People, Politics & Business

Scoundrels, Educrats, Rogues and Champions

"Rewarding Teacher Performance? Resist The Temptation To Race To Nowhere"

CJW, April 28, 2010 12:30 PM

Apples.two.measure.jpg



The following are excerpts from a recent post from blog Baseline Scenario - What Happened To The Global Economy and What We Can Do About It:


"Rewarding Teacher Performance?
Resist The Temptation To 'Race To Nowhere'"


"This guest post is contributed by Kathryn McDermott and Lisa Keller. McDermott is Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy and Keller is Assistant Professor in the Research and Evaluation Methods Program, both at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

On March 29, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Delaware and Tennessee were the first two states to win funding in the "Race to the Top" grant competition.  A key part of the reason why these two states won was their experience with "growth modeling" of student progress measured by standardized test scores, and their plans for incorporating the growth data into evaluation of teachers.  The Department of Education has $3.4 billion remaining in the Race to the Top fund, and other states are now scrutinizing reviewer feedback on their applications and trying to learn from Delaware's and Tennessee's successful applications as they strive to win funds in the next round.

One of the Department's priorities is to link teachers' pay to their students' performance; indeed, states with laws that forbid using student test scores in this way lost points in the Race to the Top competition.  A few months ago, James pointed out some of the general flaws in the pay-for-performance logic; here, our goal is to raise general awareness of some statistical issues that are specific to using test scores to evaluate teachers' performance.

Using students' test scores to evaluate their teachers' performance is a core component of both Delaware's and Tennessee's Race to the Top applications.  The logic seems unassailable: everybody knows that some teachers are more effective than others, and there should be some way of rewarding this effectiveness.  Because students take many more state-mandated tests now than they used to, it seems logical that there should be some way of using those test scores to make the kind of effectiveness judgments that currently get made informally, on less scientific grounds.

The problem is that even if you accept the assumption that standardized tests convey useful information about what students have learned (which we both do, in general), measuring the performance gains (or losses) of students in a particular classroom is far more complicated than subtracting the students' September test scores from their June test scores and averaging out the gains.

The first problem has to do with class sizes..."

" . . .The second general problem has to do with how students end up with particular classmates and particular teachers. . ."

" . . .In both Delaware and Tennessee, students' test-score growth will be combined with other kinds of information to make judgments about teacher performance.  Considering data from multiple sources will help overcome some of the issues we've raised here.  However, looking at "what the numbers say" appeals to policy makers who crave simple indicators of complex phenomena.  Legislators and governors don't have to pass a statistics exam before taking office, and they haven't had an especially good record of listening to educational testing experts before they mandate new uses for test results.  For example, the relevant professional associations have jointly endorsed a set of principles on appropriate uses of tests which, among other things, caution against using a particular test for purposes other than those for which its validity has been studied and confirmed.

Despite this caution, policy makers tend to pile extra uses onto tests once they've required that students take them . . . . . . . . . The tendency has also been for quantitative performance indicators, even if of somewhat dubious quality, to dominate over other forms of evaluation.  We worry that something similar will happen with the use of student performance in determining teachers' pay, promotion, or retention.  "The numbers" look objective to people outside schools, while other measures like analysis of lesson plans or documentation of classroom observations seem by comparison to be imprecise means by which the "education establishment" can continue to protect the incompetent.

Educators have welcomed the Obama administration's willingness to eliminate some of the less logical components of No Child Left Behind, such as the "adequate yearly progress" benchmarks based on unfounded assumptions about how schools improve and on definitions of "proficiency" driven more by political expediency than by an objective definition of what students need to learn in order to succeed in further education and careers.  However, even though we're now "racing to the top" rather than trying to ensure "no child left behind," we still risk basing reasonable-sounding policies on unreasonable assumptions and racing (with apologies to Talking Heads) on a road to nowhere. . ." "

For full post, click here.

 

Post a Comment

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

Passionate about our edu-nation?

RIFF it here

Follow The Daily Riff on Follow TDR on Twitter

find us on facebook

Green.bubbles.anti-creativity.jpg

The "Anti-Creativity Checklist"

CJW, 10.19.2010

14 Ways To Say NO to Innovation: Harvard's Youngme Moon
Who Said Education Wasn't Like Business?

Read Post | Comments

Riffing good stories

robinson.jpg

Sir Ken Robinson "Changing the Education Paradigm" with New Video

CJW, 10.18.2010

The geographic ADHD map is a hoot, while the over-arching message and smug thinking in certain academic/thought-leader/politico circles is not . . .

Read Post | Comments
book.reading.nonreader.jpg

How to Create Nonreaders

CJW, 10.18.2010

Alfie Kohn Delivers a Powerful Essay About Motivation, Learning &
Sharing Power in the Classroom

Read Post | Comments
bullyparents.jpg

"How to Turn Your Kid Into a Bully"

CJW, 10.18.2010

How do you solve family conflicts?"How are bullies born?  The issue has been the subject of intense study . . . ." as reported by Tom Jacobs in a much needed look at the possible origins of bullying behavior:  the...

Read Post | Comments
visionsof math.jpg

Visions of Mathematics

CJW, 10.16.2010

Ben Daley of High Tech High Outlines a Revolutionary Approach to Math

Read Post | Comments
benjamin.jpg

"A Radical Idea For Changing Math Education"

CJW, 10.16.2010

(Ed. Note: Two posts today on this subject, also see "Visions of Mathematics" An Outline for a Revolutionary Approach to Math Education")"Insanity:  doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results".                - Albert EinsteinArthur Benjamin, aka "Mr. Math",...

Read Post | Comments
chinese_students.jpg

The Chinese Curse. Is America Next?

CJW, 10.15.2010

"HIGH SCORES BUT LOW ABILITY"
Is America Leaving Behind What Asia Wants? : Controversial Book & Video

Read Post | Comments
President.Obama.mirror.jpg

Education of a President

CJW, 10.15.2010

"Change is hard," Obama says. "If people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."- "Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview" by Jann Wenner"'Given how much stuff was...

Read Post | Comments
ObamaBarakChange.jpg

A Very Modern President: Music Spoof

CJW, 10.14.2010

Hilarious. . . H/t PBS tweet.  Video below:...

Read Post | Comments