Friday, April 10, 2015

Turn down that noise... on Brookings teacher evaluation study.

A few media outlets posted a study that claims that if a great number of students opt out of testing it would create "noise" in the educator's evaluation.  It is true that when there are fewer student scores used in a teacher's evaluation the results would be more volatile- basically the evaluation score could more dramatically go up or down-  the "noise" that Brookings refers to in its study.

A closer look at other specific items relating to New York State teacher evaluations will negate any worries from the Brookings study:

  • Teachers are already hurt by the NYS Growth Score formula.  Teacher growth scores calculated by NYS  have varied widely amongst educators.  Some have gone from low to high scores or the complete opposite.   Do we really believe that a teacher could be high-effective one year and be failing the next?  Or the opposite?

  • The American Statistical Association has stated the VAM style growth scores, similar to the one forced on local schools by NYS, is not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness and should not be used for employment or salary decisions.

So in reality teachers are hurt by students who take the test as the growth score numbers are really voodoo math.  If enough students boycott the test, teachers who have a state test tied to their grade-level or course would revert to the local SLO measures that other teachers use for the APPR scores.  This system is a much fairer system and restores local control of the educator's evaluation. The key number is 16 scores-- below 16 removes the flawed and invalid state growth score from the teacher's evaluation.  Your child will not longer be used as a weapon against his or her teacher!!  

From NYSED APPR training documents per E2CC BOCES

The Brookings study also looked at the impact if mostly "high-performing" students opt out.

First of all there is a myth that mostly the top scoring test takers boycott the assessments.  That is far from reality as students from across the academic spectrum have families who boycott the assessments.  Just because a family is involved in their children's education and aware of the harm of high-stakes testing does not mean their children are the honor-roll high scoring students.  In my own experience as a teacher, and as a parent, I have witnessed students of all achievement levels opt out. In fact, in my own classes, students with IEP's have had the highest rate of opt out.  Why?  Those students see the greatest harm from the inappropriate reading levels and cut scores forced on children.

So what if the "high-performers" opt out?  That actually helps the teachers.  High test scores no longer help teachers get a better rating.  A child must show growth from last year's assessment to this year's exam.  High scoring students have limited opportunity to improve their scores so having children that are good test takers actually hurts a teacher.   I know a few teachers who were switched to accelerated or honors classes get lower growth scores because of the "ceiling" that high-scoring students have in improving their test results.