Firing The Right PATs?

A new study suggests that Chicago principals are using their power to dismiss probationary teachers in ways that seem generally appropriate -- letting go of those who are frequently absent, for example, and with lower evaluation ratings or student achievement gains.  Take a look, compare what you read to what you see at your school, and let us know.  Some of the measures used to justify dismissals are obviously manipulable by the principal, but not all of them (attendance, for example).  Too much? Too little?  Wrong people?  Right ones?

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  • I would urge those really interested in the study discussed in the Tribune article to read it. You can get the study at www.nber.org/papersw15715 it does cost however.

    The paper is titled "Do principals fire the worst teachers?" There are numerous things in the paper that Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah the reporter did not cover in her Tribune article on the study conducted by Brian Jacob.

    Here are a few of them. The paper states. . . "[probationary] teachers 36 to 50 years of age are roughly 4 percentage points (33 percent) more likely to be dismissed relative to teachers age 22 to 28. [Probationary]teachers over 50 are 10 percentage points (nearly 100 percent) more likely to face dismissal than their youngest counterparts." (at page 22) The paper states "Older [probationary]teachers are more likely to be dismissed, particularly those working in buildings with younger principals." (at page 5) As the Tribune article correctly points out the Jacob study only looked at probationary teachers and since the majority of probationary teachers are younger it is significant that this finding was made.

    Readers of this blog will recall the discussions related to age discrimination that have been raised by dismissed teachers, so this discussion in the paper by Jacob is of some importance even though Professor Jacob does state that these findings are not enough to conclude "that principals in Chicago were acting in a discriminatory manner." (at page 5)

    Because I work primarily with students with disabilities I wanted to see how the study discussed special education teachers, well it did not. Probationary teachers with certifications for special education were never looked at separately in this study. In fact special education teachers not teaching core courses were excluded from the study, as were all special education teachers in special schools, all art and music teachers were excluded, and staff like social workers etc., were also excluded. The value added measurements of teachers that were done in core classes controled for students with special education status, but it is unclear how that was built into the model used by Professor Jacob.

    The most enlightening aspect of the paper was this statement: "Unlike some school districts, Chicago traditionally has not maintained reliable data linking teachers to classrooms, particularly at the elementary level." (at page 16) In fact professor Jacob was not able to utilize a value added measurement of the majority probationary teachers in grades 2-5 in three quarters of CPS schools and for high school teachers in ninth grade math, reading, and science because CPS data for all other teachers of core academics covered by standardized assessments was not reliable. For the smaller number of probationary teachers who had value added measurement applied that data did not necessarily support that the all teachers removed were really adding the least value to students.

    Professor Jacobs writes: "For elementary schools, the point estimate of -.071 indicates that a one standard deviation increase in teacher value-added is associated with a 7.1 percentage point (over 100 percent) decrease in the likelihood of dismissal." But for high school teachers "value-added has zero association with dismissal."

    The value added aspects of the study has very serious implications for CPS implementing , the Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 (PERA) and its requirement linking student achievement or student growth data to the evaluation of teachers and principals. The Tribune took no notice what so ever of this aspect of the Jacob's study, possibly the actual report itself was not carefully studied, but rather the Tribune may have operated largely off of some type of release issued by CPS. It should also be noted that contrary to the Tribune's claim that the study was "new," it was actually released in February 2010. None the less the Tribune did the public a service by informing us that such a study existed.

    Rod Estvan

  • A small correction to my rapid typing. I write below " In fact professor Jacob was not able to utilize a value added measurement of the majority probationary teachers in grades 2-5 in three quarters of CPS schools and for high school teachers in ninth grade math, reading, and science because CPS data for all other teachers of core academics covered by standardized assessments was not reliable."

    It should have read: In fact professor Jacob was not able to utilize a value added measurement of the majority probationary teachers at all tested grade levels. The study was able to apply value added measurement to teachers only in grades 2-5 working at three quarters of CPS schools and for high school teachers in ninth grade math, reading, and science. This was because CPS data for all other teachers of core academics covered by standardized assessments was not reliable."

  • http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/staiger/files/rothstein%2Bteacher%2Beffects%2Bqje2010.pdf

    Just a friendly reminder here that VAM's are not at all reliable, not that a Harvard economist would have any impact on the average moron's opinion. Hell, let's use them anyway.

  • "that Chicago principals are using their power to dismiss probationary teachers in ways that seem generally appropriate -- letting go of those who are frequently absent, for example, and with lower evaluation ratings or student achievement gains."

    Generally appropriate? Really, Alex? While I certainly think that frequent absences should, in most instances count against a teacher, we all know that evaluations are not always done properly and that test scores should not be used against ether probationary teachers or tenured teachers when it comes to people losing their jobs.

  • I am unclear what has prepared Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah to cover education in Chicago. I've been very unimpressed by her journalism and believe it's harmful. Rod Estvan is right when he writes: "The value added aspects of the study has very serious implications for CPS implementing , the Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 (PERA) and its requirement linking student achievement or student growth data to the evaluation of teachers and principals. The Tribune took no notice what so ever of this aspect of the Jacob's study, possibly the actual report itself was not carefully studied, but rather the Tribune may have operated largely off of some type of release issued by CPS. It should also be noted that contrary to the Tribune's claim that the study was "new," it was actually released in February 2010. None the less the Tribune did the public a service by informing us that such a study existed."

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