet.

          Unplug the Koch machine! It's swallowing people's money!

          by Seneca Doane on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:54:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have NOT asked most of those questions. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aocreata

            You are talking about how to teach, about different educational techniques. Those should be left up to teachers. Teachers should have wide latitude to try whatever approaches work for them.

            I am only talking about evaluation. We must measure if the kids learned reading, math, and science. These things are easy to measure no matter what the obfuscators claim. If the kids are learning, then the teachers are doing their job. We can adjust for socioeconomics, but learning is what we want and learning is what we must measure.

            As for:

            "...does the mental diet you propose ultimately make for better citizens?"

            Yes. Of course. Citizens who can read are better than citizens who cannot. Citizens who know that photosynthesis removes carbon from the air are better than citizens who don't.

            You see, I do not live in a leafy suburb. Kids at my local public high school are not choosing between "Romanticism" and "Post-Modernism". They are choosing between "Literate" and "Illiterate". That is why I must sound like a caveman to many of the loftier-minded educators who fancy themselves members of the Dead Poets Society.

    •  Just being able to read isn't enough. Being able (15+ / 0-)

      to think - that's the goal of education.  Or that should be the goal, anyway.   Creationists can read, but they're shit at critical thinking.

      They only call it Class War when we fight back.

      by lineatus on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:01:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  First things first. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lineatus, Catte Nappe

        First, let's teach them to read. Teach them to do some mathematics. Teach them some science and history.

        Then, we can go for the fancy stuff.

        I sense a class divide here on dKos when it comes to education. As an inner-city parent, I'm concerned with basics -- because I see kids in my neighborhood who do not have the basics mastered.

        I suspect that many here belong to the 70% of Americans who are satisfied with their child's school. This majority of Comfortable People already have schools that deal with The Basics and care more about higher-level stuff.

        I'm here in the other 30%, (no, look...down here...in the inner city, where all the Democratic votes are) and our neighborhoods need something different.  

        We need fewer teachers talking about self-actualizing the holistic potential of the inner self, or whatever and more teachers teaching phonics and sight-words.

        •  Again (9+ / 0-)

          As a reading teacher, I have to tell you that there is more to teaching reading than phonics and sight words.  Those are a small and important part of it but not nearly enough to teach someone reading.  I have taight many students who ahve come from a phonics only or code emphasis background and the best many of them do is word call --perfectly in some instances- but they cannot comprehend.  

          I do know from experience that much of what passes in schools in the inner-city is bad and phonics emphasis.  It is the teachers sometimes; reading is hard to teach.  It is the program most of the time; reading is more complicated than taking words apart and memorizing the parts according to a system which is hardly that.  

           

          "Nothing is more real than nothing." Beckett

          by rx scabin on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:00:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Actually... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aocreata, debedb, Catte Nappe

            ...I really don't care what method you use to teach reading. I have never taught reading, and would trust your judgment on how best to do it.

            All I'm saying is that when you are done with your teaching, we will test your students and see if they can read.

            Then we will know if your methods worked.

            (If your kids are tough cases from bad neighborhoods, you don't need to hit such a high score. But we must still measure you based on what you do for your students).

        •  I have no kids, so I can't speak from experience. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ManhattanMan, drmah

          My mom was a teacher, as was my sister; several friends as well.  My sister actually got into teaching after volunteering as a tutor for the kids in her Chicago neighborhood.  

          I agree you need to get the basics first, 100%.  I just worry that too often the concern stops there - can the kids read?  Okay, no need to put any more resources into this school.  

          So yes, by all means they have to be able to read.  But let's not let it stop there.  That's all.  And that's what teaching to the test seems to do.

          They only call it Class War when we fight back.

          by lineatus on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 09:57:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  No. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bigrivergal, occams hatchet

          Learning doesn't work that way ("first things first"). Learning is most efficient by immersion, not polarization.

          "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

          by nosleep4u on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 10:59:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I am a rural parent in a school where (6+ / 0-)

          80% of the kids qualify for free/reduced lunch. In a practical sense, this means she is one of 3 kids in her class who has to actually pay for lunch.

          We have english language learners, we have homeless kids, and we have a fabulous and devoted staff of smart people who do their best by these kids. They're still not all proficient or even "basic".

          Some of the kids are pulled out of school for weeks at a time. Some of the kids are effectively homeless, living in a new place every few weeks, or in a hotel room with another family. Some of the kids come from families who aren't literate in any language. Some have significant impairment for who knows what reason.

          The teachers teach phonics and sight words and they have the advantage of small classes and even volunteers. I have watched some of the kids in my daughter's class thrive despite their hardships and I have watched a few kids who just couldn't keep up despite all the extra help the school tried to give, despite being left back twice, despite once having dreams.

          Your school may well need something different than my school. What you have advocated for here is not more ability to adapt locally but instead Big Lockstep Rules for everyone to follow Or Else. And I'll fight you on that, because conversely, what may work for you in NYC may not necessarily translate to our rural California school. (Your high schools probably don't have a class that bales the soccer fields for hay, either.)

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:22:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Great! Children come from all kinds of backgrounds (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            occams hatchet

            and to expect the same results is illogical:

            Story of two kindergarten children--- Sarah and lil' Pumpkin.

            lil' Pumpkin
            is the only name the little boy knew to answer to.  He did not know any color names, could not count past three, did not know any letters of the alphabet, and when he missed his bus the only way he could describe where he lived to the princpal taking him home was. "It's the house with lots of blue bottles in the window."

            Sarah was curious and asked her dad, a single parent, all kinds of questions.  He wasn't trained as a teacher, but would help her find the answers.  They had "read" together, most of the books in the children's section of the public library. (Aside note: This Publice Library was closed in Indianapolis this year to save money for the city.) Dad didn't know what expectatons children needed for school, so when Sarah wanted to learn about numbers they worked together and soon Sarah learned how to multiply through her sevens. Sarah and Dad were shocked and  disapponted to learn the kindergarten expectation was to learn to count to 30 by Thanksgiving.

            So what's my point.  Standardized Test "reformers" are telling us that we should expect children like lil' Pumpkin and Sarah to score the same score on a test by March, when the ISTEP is given in Indiana.  This indicates a total lack of understanding of the reality of the school environment and the differences in student's background.

    •  I certainly don't want you teaching my kids (4+ / 0-)

      You don't know what teaching is. You have oversimplified to the point of absurdity.

      Teaching kids to use tools like writing or arithmetic is only a small part of what any teacher should do.

      The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

      by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:16:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So, you say... (0+ / 0-)
        "Teaching kids to use tools like writing or arithmetic is only a small part of what any teacher should do."

        Fine. If a teacher fails to do that, can we fire him? Please? (snark)

        Seriously, it most likely not the teachers' fault if the kids don't master the basics.

        But you are focused on a level very far above where the problems are. Just getting good writing and good arithmetic out of inner-city schools is a high achievement, which should be rewarded. You think it's the minimum. I wish I lived in your school district! In my neighborhood it is the Holy Grail.

    •  BS (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigrivergal, badger, occams hatchet

      The outcome of teaching is anything but simple.

      The arrogance of your position is astounding.

      "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

      by nosleep4u on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 10:55:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The standardized tests don't actually test reading (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigrivergal, occams hatchet

      Our school used to have a reading specialist who did that. She would spend ten minutes with every child, evaluate how well they read material, and use a rubric to assign that child's reading level and perhaps make notes of any particular issues.

      It was, I think, a very valuable exercise, both because it meant someone outside the classroom was doing the evaluation, and because all the kids were evaluated by the same evaluator. In turn, we used that information to build remediation for the kids in need.

      It was how we as a school truly evaluated the reading success of the kids and the program, not the bubble test, which comes too late in the year to be helpful even if it did test reading.

      (of course, she also did the remediation work, so you could argue she had an incentive to throw the results, I guess.)

      That program was cut 3 years ago for lack of funds.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 12:57:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I can't believe in high school I didn't know about (10+ / 0-)
    y = Xß + Zv + e where ß is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(e) = 0, Var(e) = R; Cov(v,e) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xß) = Var(Zv + e) = ZGZT + R
    I coulda been somebody .

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 04:22:42 PM PDT

  •  I get your point (6+ / 0-)

    but I don't like attacking the linear algebra used to evaluate possible teacher effects on test score  trends.

    The math of 'average student test score' is a lot easier, but no better.

    Listing the variables without saying what anything was is deceptive.

    This is not that I object to anti-testing, but I do object to implied anti-advanced math as a tool of analysis.

    Analysis and policy are two different questions.

    •  We have nearly come full circle... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      docmidwest, Aocreata

      ...when those who purport to promote education make fun of math and science.

      To make the anti-intellectualism complete, all we need is some Creationism. We will be told that our kids won't be allowed to attend Charters because, "God Himself created the New York Public Schools in six days and rested on the seventh..."

      Seriously, though. That equations seems to merely codify what teachers have been complaining about all along: Rich kids are easier to teach than poor kids.

      The only fair way to measure a teacher is to adjust for the kids that the teacher gets stuck with. And an equation is a fair, transparent, non-political way to do this.

    •  It's not the linear algebra he's mocking. (4+ / 0-)

      Its the monumental arrogance of the people who think  one of the most complex processes on the planet -- human learning -- can be reduced to a string of 80ish symbols.

      "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

      by nosleep4u on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 11:05:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure but (0+ / 0-)

        "Holistic assessment of teaching skills and individual student achievement and improvement by professional peers." is only 113 symbols, and can be compressed more.

        Having a policy of 'use a clever formula' is an improvement over 'use a not clever formula', that does not mean that using a clever formula as a starting point for real discussions is not a better policy then using a formula.

        I think the original article is much more to blame for presenting a formula without saying what any of the terms meant. If you quoted an expert in most fields, and they used exotic terms, you would generally present a list of definitions.

        •  You miss the point: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, elfling, occams hatchet

          The study of human learning is an enormous field, encompassing branches of psychology, neurology, physics, philosophy, etc.

          Claiming that Human Learning can be reduced to a single formula is ludicrous on its face. (The number of symbols used is completely irrelevant.)

          Yet that is exactly what the writers of that report claim to have done. Their arrogance deserves nothing but mocking and derision.

          Dressing it in faked-up mathematics only moves it from the realm of stupidity to the realm of scamming.

          "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

          by nosleep4u on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 03:36:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Sorry if I wasn't clear, Geek. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geek of all trades, elfling, badger

      I'm not mocking math - far from it. What I am mocking, exactly as nosleep4u points out, is the arrogance inherent in the idea that such a complex practice can be reduced to such a simple (yes, simple) equation.

      Indeed, I find it supremely ironic that, were those who seek to "assess" teacher "effectiveness" given that very equation to explicate, 99.9% of them would be utterly incapable of doing so.

      And yet they would determine the very fate of people's lives in that cavalier way.

      That's arrogance.

  •  "Give me what I want, or I'll STEAL it...!" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lineatus
    "When compensation, tenure and indeed entire careers are riding on the outcome of high-stakes testing, guess what happens? CHEATING."

    I find it interesting that we base our opposition to objective measurement on the theory that teachers should be trusted to self-regulate. (Sort of like how the Banks and Oil Companies always want to be left alone to "self-regulate").

    But we simultaneously claim that we dare not measure student outcomes because these same Noble Educators will lie and cheat.

    This argument is identical to the ones the Rich trot out every time we try to raise their taxes.  "Don't tax the wealthy! They will just hide their money off-shore, or evade taxes!"

    Breaking the law is breaking the law. Don't do it. Even if you're a teacher.

    •  There are fair ways to evaluate teachers (5+ / 0-)

      Those ways require something better than simplistic analysis invented by union busters.

      The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

      by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:54:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Please explain... (0+ / 0-)

        ...how evaluating teachers based on performance threatens Unions?

        •  That's exactly what's happening (3+ / 0-)

          right now. With the big focus on high-stakes standardized testing and the statistically improbable metrics demanded by NCLB, public schools in general are now seen as failing, and unions are being blamed for it.

          In fact, according to a couple of decades' worth of NAEP scores, student performance has been improving in every subpopulation.

          •  If the NAEP is showing... (0+ / 0-)

            ...rising scores, why not push to do the evaluations based on that?

          •  So, your decrying the use of standardised tests (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ManhattanMan

            To measure schools performance and you make your case by  quoting the results of more standardized tests?
            Am I missing something here?

            •  Under NCLB, states design their own tests. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fat old man, ManhattanMan, elfling

              They're a hodgepodge of measurements that often change from year to year, largely for political reasons.

              NCLB does something statistically screwy: It demands improvement from year to year, in every subgroup, with a deadline for all students to reach a rather ill-defined proficiency.

              Statistically, this can't happen.

              Strong schools are expected to get even stronger, or be flagged as failing.

              Weak schools, whose students are often laboring under staggering difficulties -- from frequent moves from district to district, lack of support for students with disabilities, ESOL issues, and well as poverty -- aren't going to do well, so they're flagged as failing, too.

              I have no idea why a nationally normed test isn't used as part of NCLB. I suspect it has to do with states' resistance, as well as spreading the wealth to a number of testing companies.

              However, I'm still opposed to standardized tests being used to evaluate individual instructors, because there are too many variables from class to class to be accounted for. At that level it's nearly impossible to measure the difference from teacher to teacher with a single test. For example, I teach at a community college -- this semester I have two second-semester comp classes that are very different. One has retained every student, and they're doing well. The students in the other class are doing well, too -- the ones that are left. Almost a third have dropped.

              Big differences from class to class. If you were to evaluate my students over the last five years, however, those differences would tend to flatten out.

              •  Thanks for clarifying. n/t (0+ / 0-)
              •  NCLB (0+ / 0-)
                "I have no idea why a nationally normed test isn't used as part of NCLB."

                Because that would enable apples-to-apples comparisons of nationwide performance. Fifty percent of all states, counties, cities, and districts would find themselves rated "below average". They would have to explain this "failure" to their voters, parents, and taxpayers.

                It would be a nightmare for elected officials.

                Also, the Red States would howl and wail about the History and Science portions of the test. They would want to scrub some of the science and most of the history out.

              •  And demographics need large populations (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                occams hatchet

                Across thousands of kids, the broad demographic formulas can be reasonably accurate.

                When we are talking about assigning them to a primary school teacher, we are talking about 25 kids per year. To get even 100 kids - which is still too small for most of these measures - we need four years of results, and the noise in this data is quite large.

                In a class of 25 kids, 3 kids = 12%.

                This year our school had a nasty, nasty flu that I think impacted at one point or another, half the kids in 5th and 6th grade, with a week long absence. That will probably impact those kids' scores for this year. I've seen other studies that show variations consistent with the snow day count for the year, for example.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:30:25 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Show me a test (4+ / 0-)

      whose own designers claim it to be a statistically accurate measure of school or teacher quality.  There aren't any.  

      •  You can't test a school... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aocreata

        ...or a teacher.

        You can only test students. There are many tests that claim to measure what a student knows. Some actually do.

        Nobody is talking about "testing" teachers. What we need to do is evaluate teachers based on what their kids learn.

        If the teachers are not helping kids learn, then what are they for?

        •  Show me the test, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, bigrivergal, occams hatchet

          which, when given to students, is a statistically accurate measure of the quality of the teaching.  I think you once claimed to believe in objectivity, but now you're saying that we can just guess as to whether our assessment is actually measuring what we think it does.

          Put up or STFU.

          •  Any test that measures actual knowledge. (0+ / 0-)

            Take, for example, the SAT Math Subject test.

            We give the test to the kids in September. Give it again in May. Whatever the gain is, we credit to the teacher.

            To make it even more fair, we can adjust the gain depending on if the kids have bad socioeconomics, are special needs, etc. This is easy to do because there are dozens of studies quantifying the effect of socioeconomic variables on performance.

            There will be 20-odd kids, so the average gain will be "statistically significant".

            It's easy. Anti-reformers pretend that it is complicated, but it's not.

            •  And so we have teacher A (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              occams hatchet

              whose students' parents are all engineers, and teacher B, whose students' parents are all working two jobs hanging drywall.

              I guarantee you, Teacher A comes out looking great no matter what she does during the year.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:27:39 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm dismayed... (0+ / 0-)

                ...that people seem to deliberately ignore a key part of Value-Added.

                "To make it even more fair, we can adjust the gain depending on if the kids have bad socioeconomics, are special needs, etc. "

                That is what the fancy linear-algebra formula (that this Diary mocked in best anti-intellectual, Know-Nothing fashion) is for.

                I 100% agree that socioeconomics are important. I think they are more important than anything any teacher could possibly do. Any measurement system must account for the kid's environment or else it will be unfair.

                •  So let's delve into these factors (4+ / 0-)

                  The number that's used for socioeconomic is generally "percent of free/reduced lunch" kids.

                  Is it because it is an accurate measure of need? No. It is because it is easy to measure and there is easy data available for all schools and students.

                  (For example, this category includes children who sleep 3 nights a week in the homeless shelter as well as children who live in a two parent, one income family where they own their housing and Dad's job comes with health insurance.)

                  You might find this article interesting:

                  http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/...

                  But if, for example, we could look at achievement outcomes of kids who qualified for free lunch only, and for kids who qualified for reduced price lunch, and if we saw significant differences in their achievement, then it would be important to consider both… or consider specifically the indicator more strongly associated with lower student outcomes. The goal is to identify the measure, or version of the measure that is sensitive to the variations in family backgrounds in the setting under investigation and is associated with outcomes.

                  Figure 2 piggy backs on Gordon MacInnis examples comparing NAEP achievement gaps between non-low income students (anything but a homogeneous group) and students who qualify for free or for reduced price lunch. In figure 2 I graph NAEP 8th grade math outcomes for 2003 to 2009. What we see is that the average outcomes for students who qualify for free lunch are much lower than those who qualify for reduced price lunch. In fact, the gap between free and reduced is nearly as big in some cases as the gap between reduced and not qualified!

                  Many if not most models rating teacher or school effectiveness rely on a single dummy variable indicating that a child does or does not come from a family that falls below the 185% income level for poverty.
                  Okay, you say, the “best” value added models – especially those used in high stakes teacher evaluation would not be so foolish as to use such a crude indicator. BUT THEY DO, JUST LIKE THE NYC MODEL ABOVE. AND THEY DO SO QUITE CALLOUSLY AND IGNORANTLY.  Why? Because it’s the data they have. The LA Times model uses a single dummy variable for poverty, and does not even include a classroom peer effect aggregation of that variable.
                  Yet, charter schools seem invariably to serve much more similar rates of children qualifying for free or reduced price lunch when compared to nearby traditional public schools, but serve far fewer children in the lower-income group which qualify for free lunch. Charters seem to be serving the less poor among the poor, in poor neighborhoods, in Newark, NJ or in New York City. Given that the performance differences among these subgroups tend to be quite large, using only the broader classification masks these substantial differences.

                  Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                  by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:43:49 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  This is the discussion we need to have. (0+ / 0-)
                    The number that's used for socioeconomic is generally "percent of free/reduced lunch" kids.

                    We need a better model than a simplistic single-factor one. There are big stacks of studies calling out dozens of factors we can use to proxy for poverty/education/etc.

                    (But if we put too much thought into the model, the Diarist will mock us)

                    "y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix...nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah!"

                    We are now at the same place we are with standardized tests. The question is not if a test can measure learning. Of course, it can -- we just need to develop good tests.

                    Similarly, the question is not if a Value-added model can be fair. Of course, it can -- we just need to do the hard work of applying existing research to the model.

                    For instance, NYC has homelessness stats, special needs stats, and demographic stats.  Instead of kicking and screaming against Value-Add, it would be nice if NYC teachers fought to get the DOE to use these numbers to make Value Add better and more fair.

                    •  I can't blame them for being upset (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      occams hatchet

                      about models that they don't control using variables they don't control that are being used by people who don't particularly have the interests of students or teachers in mind.

                      So, put your effort instead into finding a model that works ... and is affordable to populate ... and show that it does. Then, I think you'd get teachers and others on board.

                      I still am remembering from my own studenthood all the bright kids in my advanced math classes. Of the 15 or so of us who got straight A's, SAT math results (this would be the old tests) ranged from 450 (which is below median) to 750 (99th percentile). Yet we all could do simple derivatives and all the math up to that.

                      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                      by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 09:33:34 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  LOVE Schoolfinance101! eom (0+ / 0-)
  •  Terrific diary. (5+ / 0-)

    Great analogy and brilliantly executed.  Thank you so much for this.

  •  TL:DD (4+ / 0-)

    Too long, didn't dance ;-)

    Seriously, great diary. Lots of stuff to chew on, and fun analogies to boot!

  •  a lot of sound and fury... (7+ / 0-)

    it would be a lot easier to stop pretending and dispense with the concept of teaching altogether. good little republicans of tomorrow don't need no learnin'.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:08:07 PM PDT

  •  I want to know (5+ / 0-)

    which student is V, which one is Z, which one is a? V is bi-polar with lots of domestic problems, Z is blind, a has MD and probably won't live another 8 years. Can anyone tell me?

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:08:40 PM PDT

  •  Why is your column width so narrow? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    it seems that it must have something to do with the first picture because nothing wraps around it. It makes the diary seem much longer than it is

    "I've taken up sculpting recently. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:13:01 PM PDT

  •  Wish I could recommend this diary ten times. (7+ / 0-)

    Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves. --Jane Austen

    by feeny on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:17:46 PM PDT

  •  Stunning diary (8+ / 0-)

    informative
    funny
    insightful
    superbly written

    why I still come to DK4

    we are but temporary visitors on this planet. The microbes own this place <- Me

    by yuriwho on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:24:22 PM PDT

  •  while i'm hip to y = Xβ + Zv + ε &c, (18+ / 0-)

    Take it from a guy who makes his living doing mathematical and statistical model...I would echo Einstein's observation that not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.  

    Evaluating student learning is a process fraught with peril.   Using standardized testing is essentially saying the goal is to prepare fast food employees who can pick the right menu item button on the preprogrammed cash register.  Can they apply the knowledge?  Can they think critically?  Can they teach themselves and expand their capability?  I doubt we have any good ways (certainly no "cheap" ways) to measure these.

    The evaluation of teachers needs to be more like the evaluation of literature, films, and plays.  There's way more to it than assigning a number.

    Moreover, attempts to analogize schools with businesses are totally off the mark.  The closest analogy is with a consultancy like a legal firm or accounting practice, not a manufacturing line.  Students are not raw material to be stamped, cut, bolted, and welded into shape.  Students are humans who come to school to work with someone more experienced, who will help them to solve problems and understand the world.

    "To sing the blues you got to live the dues and carry on" --S. Stills

    by bubbanomics on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:35:42 PM PDT

    •  I think it depends... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aocreata

      ...on the level of learning we are evaluating.

      I would not trust a standardized test to tell me if a kid has learned how to "think critically".

      But I think that a standardized test can give an excellent measure of reading, grammar, facts, and mathematics.

      Anti-reformers try to frame the problem in artistic terms, as if we are being asked to compare a Picasso to a Monet. In reality, we are comparing a kid who cannot find the area of a right triangle to one who can. That comparison is very simple, difficult to obfuscate...and one that anti-reformers wish to distract us from making.

      •  but here's the kicker (9+ / 0-)

        you say:

        But I think that a standardized test can give an excellent measure of reading, grammar, facts, and mathematics.

        but you have people here who teach reading, grammar, facts and mathematics and they are telling you that standardized tests CANNOT in fact give excellent measures of these things.  They can give relatively cheap measures of certain components of these things, but not the whole of them, and questions remain as to whether or not the measures of them that they give are excellent.   That is one part of the issue that's under discussion and debate and to simply assert it doesn't make it so.

         

        Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

        by a gilas girl on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:47:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Some people are wrong. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aocreata, debedb
          "...you have people here who teach reading, grammar, facts and mathematics and they are telling you that standardized tests CANNOT in fact give excellent measures of these things. "

          These people would be wrong. Their position is logically incoherent.

          If they claim that a test doesn't measure a particular kid's knowledge, we need only ask, "how do you know this?" They must have some other, better method of evaluating that kid. Fine. We'll just use that better method as the test.

          But what if the better method is non-standardized? We will hear anti-reformers say, "My kid scored low on that wicked AP Calculus Test, but my holistic, emotion-centered, personally evaluative heartstrings tell me that he really does understand derivatives! That's how I know your test is unfair."

          In that case, we simply call "bullsh-t!", because that is what we are hearing. Even if the test is wrong for one kid, it is still a better measure for most kids than a single teacher's (or even a team of teacher's) gut feeling.

          Maybe we can't test things like art and music...but there is no excuse for not testing math and reading. And, if scores are low, there is no excuse for not acting on that information.

      •  The problem is the right-wing proposals (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        drmah, OhioNatureMom, trashablanca

        They don't actually evaluate good teaching.

        The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

        by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:55:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, then... (0+ / 0-)

          ...let's have some left-wing proposals.

          I admit that favoring Charters, Vouchers, and Merit pay puts me in bad company. I know that many who support these things don't care about kids and are hoping to use them for their own political purposes.

          But I want these reforms because I live in a neighborhood with bad public schools. Charters and vouchers solve our problems right now.

          My daughter has only one childhood, I won't let her waste it waiting around for the New York City Department of Education to get a clue. They didn't have a clue last year, and I see no reason to expect better next year.

      •  One of the mistakes you make is (4+ / 0-)

        that those tests can tell you if the kids CAN do those tasks.

        But, they are quite a bit less accurate at telling you that the kids CANNOT.

        Further, if the kids cannot, they tell you nothing about why not. For example, did the child miss the triangle area because she forgot to multiply by 1/2, because she added the two numbers,  or because she accidentally did 2x3=5? Without that information, you don't know much about the student's true competence, let alone the teacher's culpability.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:31:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Where's my rec x 100 button? (6+ / 0-)

      And can I have you talk to the Board of Regents of the university for which I work?

      •  ha ha ha. (6+ / 0-)

        I can't even convince my own dean, at a medium size undergraduate school, of anything about the value of evaluating teaching and learning.

        I went so far as to circulate a proposal that we should develop mission-based faculty evaluation, over the journal paper page counting, grant dollar counting, student survey evaluation (one number summary) metric.  Tell me how you give people promotions, tenure, and pay raises, and I'll tell you what your mission really is.  My dean said, "but we do what every other school does.  What do you want?"  I said "we figure out how to do this, and every liberal arts school in the US is gonna knock down our doors asking us how."  He showed me to the door.

        "To sing the blues you got to live the dues and carry on" --S. Stills

        by bubbanomics on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:31:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Cream Rises, But Sometimes Shit Floats Too (9+ / 0-)

    ....when you make a score a matter of life and death, people will cheat without hesitiation.

    Most importantly, the people that cheat without hestitation will get ahead of the people who do hestitate.

    Very rapidly the people who have any shred of honesty will get pushed out, and pushed out in a way that will ruin them professionally.

  •  Teacher evaluations are bogus. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrkvica, drmah

    Great information!  Here's some more:

    A recent report published by Eric A. Hanusek for the National Bureau of Economic Research claims that the quality of a teacher can impact a student’s earnings potential by as much as $400,000 across his/her lifetime.

    The following quote is buried deep in the report:

    Literally hundreds of research studies have focused on the importance of teachers for student achievement. Two key findings emerge. First, teachers are very important; no other measured aspect of schools is nearly as important in determining student achievement. Second, it has not been possible to identify any specific characteristics of teachers that are reliably related to student outcomes.

    Huh? It hasn’t been possible to “identify any specific characteristics of teachers” that relate to student outcomes? If that’s the case then you cannot prove a connection between teacher performance and economic outcomes--or any outcomes.  You would have to rely on the subjective opinions of the evaluators and that takes us out of the realm of science.  Teacher evaluations under such conditions are pure prejudice.

    Teachers who have been terminated based on their evaluations should ask their lawyers if this information can be used to overturn their terminations.  Maybe a slew of successful lawsuits can put a stop to the teacher witch hunts across America.  

    •  Not correct. (0+ / 0-)
      "...it has not been possible to identify any specific characteristics of teachers that are reliably related to student outcomes."

      That just means we don't know why good teachers are good.  It doesn't mean we don't know who they are.

      If you want to award a Gold Medal for running, you don't measure the runners' legs and weigh their shoes. You let them race, and crown the winner.

      Many teachers on this board claim that what they do is an "art". Fine, I'll believe it.

      Just show me the results.

      •  We know what good teachers do (5+ / 0-)

        We can teach anyone the tools that are most commonly used by good teachers, but that won't make anyone a good teacher. Good teachers are attentive to the children in the class and are aware of what works for each child. Good teachers have high, fair expectations of each child. They have a connection with those children.

        You can teach all of the brushstrokes, but that won't make every artist into Van Gough or Picasso.

        The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

        by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:01:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  True. (0+ / 0-)

          I don't pretend to know all the intangible things that make a good teacher. I suspect that they may be different for each teacher.

          That is why I say judge teachers on how much their kids learn.

          Can't people see that being evaluated on results forces the system to stop imposing lesson plans and bureaucratic crap on teachers? If you get evaluated on what your kids learn nobody will stand in your way as long as you deliver the numbers.

          •  I wish... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ManhattanMan, freelunch

            Knowing how education administrators' minds work, if one teacher does so well on the evaluations, next year everyone else will be "encouraged" to copy that teacher.

          •  I can appreciate that that's how you think it (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            freelunch

            would work.

            In practice, observing what I've seen in the trenches, it's like doing physics problems in the frictionless universe: results don't match theory.

            Instead of advocating for these evaluation systems that demonstrably are not working (dramatic variation from year to year, dramatic variation between the students in different tiers taught by the same teacher the same year, falsifiable models where parameters that cannot affect the outcome are highly correlated), I think you would do better to investigate models that might meet the goals you have set, and to advocate for finding and developing those, rather than wondering why no one wants to adopt discredited ones.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 11:11:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  One shot, test score/only evaluation means NO (3+ / 0-)

      teacher will want to teach children with learning disabilities, special education or even a medium-level class.  The only way to be considered a "good" teacher will be to teach AP or "gifted" classes.  This is the most damaging thing that can happen to schools.  I know teachers who purchase school supplies, clothing and lunches  for children in their classes and devote every spare minute in the classroom to troubled students just to get a few months gain over a school year with children who are years behind.  They set up nights trying to discover one more way to try to help these children learn  These are the very teachers who will leave teaching under this draconian test-score only evaluation.  There is absolutely NO incentive to want to help a child who is struggling.

  •  You don't get performances like this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    by teaching to a formula.

    My favorite Astaire dance sequence. He rehearsed incessantly, which is why he was able, during the actual dance, to make it look like it was so spontaneous, just a guy breaking into dance for the sheer joy of it. You have to learn the basics, yes, but then the basics should lead you into something more, whether it's artistic expression or original thought.  

    With the incomparable Eleanor Powell, Begin the Beguine.

    Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

    by Sirenus on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 05:59:15 PM PDT

  •  As I understand it (8+ / 0-)

    the single most accurate predictor of a child's success in school (and afterward) is the parent's income level.

    We don't have an education crisis, we have a child poverty crisis.

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:11:32 PM PDT

    •  True... (0+ / 0-)

      ...but since we cannot make their parents rich in the next 12 months, let's focus on what we can do: Improve education.

      •  We can do that in 12 months? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        occams hatchet
        •  This time last year... (0+ / 0-)

          ...my wife and I were looking for houses in Westchester.

          But a Charter School opened up in our neighborhood, so we were able to stay in the city.

          What a difference a year makes!

          •  MM.. I am sincerely happy (0+ / 0-)

            you found what you were looking for. I have seen kids prosper in our district charter schools as well, when the local comprehensive school was too large, too diverse, too fraught with community problems and too socially confusing for kids who are raised for focused career training. It does work for some kids. Other kids, many many other kids, prosper at the comprehensive school where I teach. The difference between the two schools is per pupil expense. The charter schools have 12 to 15 per class and a coordinated curricula around a core topic, and the comprehensive school has 30 to 40 students per class and a more eclectic view of learning. One costs a LOT and one less, and they serve two different populations. I support this, and yet, I wonder; is the primary difference merely the amount of money the district is willing to spend on each group? I suspect it is. It is not teacher behavior that counts so much. It is parent behavior, and the interest of the community which supports that school.

            Again, congratulations in finding what you want. I only wish my comprehensive school kids got the same per pupil expenditures as the district charter school kids. I think we could level out the educational system instead of creating new kinds of "separate but unequal" kinds.

            Figures don't lie, but liars do figure-Mark Twain

            by OregonOak on Thu Mar 31, 2011 at 05:38:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Free dental care for every school aged child (3+ / 0-)

        I will bet you that that would make more difference in aggregate test scores across NYC than any of the proposed education reforms that anyone espouses in the next 12 months.

        Ironically, it's also relatively easy to implement, if we wanted to.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:46:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not saying that we should (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, occams hatchet

        not try to fix education.

        I'm saying it's important to recognize the problems before you apply the "fix".

        My career is predicated on my ability to find and fix problems. If you don't have a solid idea of what caused the breakdown, you can throw fixes at it from now until last Tuesday and nothing will help, or if it does, you won't really know why.

        If you want to fix the education system, figure out what areas of parental poverty can be dealt with within the public education system. Pre-scool education programs, breakfast & lunch programs, after school opportunities, adequate materials, and, yes, well trained, well paid, secure teachers.

        "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

        by ARS on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 09:08:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Possibly (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drmah, OhioNatureMom

      Growing up in an intact home in an upper-middle or upper-class family is certainly a good predictor, but not because of the wealth, but because most upper-middle or upper-class parents are well educated, they show that they value education, they have lots of books around the house, they tend to engage more with their kids when they are around the house, etc.

      The GOP is the party of mammon. They mock what Jesus taught.

      by freelunch on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:07:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  there are a lot of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        freelunch

        socio-economic factors involved in the wealth level of the child's home.

        Stability of home life, healthy diet, access to additional materials are all very important factors as well.

        As I replied up a bit, I'm not saying we should give up on trying to revamp the education system. I'm saying that the frist step in getting a working cure is an accurate diagnosis.

        "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

        by ARS on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 09:11:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Day-yum! n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, occams hatchet

    I miss my people.

    by vicki on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 06:29:53 PM PDT

  •  For-profit test constructers are just as bad (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, nosleep4u, occams hatchet

    as for-profit insurance managers. Or industrial defense contractors, for that matter. They have no skin in their own game; as long as a testing "system" looks plausible, they needn't concern themselves about the actual results; their profits will be fine regardless.

    And if the only metric is test scores, test creators become freed from any oversight, because the environment is hermetically sealed. Kids test low or high because... they test low or high, and no extenuating circumstances are allowed to intrude on the tautology. That's not an education system, that's just a lousier version of Gattaca.

    <Nice to see you back and ranting so eloquently, OH!>

    •  Parents who can afford to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      drmah, occams hatchet

      hire for-profit test preparers (who I'm sure have no relationship whatsoever with the for-profit test constructors), so their children get higher scores and have more opportunity.

      I wish we could have afforded it for our daughter -- we don't live in one of the Georgia counties where the supervisors and administrators changed answers on the tests to raise the district's score.

      It's not just a zip code, it's an attitude.

      by sboucher on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:13:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well put, CJ. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CJnyc

      Once one accepts the flawed premise, all else is possible.

      <Glad to be back, too.>

  •  This is an awesome diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, occams hatchet

    long, yes, but well worth it... you had me dizzy a bit there with your parallel structures. (you also have me re-purchasing a number of the books that I armed myself with after college when I taught in a private high-school for inner-city dropouts in war-torn Chicago in the early 80s).

    powerful articulation!

    thank you!

  •  Great diary! Thoughtful and funny (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, occams hatchet

    One that I will hot-list, since I now know what that means!
    And I thank you also for the hat-tip to exmearden.

  •  But I Can Dance the Dougie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    Teaching is a difficult job -
    But somebody has to do it.

  •  Tremendous diary (3+ / 0-)

    You know- I am kind of on the pro-testing and pro-accountability side. But I have to admit, after seeing your onslaught of facts, I have to admit that maybe I fell for the 'easy answer' appeal of the school reformers. The Standford study of the VAM is especially enlightening.

    I am not ready to admit I've been all wrong. But nonetheless thank you for kicking my ass!

  •  damn occ this is a frakking brilliant analogy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, occams hatchet

    and bubbanomics already quoted Einstein:

    Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

    and since no one else has posted my favorite Astaire clip:

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
    I support Bob Massie for MA-Sen

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:23:35 PM PDT

  •  Pimping 2 Outstanding Seattle Blogs On Edu (0+ / 0-)

    ... Edu Crap we the citizens of wishy warshy are getting shoved down our throats by well credentialed, well degreed, well titled, well connected, WELL PAID, bill gates ass kissing phake ass "Democratic" yuppies.

    http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/

    http://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/

    oh yeah - and here is my take on the local slimeballs.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    I've leafleted at least 14 different public events since August.

    rmm

     

    Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous

    by seabos84 on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:44:11 PM PDT

  •  You dancing fool, you. ;-) (2+ / 0-)

    Wonderful diary.

    ~~insertobscurereference,pretentiousquoteORsalientaphorismhere~~

    by shayera on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 07:47:29 PM PDT

  •  Fabulous. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drmah, occams hatchet

    As a retired teacher who NEVER had a meaningful, helpful evaluation from any of my supervisors (some of whom were good hearted, some of whom were just totally clueless, none of which had any real suggestions for improvement), I have seen with dismay the travesty you describe, including the student rebellion (though it was fairly subtle and not so widely-spread when I was teaching and the standardized testing was just ratcheting up.)
         You are to be commended for your insight and creativity in making the issue understandable in a new way.  Bang on.  Thanks.

  •  Opposite of standardized tests (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    Check out this link for a taste of the total, diametric opposite of standardized testing and "teach to the test."

    Be prepared to gawk in awe and wish you could go to a school like this one.

    http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/...

  •  Excellent (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, occams hatchet

    Diary!  Lovely combination of passion, snark and FACTS.  A teacher thanks you for the time it clearly took to put this thoughtful piece together.

  •  Holy Cannoli. (4+ / 0-)

    I came very very late to this terrific diary, and I'm completely blown away.  Unfortunately it's my bedtime, so I'm off to sleep.  But what a piece of work you've accomplished, OH.  I will share this one far and wide.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 08:49:24 PM PDT

  •  real issues but the know-nothing snickering (4+ / 0-)

    about simple math is depressing.

    Those formulas just say that they're trying to measure how much of a variety of good outcomes were produced, allowing for a variety of circumstances that make them easier or harder to achieve and allowing for some plain old random measurement error. They're using a linear approximation. You can either use it that generic form well or cram bullshit into it.

    I find it easy to agree with a lot but hard to swallow the smug defense of math illiteracy (here) or the demonstration of math illiteracy (in another diary by someone else on this topic a few weeks ago).

    Michael Weissman UID 197542

    by docmidwest on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 09:09:35 PM PDT

    •  As I commented upthread, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lissa Drake

      doc, I'm not disparaging the math; on the contrary, I'm disparaging the arrogance of those who advocate that teaching can be quantified by that absurdly simple formula.

      I'm not sure where in the diary you read the smug defense of math illiteracy; if you would kindly point it out, I will be sure to edit it.

      •  OH- (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        occams hatchet, elfling

        I thought that the whole shtick about the formula was "a smug defense of math illiteracy". It sounded a lot like the various stunts where some congressman ridicules an obscure-sounding project on turbulent flow without realizing that it's part of a project to control arterial plaque formation. I know your trope worked well rhetorically, but I think you know that it was kind of a cheap shot compared to the rest of your arguments. Any evaluation system, formal or informal, is going to involve some sort of sum over various contributions. Any decent one will make some sort of allowance for other background factors. Any realistic one will acknowledge some random error. And that's pretty much all that the "absurdly simple formula" said.

        So the real criticism of this procedure has almost nothing to do with the formula you repeatedly mock. The main criticism is that the ingredients fed into it are too narrow, crude, and often fraudulent. The only thing specifically wrong with the formula you ridiculed is that it's linear. I don't think that inclusion of higher-order terms with their required matrices would have made a formula which would have been less susceptible to that mocking.

        Michael Weissman UID 197542

        by docmidwest on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 03:30:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for your thoughtful response. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling

          To be perfectly honest, the formula could've been the most elegant, innovative, airtight, groundbreaking algorithm ever in the history of the world -

          - and I still would have mocked it. Again, it's not the formula, it's the mere IDEA that teaching effectiveness can be reduced to a formula that I find unforgivable.

          If anyone - anyone - had suggested, "You know,we've come up with this wonderful equation, and we think it should be part of the method used to evaluate teachers," I'd be okay with that, provided the formula were vetted by running it using several years of backward-looking real-world data, and, more importantly, were assigned some nominal percentage of the total decision-making weight, like, say, 10 or 15 percent.

          But no one has proposed that, to my knowledge.

          •  going meta re formulas (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, occams hatchet

            Yeah, thanks to you too, it's fun to have a serious honest discussion.

            Let's take your conclusion- that some cleaned up version of the factors currently counted should be say 15% of the evaluation. (And, at least pre-tenure, all systems involve evaluations, so that part is not optional.) That leaves 85% that comes from other factors. Say 20% from what the principal thinks, etc. Whoops, we've just used some words to describe exactly the sort of algorithm that these guys wrote down in Matlab-speak.

            So again, I think that it's appealing to a kind of popular math-phobia to go after the mathematical expression of a process, as if that were the problem.

            I do think lots of people discuss using the value-added tests etc as a relatively small part of the evaluations. The problem is that unless principals are much improved since my school days, they won't be much help. The whole problem is rather difficult.

            My personal take is that having NAEP test results made public with no other sanctions would have been they way to go for a few years at the start of reform. People could think about them, get ideas for how to improve. The idea of shutting down schools based on untested test procedures on a variety of small subsets of schools was a Trojan horse, probably always intended maliciously by enemies of public education. The alternative of pure self-evaluation isn't going to work in the long run either.

            Michael Weissman UID 197542

            by docmidwest on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 05:48:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks, OH. Hotlisted. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    I will have to come back and read this in it's fullness.

    "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - A. Einstein

    by FWIW on Tue Mar 29, 2011 at 10:33:16 PM PDT

  •  Have stayed away from commenting here (18+ / 0-)

    for a while, but I'm going to break my rule for a moment.

    James Heckman, a U of Chicago economist and public policy and education guy (Nobel and John Bates Clark medal -- so he's doing ok), and is married to a sociologist, so that side is floating around his head... has a paper out with a fairly disturbing and hopeful graph.

    The disturbing side is that if you sort kids by education level attained by mother, and you graph the kids' ability starting at age three (yes, AGE THREE), you get pretty much a straight horizontal line across the graph.

    Our attainment at age three, coupled with our mother's education level, seems to stratify us and to keep us from jumping above any kind of standard.

    What is disturbing here, of course, is that it starts to seem that we are predestined to repeat our family/maternal stories.

    What is hopeful here is that if we can get to kids BEFORE age 3, we might have some ability to give them what Heckman calls "soft" skills -- persistence, patience, love of being read to, reading behavior, vocabulary, play, imagination, hooking into the world with curiosity and with hope.

    It is, according to Heckman, far easier to deal with the littlest of us early on than it is to remediate teenagers.  Easier and cheaper, actually.

    Secondly, there is an article floating around that deals with the way that standardized test scores are scaled from raw numbers into the pass/fail numbers that are used for teacher evaluations in one state.  The difference between the 51st percentile and being an utter failure around the 7th I think it is falls to a ratio between 3s and 4s, both of which are passing scores for the kids.

    So you take a broad range of numbers on the raw score, convert those wide numbers into a narrow band of 1, 2, 3, or 4, and then you do some presto magico work on the numbers 1-4 and you determine a pass or fail for the teacher.

    If the teacher has, I think the article suggested, 3 or 4 too many kids scoring a 3 rather than a 4, the teacher is a failure when compared to other teachers.

    I believe I found this second piece discussed on a blog called The Monkey Cage (a polic sci/data site), and the link to the other is from Kevin Drum at MoJo.

    Track them down and read.  It's good to have some data critiques.

    Another set of issues.  The debate between Manhattan Man and just about everyone else, near as I can tell, is a little misplaced.

    The anxiety on behalf of failing students, on behalf of students who really are lacking basic skills and really can't even pass the easiest of tests after sitting in a classroom for a year or two or ten, is indeed a justifiable anxiety.

    There is a suspicion that a teacher should be able to get a 2nd grader over the hump of literacy such that by third grade the kid can read simple passages and answer the most basic questions.  There's no doubt that this should be the case for all of our kids.  Standardized tests really do ask low level questions, and the fact that kids can't pass even at this low level is shocking, saddening, and downright scary for the future of all of us.

    One wants to come down on the right side of this problem.  One wishes to say that ALL kids can learn, that teacher technique is the issue, that technique can be figured out, replicated by all, that there are "best practices" and that to characterize the problem in any other way is to deny kids the right to learn in the best possible environment.

    What Heckman gives us, though, is a different way in.  The problem isn't poverty, per se, and it isn't teacher quality per se, it's a set of responses to the world that we develop long before we ever step into a classroom.

    When something is confusing, seemingly intractable, how do you respond?  Do you shut down?  Do you tackle it with persistence until it makes sense?  Do you isolate yourself and study study study?  Do you start crying?  Are you tempted to drink a beer?  Do you get enraged and start screaming?  Make up T-charts of good and bad responses?

    All of these kinds of habits are drilled in pretty early on, are very difficult to change, and they impact how a kid deals with every single lesson in school, from standing in line to raising hands and using words, from learning to write letters to solving word problems to reading text books.

    So, rather than demonize all the bad teachers, all the bad poverty, all the students whose classroom dynamics are screwy for the year so we fire the teacher, we should consider the possibility that we are looking for our lost keys under the light even though we dropped them in the dark.

    The couple of points on a test that a GOOD teacher might elicit from a student here and there to leap to the 51st percentile of teachers is not a significant gain for the kid and comes at a huge cost of the testing regime, the firing teachers regime, the narrowing the curriculum regime.

    The many points we might be able to gather from early childhood intervention would seem to be the right place to look.

    But we don't look there because the light is shining on the teachers instead.  They are so easy to see, after all.

    http://motherjones.com/...

    This is a link to the Kevin Drum write up of the pdf of Heckman's piece.  The GRAPH is reprinted in the Drum piece.

    And below is the Monkey Cage piece:

    http://www.themonkeycage.org/...

  •   (5+ / 0-)

    for a while, but I'm going to break my rule for a moment.

    James Heckman, a U of Chicago economist and public policy and education guy (Nobel and John Bates Clark medal -- so he's doing ok), and is married to a sociologist, so that side is floating around his head... has a paper out with a fairly disturbing and hopeful graph.

    The disturbing side is that if you sort kids by education level attained by mother, and you graph the kids' ability starting at age three (yes, AGE THREE), you get pretty much a straight horizontal line across the graph.

    Our attainment at age three, coupled with our mother's education level, seems to stratify us and to keep us from jumping above any kind of standard.

    What is disturbing here, of course, is that it starts to seem that we are predestined to repeat our family/maternal stories.

    What is hopeful here is that if we can get to kids BEFORE age 3, we might have some ability to give them what Heckman calls "soft" skills -- persistence, patience, love of being read to, reading behavior, vocabulary, play, imagination, hooking into the world with curiosity and with hope.

    It is, according to Heckman, far easier to deal with the littlest of us early on than it is to remediate teenagers.  Easier and cheaper, actually.

    Secondly, there is an article floating around that deals with the way that standardized test scores are scaled from raw numbers into the pass/fail numbers that are used for teacher evaluations in one state.  The difference between the 51st percentile and being an utter failure around the 7th I think it is falls to a ratio between 3s and 4s, both of which are passing scores for the kids.

    So you take a broad range of numbers on the raw score, convert those wide numbers into a narrow band of 1, 2, 3, or 4, and then you do some presto magico work on the numbers 1-4 and you determine a pass or fail for the teacher.

    If the teacher has, I think the article suggested, 3 or 4 too many kids scoring a 3 rather than a 4, the teacher is a failure when compared to other teachers.

    I believe I found this second piece discussed on a blog called The Monkey Cage (a polic sci/data site), and the link to the other is from Kevin Drum at MoJo.

    Track them down and read.  It's good to have some data critiques.

    Another set of issues.  The debate between Manhattan Man and just about everyone else, near as I can tell, is a little misplaced.

    The anxiety on behalf of failing students, on behalf of students who really are lacking basic skills and really can't even pass the easiest of tests after sitting in a classroom for a year or two or ten, is indeed a justifiable anxiety.

    There is a suspicion that a teacher should be able to get a 2nd grader over the hump of literacy such that by third grade the kid can read simple passages and answer the most basic questions.  There's no doubt that this should be the case for all of our kids.  Standardized tests really do ask low level questions, and the fact that kids can't pass even at this low level is shocking, saddening, and downright scary for the future of all of us.

    One wants to come down on the right side of this problem.  One wishes to say that ALL kids can learn, that teacher technique is the issue, that technique can be figured out, replicated by all, that there are "best practices" and that to characterize the problem in any other way is to deny kids the right to learn in the best possible environment.

    What Heckman gives us, though, is a different way in.  The problem isn't poverty, per se, and it isn't teacher quality per se, it's a set of responses to the world that we develop long before we ever step into a classroom.

    When something is confusing, seemingly intractable, how do you respond?  Do you shut down?  Do you tackle it with persistence until it makes sense?  Do you isolate yourself and study study study?  Do you start crying?  Are you tempted to drink a beer?  Do you get enraged and start screaming?  Make up T-charts of good and bad responses?

    All of these kinds of habits are drilled in pretty early on, are very difficult to change, and they impact how a kid deals with every single lesson in school, from standing in line to raising hands and using words, from learning to write letters to solving word problems to reading text books.

    So, rather than demonize all the bad teachers, all the bad poverty, all the students whose classroom dynamics are screwy for the year so we fire the teacher, we should consider the possibility that we are looking for our lost keys under the light even though we dropped them in the dark.

    The couple of points on a test that a GOOD teacher might elicit from a student here and there to leap to the 51st percentile of teachers is not a significant gain for the kid and comes at a huge cost of the testing regime, the firing teachers regime, the narrowing the curriculum regime.

    The many points we might be able to gather from early childhood intervention would seem to be the right place to look.

    But we don't look there because the light is shining on the teachers instead.  They are so easy to see, after all.

    http://motherjones.com/...

    This is a link to the Kevin Drum write up of the pdf of Heckman's piece.  The GRAPH is reprinted in the Drum piece.

    And below is the Monkey Cage piece:

    http://www.themonkeycage.org/...

  •  sorry for double post. first time on DK 4..... eo (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, occams hatchet, drmah
  •  very important work (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    Thank you for taking it on, for making the effort.

    Poverty exists in direct proportion to greed.

    by jcrit on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:15:28 AM PDT

  •  I have to remember (6+ / 0-)

    to nominate this for Diary of the Year when the Koscars roll around again.

    Outstanding, occam's hatchet.

    "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them...well, I have others." --Groucho Marx

    by Dragon5616 on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:29:05 AM PDT

    •  Me too (4+ / 0-)

      I am blown away by the comprehensive narrative, the facts, the links, the passion of his indignation, which, I hope most of us share regarding the corporate influence on our educational system and the degradation of our teachers.  I am actually going to bookmark this so that I will remember.  Plan to send it to many people, including the private prep school where I work part-time.

      Thanks for bringing this up.

      Just waitin' around for the new Amy Winehouse album

      by jarbyus on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 07:58:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wonderful post. Just 1 little thing. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet, Lissa Drake

    Michelle Ree's scouting report would have read something like this.

    "The next Babe Ruth"

    Remember she gamed the audition just like you gamed dancing.

    But in a way the report would be true.

    Babe Ruth was the king of strike outs.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 06:35:01 AM PDT

  •  Thank You - N/T (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, Lissa Drake, occams hatchet

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:12:27 AM PDT

  •  dear occam (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ebby, Lissa Drake, occams hatchet

    I won't be the first to say this, but you are a FREAKING GENIUS.

    If you liked Big Pharma and Big Agriculture, wait til you meet Big Education. Big Ed is going to fuck us all in the ass.

    by TheGreatLeapForward on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:40:13 AM PDT

  •  Hey OH... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    Great diary.

    Freakonomics contained an interesting bit on high stakes testing and teacher directed cheating. Worth looking at and very convincing.

    On a side note--'86 Championship Reunion occurred last week in Minneapolis. Nearly everyone but PM was there, from that team. Met up with some the greats of later teams--BR and DW from the '92-94 run, and SC form 1998--he is hilarious.

    Sorry to see the weenies win, but we've got a recruit coming in that would have won the 200 IM--1:41 already--Holy F'in S. that is FAST.

    You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

    by FrankCornish on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:42:10 AM PDT

    •  Heh - (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FrankCornish

      thanks, FC. Sounds like a good time was had by all! Too bad PM couldn't make it; I've actually known him since he was a scrawny 12-year-old, back in the day . . .

      As for the weenies winning, sorry, but I have to admit a certain fondness because of the long dry spell. Their last winning team was one of my favorites.

      Gulp - 1:41? Yikes. Heh - I just read SW's coverage of it: they compared it very favorably to "perhaps the other greatest [effort] in high school history" - one I think happened at ELAC that you witnessed up close . . .

      I'll look for the Freakonomics story - unless you've got a link?

      peace

  •  Bravo hatchet, fantastic diary, would you consider (7+ / 0-)

    allowing me to republish?  My target audience would be one.org and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

    Thank you for the tips on scoring points playing "Just Dance" on wii.  It was a big hit at our last Christmas gathering.  (;

  •  Great work, I sent the link (4+ / 0-)

    to multiple people I know. This is why I come to DKOS, brilliantly put together pieces that flat out tear apart the status quo and state the facts! I tried to watch the speech you link to by Bill Gates, I couldn't get through the B.S. I used to love TED because I would be exposed to people I had never heard of, but they seem to be losing some of their edge and originality.

  •  thank you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    for taking the words right out of my mouth. I'm sure, given time, I would have been able to come up with something like this to express my frustration with what's going on.

    as it is, though, I'm pulling an ostrich: head in the sand (my classroom) to remind myself what really matters (my students). I was writing more frequently because it was helping me feel better - for a time. But the more I wrote, the more dirt I found, the more depressed I got, and the more I needed to just remember my job is the students - not creating a Return on Investment for my district. If that happens as a by-product, then fine, but that is not - and never will be - my number one aim.

    thank you again. I appreciate you writing this.

    "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

    by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 01:08:09 PM PDT

  •  thank you my friend. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    elsa

  •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet

    for sharing a truly brilliant expose.  You couldn't have done it better.  I was surprised you mentioned Jerry Farber.  I was in several of his classes at Cal State LA when he wrote his famous underground essay.  He was the most amazing teacher I have ever met!

  •  Republished in J Town (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet, martyc35

    You've been Republished in the J Town Babbling Brook

    burble burble

    Thank you.

    Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

    by princesspat on Wed Mar 30, 2011 at 08:05:26 PM PDT

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