Sunday Leftovers

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Stephen Sawchuk in EdWeek looks at the new Gates Foundation study on the validity of value-added teacher evaluations:

“Value added” gauges based on growth in student test scores and students’ perceptions of their teachers both hold promise as components of a system for identifying and promoting teacher effectiveness, according to preliminary findings from the first year of a major study.
The analysis shows that teachers’ value-added histories strongly predicted how they would perform in other classrooms or school years—as did students’ perceptions of their teachers’ ability to maintain order in the classroom and provide challenging lessons.

The Star-Ledger interviews one of the nine members of the Governor’s Task Force on evaluating teachers, Donna Chiera of the American Federation of Teachers (i.e., the union representative who is unconnected with NJEA):

Q. Why has the AFT been more open to the educational reform agenda than the NJEA?

A. I think in general, the AFT has always been a more practical organization. Randi Weingarten, the national AFT president, has a realistic philosophy: Instead of having it done to us, it needs to be done with us. To be honest, there are members who do not agree with that position. There’s opposition and push-back, but Randi’s message has been clear: This is going to happen. As for the NJEA, I know their position at a national level has been, “We’re not agreeing with this.” But that’s not going to do their members any good. That’s just going to leave all the decisions to the non-educators.

NJSBA President Raymond Wiss in his testimony to the Senate Education Committee on the need for tenure reform: “Our state’s public schools have succeeded in spite of, not because of, the current tenure system. In elementary and secondary public education, tenure does not exist to preserve academic freedom or to advance knowledge; it merely serves as lifetime job protection.”

Key point from NJ Spotlight’s coverage of the tenure hearings (and one of the reasons we lost Race To The Top): “And while there has been much discussion of better linking teacher with student performance, an official from the state Department of Education conceded the state still lacked the data system to even track such a link. He said it is still at least a year away. ‘We don’t have the data system to prove that a teacher is ineffective,’ said Chris Emigholz, the department’s legislative liaison.’ With the current system, it is hard to get there.’”

Speaking of flawed data, Joan Whitlow of the Star-Ledger looks at incompatible numbers for Newark’s high school graduation rate.

Rishawn Biddle at Drop Out Nation discusses lessons in school finance gleaned from Jersey City and notes that while there has been some improvement in graduation rates, there’s been a steep decline for young white females: in 2004, 91% of white girls made it to their senior year of high school, but in 2009 only 69% did.

The Courier-Post has a smart and thorough review of issues surrounding caps on superintendent salaries.

The Record on America’s PISA scores
: “Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment released Tuesday show 15-year-old students in the U.S. performing about average in reading and science, and below average in math. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.”

The Washington Post reports on a study from the Tennessee State Board of Education that shows that teachers trained by Teach For America are getting better test scores out of their students than nearly every college of education in the state (the only exception: math teachers from Vanderbilt University).

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1 Comment

  • kallikak, December 12, 2010 @ 6:01 pm Reply

    The first sentence of the Gates report:

    “Evidence shows clearly what most people know intuitively: teachers matter more to student learning than anything else inside a school.”

    Color my intuition faulty: students–and the attitudes and work habits they bring from home–matter more to student learning than anything else inside a school.

    If you doubt this, take the challenge, i.e., swap six teachers each from high- and low-performing schools for a year and objectively measure the impact on trendlines of student achievement.

    Another, related conundrum: how much “deadwood” do you expect to find* in high-performing school districts using these metrics?

    *It should be there. Why would you expect an uneven distribution if the same flawed tenure system is used in every district?

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