Teachers

Like many states, Ohio is struggling with how best to evaluate teachers and how to use those evaluations to inform personnel decisions (like remuneration, tenure, professional development, and ? when district budgets or enrollment levels leave no other choice ?layoffs). (Read today's Ohio Education Gadfly for more background on the Buckeye State's current legislative battle over teacher evaluations.)

Last week we released a video, What Ohio can learn from DC's teacher evaluations, featuring interviews with teachers evaluated under the DC IMPACT system. The teachers we interviewed ? which include science teachers, an elementary math coach, a fourth-grade teacher (of all subjects), a special ed middle school teacher, an art teacher, and a master educator (who conducts the observations on behalf of DCPS) ? shared what it's like to be evaluated via five observations each year and have part of their performance linked to student test scores.?

Today we released two more videos, wherein teachers evaluated under DC's IMPACT system address common fears and myths about rigorous evaluations.

Part 1

Part 2

Even prior to Ohio's legislative battle over teacher evaluations, myths and fears expressed by educators and policymakers about teacher evaluations have been rampant here. Opponents of overhauling teacher evaluation systems argue they're inherently unfair, arbitrary, prone...

Guest Blogger

The following blog post was written by Penelope Placide, a ninth grader who works for Fordham one day a week through her school's Corporate Work Study Program. Not only is Penelope a wonderful asset on a daily basis, she possesses invaluable insider knowledge as a current student immersed in the everyday realities of American schooling. With her bubbly personality (which is certainly reflected in this blog post), Penelope consistently shared stories of the many positive experiences she has had with teachers throughout her educational experience. In light of the current teacher-quality debates, Penelope realized her potential, as someone who is best able to speak to what really matters to students. What started out as a casual discussion about the creation of a blog post that would express her point of view quickly evolved into the development of a mini-survey of Penelope's classmates. As she describes in her blog post below, Penelope was not satisfied with simply reiterating her own beliefs about the qualities that a good teacher possesses; she wanted to explore a sample of student perspectives on the topic and share them with the education policy realm. Penelope's hard work and initiative allowed her to produce this compelling blog post.

Introduction

Hi! I am a 9th grade student who has worked at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute since September 2010. Recently, I was given one of the coolest research projects ever! I was asked my...

The Ohio Senate just released its version of the state's biennial budget. The Senate deserves much credit for the plethora of charter school provisions it deleted from the Houses' version (which as you probably know by now, Fordham and many others across the state opposed).

But even the removal of provisions that would have dramatically weakened charter quality and accountability can't make up for the fact that the Senate removed all of the excellent teacher personnel language in HB 153.

Fordham's Terry Ryan testified yesterday afternoon to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee to express our collective disappointment and implore lawmakers to prioritize policies to improve teacher effectiveness. ?

He described what's at stake by removing this language:

For as long as anyone can remember, in Ohio as in the rest of America, a public-school teacher's effectiveness and performance in the classroom have had little to no impact on decisions about whether she is retained by her district or laid off, how she is compensated or assigned to a district's schools, or how her professional development is crafted. Instead, all of these critical decisions are made on the basis of quality-blind state policies, like the notorious ?last-in, first-out? mandate governing lay-offs, and tenure rules that allow teachers to have job protection for life and ?bump? less senior teachers when jockeying for positions. Effective teachers are forced to go simply because they have not taught as long as others, regardless of how successful

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The Times' Room for Debate blog tackles teacher evaluations today, in particular the news that New York City plans to introduce a dozen new tests in order to gather data for said evaluations. Participants include Linda Darling-Hammond, Kevin Carey, Marcus Winters, and yours truly, among others. Here's my submission; read the whole package here. [quote]

Improving teacher evaluations is one of the most important reforms encouraged by the federal ?Race to the Top? initiative ? and one of the central components to making our schools better. No one can defend today's evaluation systems which, by and large, find every teacher to be above average (if not superior) even as our student achievement results lag our international competitors.

If pay and employment decisions are to be based on teacher performance, at least in part, we need evaluations that can stand up to scrutiny (and to lawsuits). Simply put, we won't make much progress in terminating our least effective teachers (either for cause or because of budget pressures) until we have evaluation systems that are fair, trustworthy and rigorous. And it's only common sense that one element of those evaluations should be an assessment of how much students are learning under the teacher's charge.

However, there's a real downside in moving to centralized, rules-based, bureaucratic evaluation models, as indicated by New York City's decision to add a dozen new tests to collect more teacher performance data. I feel for the city; if you...

In a lengthy essay for the Washington Post New York State Regent Roger Tilles provides more evidence for why the Empire State has slipped so badly educationally in the last couple of decades: the tendency to fiddle while Rome burns.? Tilles was one of three members of the state's Board of Regents to vote no on proposed principal and teacher evaluation regulations. (See here.) Luckily, he was in the minority (14 Regents voted Yes), but his dissent is worth noting as it illustrates some of what perpetuates the institutional aversion to improvement.

?I support a rigorous system of evaluation,? writes Tilles, who has great credentials, including service on two state Boards of Education, teaching at education schools of three universities, and being on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. ?It is imperative that we develop a system that is effective and fair and that will lead to better student learning. Unfortunately, the regulations ? which link 20-40 percent of a teacher's evaluation on the results of student standardized test scores ? don't have some of the elements necessary to make them either fair or effective.?

Tilles raises legitimate concerns about the use of these tests ? the quality of the tests, their snapshot nature, the unintended consequences of their being high stakes -- but seems to forget that 20% of the teacher score comes from ?locally-selected measures of student achievement? and that 60% of evaluation is based on ?other measures.?? (See Regents summary of...

Amy Fagan

Fordham Institute President Chester Finn, has an interesting op-ed in the NY Daily News today. He writes about the prospect of teacher layoffs in NYC due to budget woes. I'll highlight a few of his points here.

Finn says no one likes to see teachers lose their jobs, since most are ?hardworking, committed, decent individuals who care about kids.? He notes, however, that salaries and benefits constitute at least 70% of every school system budget, and most of those paychecks go to teachers, so it's nearly impossible to attempt serious budget cuts without looking in that direction.

If layoffs do have to happen, much hinges on which teachers are let go, Finn warns. Classroom effectiveness ?should be the main criterion,? he writes.

He also writes that when it comes to the issue of class size, ?there is no persuasive evidence that smaller classes yield higher student achievement. Class size doesn't begin to compare with teacher effectiveness.?

Finn says much more. Get the full picture by reading the piece here....

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