Teaching: Measuring Effectiveness, Not Effort

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On Friday the Washington Post described the process through which teachers are observed and evaluated for their effectiveness rather than their effort under Washington DC's controversial IMPACT system (here).  Does this seem about right to you? Does this match up with how it's done at schools you know about?

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  • In most places I've taught up until now, teachers generally felt that no one was qualified to decide if they'd done good work. The reality is that in any workplace, someone has to decide if the work is getting done, how well the employees do it, and whether it's worth it to keep someone around. No system is never completely 'fair,' no system is ever perfect, but at least IMPACT is trying to communicate to teachers something that might make us better and more effective at our one primary task: teaching children.

    What we do as educators is too important to do poorly. The best teachers in CPS and elsewhere that I know don't wait for an administrator to give them feedback. They find their evaluation frameworks, talk with their evaluators ahead of time, and find out what quality teaching looks like to that evaluator. Then they make deliberate, conscious effort to making the changes that will make a difference in the classroom.

    Children in Chicago don't have any more time for the excuses of how poor they are, how bad their parents are, how bad the principal is, etc. They need teachers who understand that they should be growing as professionals and working to meet the challenges of teaching in their unique environment.

    I don't dispute that there are enough poor school leaders in CPS to make trusting one's evaluator nearly impossible.

    But, for every story of a good teacher losing a job over a poor evaluation, there are plenty more stories of bad teachers (who might be great people in many other respects) and teachers with the potential for excellence who need to see exactly where they need to grow.

    If we measure teacher performance in effort, the Chicago Cubs would be distinguished teachers. We have to measure teacher performance in effectiveness if we expect to do right by our students.

  • This is a really thoughtful discussion. I hope none of you mind if i copy your posts and possibly use them in a report I am working on for Access Living. The report deals with the new state mandated evaluation program and its implications for special education students taught both in regular classrooms and in separate settings. I promise Russo I will give his blog credit if I use any of these comments in the report. My co-author is a graduate student at the Adler School of Psychology;

    If you would rather I not use your comment email me at Restvan@accessliving.org and let me know. We expect this report to be completed by the end of May.

    Rod Estvan

  • Not a CPS teacher?

  • Hi there! Actually, I am currently a teacher, and I do believe that most people who know me probably wouldn't call me a troll, even if they didn't like me. I'm sure you're a swell person in general, even if you disagree with my thoughts.

    Anyhow, the issue in this particular thread wasn't charters, the Chicago Civic Committee, or NCLB. The issue was measuring teacher effectiveness.

    Having a rigorous evaluation tool would benefit good teachers and give parents a much-needed measure of confidence in their local schools. Good teachers would get the kind of feedback necessary to improve their practice, and parents would see the results in their local schools.

    Certainly, poverty matters. But perhaps it's more likely that a quality education will solve the poverty conundrum. We cannot wait for poverty to vanish before we get serious about improving our effectiveness as teachers.

    You do make an interesting point about celebrated suburban teachers not working out so well in high-needs schools. I'm sure that teachers in high-needs schools would concur that some schools have very different challenges and require a very different skill set. Not every school is a good match for every teacher. A rigorous evaluation process like IMPACT would likely help teachers learn where their strengths would be of the greatest value.

  • That is true. Teachers will always fit into a bell curve of effectiveness and ability. Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that learners will also natually fit into a bell curve of abilities? That's life.

  • Nice and neat.

    If educating people were a manufacturing process , The tools of modern
    production might apply. However a lot of people fail to realize imparting
    knowledge to a set of humans as different as those in a regular classroom in a
    normal CPS school strains the limits of our profession and begs the term evaluate.
    Tall short bright slow black white yellow male female comfortable poor are some of
    The components of classrooms everywhere ,except in the CPS schools.
    In our schools it would be more like tall short , male, female ,segregated , poor.
    The evaluation of elective teachers in these classroom have not yet been written.
    The students are the ones who determine if a teacher is successful, and that can take
    years not days. We have the kids for a few hours each day, society has them for the rest .
    Teachers are competing with unheard of levels of stimulation aimed at our youth,
    And unrealistic aspirations ignoring all but the path to college. Bring back real career
    education.

  • Regarding 90/90/90: Michelle Rhee is the source of the tale. Here is a Feb. 11, 2011, Washington Post story that points you to the facts that belie Rhee's claim she pushed 70 third-graders' test scores to the 90th percentile and above. Guy Brandenburg's data is available bc Baltimore closely analyzed the first group of schools it was privatizing, something CPS hasn't done, and Rhee's school was part of that group.

    washingtonpost.com > Metro
    Rhee faces renewed scrutiny over depiction of students' progress when she taught

    By Nick Anderson
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, known for her crusade to use standardized test scores to help evaluate teachers, is facing renewed scrutiny over her depiction of progress that her students made years ago when she was a schoolteacher.

    A former D.C. math teacher, Guy Brandenburg, posted on his blog a study that includes test scores from the Baltimore school where Rhee taught from 1992 to 1995. The post, dated Jan. 31, generated intense discussion in education circles this week. In it, Brandenburg contended that the data show Rhee "lied repeatedly" in an effort to make gains in her class look more impressive than they were.

    Rhee, who resigned last year as chancellor, denied fabricating anything about her record and said Brandenburg's conclusion was unfounded. But she acknowledged this week that she could have described her accomplishments differently in 2007, when then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) selected her to be chancellor.

    At issue is a line in Rhee's resume from that year that described her record at Harlem Park Elementary School: "Over a two-year period, moved students scoring on average at the 13th percentile on national standardized tests to 90 percent of students scoring at the 90th percentile or higher."
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    On Wednesday evening, Rhee said she would revise that wording if she could. "If I were to put my resume forward again, would I say 'significant' gains?" Rhee said. "Absolutely."

    Rhee's record is of more than historical interest to many teachers who are skeptical of her brand of school reform and say test scores are an unreliable gauge of performance.

    For the complete story, google.

  • How many CPS principals have certification / degree in curriculum development?

  • Though you'd like to read a DC public school teacher's questions about how IMPACT, the teacher evaluation process in the original Wa Po story, actually calculated her the score for effectiveness.

    As she writes: "Last year 89% of the eighth graders at Hardy scored in the Proficient or Advanced range in Mathematics. As the sole eighth grade mathematics teacher last year, I taught almost all of the students except for a handful that were pulled for special education services." She should have received a stellar rating, right? ...

    From Guy Brandenburg's blog

    DCPS Administrators Won

  • A blogger below (March 21 6:46 am) posted a link that was supposed to show the 90/90/90 schools in Chicago. The link listed only 3: Skinner, McDade and Poe. That is odd -- bc we Chicagoans know the schools have been highly succesful for decades, and the kids are not high-poverty kids by any means. Somebody on this blog is trying to prove what the "Education Reformers" like Michelle Rhee say: It's the teachers that are holding our kids back.

  • In reply to Adele:

    if teaching and schools weren't a factor then CPS, detroit, NYC and all the other districts with large populations of high poverty kids and schools would perform the same on NAEP or have the same grad rates, which they don't (and no one would bother sending poor kids to school, either). individual teachers can't do it all but groups of teachers and schools and teachers can make a difference. please don't argue that you can't make a difference.

  • Alex, clearly teachers make a difference. But the "Education reformers" like Gates, Duncan, Rahm and Rhee argue that excellent teachers can take 90% high povety, 90% ethnic minority students and move them in 1 - 2 years to 90% and above on state tests.

    And she claimed that she had done this in Baltimore, where she taught 3rd grade for 4 years.

    And her claim is the basis for blaming "crappy" teachers when poor students have low test scores.

    But the data (Guy Brandenburg blog) shows that her kids never tested higher than the high 40s; she moved them up about 10% in 4 years.

    And that makes sense, when you know something about kids and have taught in a classroom, and are honest and realistic.

    Teachers can make a difference. But poverty is a large bear to wrestle. The data show that charters really aren't doing better, yet there is a huge, coordinated push from Obama, Duncan on down to privatize public schools in the cities... to experiment with the poorest students.

    The poster who pointed us to Skinner, Poe and McDade must not be from Chicago, otherwise she/he would know the quality of these schools and that its low percentage of low-income students directly contradicts what she had hoped to prove.

    So it looks as though there are no 90/90/90 schools in Chicago, either charter of traditional.

    Maybe we just don't have a good source, yet. Can anyone help guide this debate? If we can find 1 or 2, then we can look at what they are doing right.

  • Would love to know the school ...

  • Thanks. Found the story on Frazier on WBEZ, looks to be the first -- and maybe the only -- 90/90/90 CPS school. It's not a charter. It is a magnet school that uses the IB Primary years and Middle years programme. Only 4 Illinois schools use the primary IB programme.

    Has students from its local community (North Lawndale) and from across the city.

    When Frazier opened in 2007 only 62.5% of its students met or exceeded the state requirements.

    IB Coordinator and data specialist Faren D

  • complicated, sure, but not infinite -- i think that researchers have boiled it down to five or six main things (school and nonschool combined). let's not make it more complicated than necessary. a poor kid with a single high school dropout parent who's only occasionally working is pretty much the same in detroit or in LA, i'd argue

  • I hoped that at least one Chicago school has hit the magical 90/90/90, so that I wouldn't feel as though I had been sold a complete fairy tale by Rhee. But if it's not true about Frazier, it just proves how difficult it is to move poor kids that high ... How can we determine the real story?

  • Thank you for the link to the research. It was excellent information.

  • I remember way back to 1987 when I landed my first school administrator

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