For a school system that supposedly makes all of its decisions based on data, the DC public schools system sure goes out of its way to hide any data that makes the higher-ups look bad.
One of those areas of hidden data involves teacher evaluations. I was leaked the 2009-10 IMPACT sub-scores from the Value-Added
Monstrosity (VAM) nonsense and the Teaching and Learning Framework (TLF), with the names removed. I plotted the two scores and showed that the correlation was very, very low, in fact about 0.13, or nearly random, as you see here:
A consultant for DCPS found a similar result, but I suspect she gave the value of R (about 0.33) rather than R-squared, which I have above. (link here). See this as well. I’ve also taken the data from New York City teachers that was released by various newspapers there; I found that Value-Added scores for any given teacher jumped around like crazy from year to year. For all practical purposes, there is no reliability or consistency to VAM whatsoever. Not even for elementary teachers who teach both English and math to the same group of children and are ‘awarded’ a VAM score in both subjects. Nor for teachers who taught, say, both 7th and 8th grade students in, say, math, and were ‘awarded’ VAM scores for both grade levels: it’s as if someone was to throw darts at a large chart, blindfolded, and wherever the dart lands, that’s your score. Don’t believe me? See here and here. And here.
Plus, the National Academy of Science report on mayoral control of schools in DC has shown that teachers in high-poverty schools get lower ratings on IMPACT than do teachers in low-poverty schools. Before you say, “It’s those lazy union teachers that caused all that poverty in the first place,” please remember this: under the current DCPS – teacher contract, teachers can be fired very, very easily. Every single teacher who has a job in DCPS right now was either hired by Chancellor Rhee or Chancellor Henderson, or has passed all of the teacher evaluations with flying colors, repeatedly.
(It’s also that the case that the turnover rate, or churn rate, is enormous. Some estimate that one-third of the teachers in high-poverty schools in DC quit or are fired every year; many bright-eyed, energetic young college grads (TFA or not) eager for a chance to work with our poorest and most neglected kids, find themselves utterly burned out and quitting even before the school year is over, disillusioned with the incredible work load, lack of administrative support when it’s needed, and insane, contradictory commands to do things that don’t help students learn a thing.)
Meanwhile, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) and the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been asking the DCPS administration for information on the value-added scores and classroom observation scores for the teachers that they represent. DCPS has steadfastly refused to release that information, for months, despite Freedom of Information Act requests very carefully prepared by legal staff. (That’s where some of the union dues should, in fact, be spent on!) The goal was so that actual statisticians could look over the data (kind of like I try to do on this blog, but with much greater expertise).
(The stonewalling by DCPS and OSSE is famous. Staffers who work (or worked) in DCPS central administration have told me stories about how they were specifically forbidden to give parents or teachers any information that would be helpful to the students. Similarly, the NAS report repeatedly cited examples where DCPS and OSSE refused to release needed information, or
lied claimed that it was simply unavailable.)
Now, the DC City Council is planning on making ALL that teacher evaluation data officially secret and not subject to public release — not even to the bargaining agent for those teachers, their union.
I will leave you with statements by my former teaching colleague, Liz Davis, who is the current WTU president, and one by Randy Weingarter, who is the president of the AFT, on the subject.
From Ms. Weingarten:
What are the District of Columbia Public Schools and some in the city government trying to hide?
On Tuesday, the Washington, D.C., City Council will vote on a stunning new rule that would make it impossible for educators, parents and the general public to judge whether some of DCPS’ core instructional strategies and policies are really helping District children succeed.
Here’s the nitty-gritty: Over a year ago, the Washington Teachers’ Union filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to see the data from the school district’s IMPACT evaluation system—a system that’s used for big choices, like the firing of 563 teachers in just the past four years, curriculum decisions, school closures and more. The FOIA request was filed because DCPS refused to provide the data.
The data is essential for the union to be able to represent our members and serve our students. It’s essential to understanding and addressing the DCPS policies and practices that impact our members’ daily work. We requested the data with all personal information removed to protect teachers’ privacy.
Now, the district not only has rejected our request, it is also trying to override the FOIA laws through a radical new secrecy provision to hide the information that’s being used to make big decisions that impact our kids, our teachers and our schools.
And to top it all off, the language in the law is so poorly written, no one’s even sure what it says. The mayor’s office claims it would only apply to certain schools, but open-government advocates say that—as written—it would apply to all schools. This confusion alone is enough reason to reject this bad idea.
Without access to this data, there’s no way for the public or our union to tell whether the strategies DCPS uses—like mayoral control—are helping students or simply creating school closures and high teacher turnover. And just last week, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that raises a lot of questions about whether those strategies have really moved the needle of student achievement.
Transparency shines a light on whether the District’s policies are helping kids, supporting teachers and improving schools. Hiding this data takes us in the wrong direction.
From Ms. Davis:
DCPS wants to block access to
valuable information regarding
IMPACT scores–help put a stop to it
For more than a year, the WTU has asked DCPS for public records related to the IMPACT teacher evaluation system, even recently filing a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court in an effort to obtain those records. This information is essential for the union to be able to represent you and to understand and address the DCPS policies and practices that impact your work.
In order to protect the privacy of educators, the union has requested this data with names and personal information redacted.
Yet, DCPS has stubbornly refused to provide that information. And now the D.C. City Council is considering–without either a public hearing or public input–legislation that would block those records from ever being disclosed.
On Tuesday, June 16, the DC City Council will take up the bill blocking access to the IMPACT records. WTU is urging members, parents and others to contact council members, whose e-mail addresses are below, and ask them to oppose the legislation.
On Monday, WTU members will also be receiving a phone that call will directly connect them to members of the council, as well as an e-activist letter that they can easily forward to the council.
The WTU is also asking that you attend the June 16hearing, if possible, and urge other education stakeholders to attend. The hearing begins at 10 am.The hearing will take place while teachers are still in their classrooms, so we encourage parents, concerned citizens, and retirees to attend.
This legislation poses a serious threat to a fair and transparent teacher evaluation system. Let’s make sure our voices are heard.
We will also be discussing the proposed legislation during tomorrow’s Union Leadership Institute at Wilson HS, 9 am- 2 pm, and what WTU members and other educators can do to help defeat it. Hope you can join us!
HERE is the letter WTU President Elizabeth Davis sent to members of the D.C. City Council urging them to oppose the legislation. The letter describes in detail the WTU’s very real concerns about the bill.
Mayor Muriel Bowser: firstname.lastname@example.org
Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles: email@example.com
Council Chair Phil Mendolson: firstname.lastname@example.org