Spot-on article and comments in Daily Kos on teacher burnout

Excellent article on why many teachers are retiring early or just quitting.

I recommend the comments as well. (I am so glad I was able to retire in 2009!)

 

A quote or two:

Last fall, Kris Nielsen, who had moved to North Carolina specifically for a teaching job after years teaching in New Mexico and Oregon, wrote, “I am quitting without remorse and without second thoughts” because:

I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible.

I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests.

I refuse to be an unpaid administrator of field tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit. [...]

I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

In spring 2012, the “worst eighth-grade math teacher in New York City” decided to leave teaching. Not much of a loss if she was the worst, right? Yeah, well, Carolyn Abbott was teaching at a gifted-and-talented school, where:

The material covered on the state eighth-grade math exam is taught in the fifth or sixth grade at Anderson. “I don’t teach the curriculum they’re being tested on,” Abbott explained. “It feels like I’m being graded on somebody else’s work.”

The math that she teaches is more advanced, culminating in high-school level algebra and a different and more challenging test, New York State’s Regents exam in Integrated Algebra. To receive a high school diploma in the state of New York, students must demonstrate mastery of the New York State learning standards in mathematics by receiving a score of 65 or higher on the Regents exam. In 2010-11, nearly 300,000 students across the state of New York took the Integrated Algebra Regents exam; most of the 73 percent who passed the exam with a score of 65 or higher were tenth-graders. [...]

How do her students perform on the content that she actually does teach? This year, the 64 eighth-graders at Anderson she teaches are divided into two groups, an honors section and a regular section. All but one of the students in the honors section took the Regents Integrated Algebra exam in January; the other student and most of the regular-section students will take the exam in June. All of the January test-takers passed with flying colors, and more than one-third achieved a perfect score of 100 on the exam.

Published in: on February 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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An Article By A NYC Charter School Teacher for “PolicyMic”

I thought this was worth reprinting:

==========================

Hi all,

I submitted this article about my experiences re: standardized testing and test-based evaluations in NYC schools to PolicyMic this afternoon.  I hope that it resonates with many of you!  Please feel free to read, comment, and forward as you wish.

And, in honor of Mr. Wellstone (July 21, 1944 – October 25, 2002), who reminded us that laborers and teachers are one in the same, “Stand up. Keep fighting.”

Thanks!
Allison LaFave

http://www.policymic.com/articles/17490/romney-loves-teachers-what-teacher-evaluations-and-tests-mean-for-american-teachers

Romney Loves Teachers: What Teacher Evaluations and Tests Really Mean for American Teachers

During Monday’s final presidential debate, Bob Schieffer spurred a collective American chuckle when he cut off Romney’s long-winded brown-nosing with the knee-slapper, “I think we all love teachers…”

I’d love to believe Mr. Schieffer, but as someone who hails from a family of public school teachers and spent last year teaching third grade in a New York City charter school, I have to say, “Bob. You’re adorable. But America’s teachers haven’t felt loved in quite some time.”

Last spring, my principal corralled our school’s third grade teaching team around a kidney-bean shaped table and apologetically explained that we needed to sign forms acknowledging the weight of our students’ test scores on our end-of-year evaluations. Ultimately, our students’ math and ELA scores would comprise as much as 40% of our annual rating.

Now, I don’t know a single educator who outright opposes the idea of fair evaluations and/or some level of teacher accountability. But as I sat quietly in that little red plastic chair, a voice in me cried:

“You want to evaluate me? Great. No problem.

“But let’s also evaluate the misaligned (or nonexistent) curriculum I was given to plan for my classes.”

“Let’s evaluate the number of chairs huddled around single desks, because there are more students in the room than there were last year, and the copy machine, the one that never works.

“Let’s evaluate the number of students with IEPs that aren’t being adequately serviced, and the number of English Language Learner students sitting voiceless in the back of the room, because they have yet to be admitted into nonexistent ELL classes.

“Let’s evaluate the employers who are smugly underpaying/underemploying my students’ parents or guardians, forcing them to work multiple jobs, likely without ever securing benefits for themselves or for their families. Or the number of students who have lost parents or loved ones due to gang violence, substance abuse, or the labyrinth that is our failing criminal justice system. Or the number of my students who didn’t eat dinner last night.

“Let’s evaluate how many hours of sleep I got last night, because I was not afforded adequate prep time during my 10 or 11 hour day in the building, or how many times I’ve skipped out on doctor’s appointments and family events to be here for my students.

“And, finally, let’s evaluate my motivations for being here — because it sure as hell isn’t for the money.”

Last week, Deborah Kenny wrote an op-ed piece decrying the heavy influence of test scores on teacher evaluations. Kenny rightfully claimed that the practice “undermines principals and is demeaning to teachers” and leaves little room for innovative teaching and learning. She went on to say that test-based evaluations inhibit the “culture of trust” between principals and teachers and “discourage the smartest, most talented people from entering the profession.”

While I agree that test-based evaluations are inherently flawed (when was the last time our politicians, Democrats or Republicans, truly analyzed aPearson test?), I am baffled by Kenny’s ultimate argument. It seems that Kenny bashes test-based evaluations because … wait for it … they make it harder for her to fire teachers she doesn’t like – specifically a teacher whose students performed “exceptionally well” on the state exam.

Teachers aren’t statistics, but they also aren’t part of some school-wide homecoming court. Administrators shouldn’t cast votes for the teachers they like or dislike. They should work to support all teachers who act in the best interest of students.

Ms. Kenny also takes a not-so-subtle jab at teachers’ unions, attacking evil tenured teachers in America, who are clearly exploiting their glamorous roles as K-12 educators. However, unions don’t grant tenure; PRINCIPALS grant tenure. And, moreover, Ms. Kenny, like nearly all charter school administrators in America, likely prohibits her teachers from joining their local union.

As someone who has worked in a non-union school, I can tell Ms. Kenny what violates trust between teachers and administrators. Knowing that you can be fired for your personality.  Knowing that there is a fresh crop of well-intentioned, starry-eyed Teach for America kids who can take your place in the time it takes to make a phone call. Knowing that you will be scorned for using your allotted sick days and guilted into working through lunch, during prep time, and hours after the final school bell rings.

I encourage our presidential candidates (and all Americans) to listen to the voices of practicing teachers, who are so often talked about and around during national education debates.

Says Kelly G., a third grade teacher in Brooklyn:

“These teacher evaluations are complex. I honestly used to think that a teacher could indeed be evaluated and held accountable using test scores. And then I started teaching at school that didn’t allow me to do the kind of teaching I thought needed to be done in order to develop intelligent children. There’s nothing quite like having your teaching micromanaged and then being told it was your fault the kids didn’t achieve exemplary scores on the state exam.

“My kids are capable of so much already. Come in and look at their writing. Listen to their discussions. Watch them solve math problems. Their tests scores will not reflect their growth from the school year. A one shot assessment does not give a good picture of student achievement. Have you read those exams? Have you been in the room during testing? Test anxiety vomiting is a real thing in the third grade. Too bad they don’t evaluate me on sick child comforting and vomit clean up. I’m sure my scores on those evaluations would be proficient.”

In popular media, teachers are cast as heroes or villains. They are either lazy, money-grubbing, ne’er-do-wells or Jaime Escalante, the “teacher savior” of the acclaimed film Stand and Deliver.

The truth is, as in most professions, the majority of teachers lie somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Such romanticized notions of teaching make great stories, but that’s just it; they are stories that too often exaggerate and obscure the truth. Jaime Escalante spent years preparing his students for the AP Calculus exam, not a few inspired semesters. Does that mean that he was an inadequate teacher during the years he spent honing his craft and teaching foundational math concepts to his students? How would Escalante have been rated under the New York City evaluation system?

In his research paper entitled “Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth,” David C. Berliner (Regents’ Professor Emeritus in The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College of Arizona State University) finds that “Outside-of-school factors are three times more powerful in affecting student achievement than are the inside-the-school factors.”

Consequently, he concludes, “The best way to improve America’s schools is through jobs that provide families living wages. Other programs…offer some help for students from poor families. But in the end, it is inequality in income and the poverty that accompanies such inequality that matters most for education.”

America’s education system is in crisis; of this, we can be sure. But let’s stop blaming the dentists for their patients’ cavities.

Bad assumptions by Gates researchers on VAM

Valerie Strauss has another excellent column at The Answer Sheet:

(It was written by Matthew Di Carlo, senior fellow at the non-profit Albert Shanker Institute, located in Washington, D.C. It originally appeared on the institute’s blog.)

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/the-biggest-flaw-in-the-gates.html#more

Results from an actual randomized study at the USAFA

A very interesting study done at the US Air Force Academy and published here, contradicts most of what Hanushek, Kamras, Rhee et al have said about ‘value-added’ measures of teaching.

Some of its conclusions:

“…our results indicate that professors who excel at promoting contemporaneous student achievement [that is, who do well at what Rhee and Kamras would call 'value-added scores'], on average, harm the subsequent performance of their students in more advanced classes.

“Academic rank, teaching experience, and terminal degree status of professors are negatively correlated with contemporaneous value-added but positively correlated with follow-on course value-added. Hence, students of less experienced instructors who do not possess a doctorate perform significantly better in the contemporaneous course but perform worse in the follow-on related curriculum.

“Student evaluations are positively correlated with contemporaneous professor value-added and negatively correlated with follow-on student achievement. That is, students appear to reward higher grades in the introductory course but punish professors who increase deep learning (introductory course professor value-added in follow-on courses). Since many U.S. colleges and universities use student evaluations as a measurement of teaching quality for academic promotion and tenure decisions, this latter finding draws into question the value and accuracy of this practice.

“Similar to elementary and secondaryschool teachers, who often have advance knowledge of assessmentcontent in high-stakes testing systems, all professors teaching a given course at USAFA have an advance copy of the exam before it is given. Hence, educators in both settings must choose how much time to allocate to tasks that have great value for raising current scores but may have little value for lasting knowledge.

“Using our various measures of quality to rank-order professors leads to profoundly different results.”

“the correlation between introductory calculus professor value-added in the introductory and follow-on courses is negative, r=-0.68. Students appear to reward contemporaneous course value-added, r=+0.36, but punish deep learning, r=-0.31.”

(In other words, one method of measuring professor quality will rank them in one way, but if you use a different method of measuring professor quality, you get a ranking that is profoundly different.)

In this study, students and instructors were randomly assigned to all of the courses, and students had to take follow-up courses in, say, calculus and chemistry, regardless of how much they liked the subject or not, or how well they did in their previous course. Thus, once they were at the Air Force Academy, there was no self-selection by professors or by students. This eliminated an element that probably confounds prior studies.

Source:

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/653808

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