Reading about school change for 4/4

jccohen's picture

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Michaelaplus's picture

The above all comment are

The above all comment are giving more and more info on above statement, really i appreciate to all, and thank you so much,

dshu's picture

Should evaluations of teachers rest on students’ test scores?

My response is yes, but how? This question has become a very debatable issue as every latest school reforms around the country are centered on the students’ performance. How to evaluate student performance? I strongly agree with “By evaluating the progress of each individual student in their classrooms against that student’s own progress in earlier school years.  ….. takes into account …learning disabilities...” (CQ Researcher p.388) is a fair way to judge teachers’ success, according to Ms. Marcia Clemmitt. Then, should we use the mandated standard achievement tests to evaluate students’ performance? I would say no. I think we need to consider Finnish’s approach on their student assessments. We need to develop new ways to evaluate our students’ performance. Classroom teachers should have their independence, under their own school review, on their student assessment. The current standard achievement tests are very detrimental to our education system. Look at what happened this week, 35 administrators and teachers from Atlantic School District have been charged with fraud on their students’ test scores. The superintendent was awarded as “The Year of Superintendent” and the involved teachers were awarded with bonus. Parents are complaining about their children are actually three grades behind their current grades. So I think we need to come up with an adapted Finland student assessment soon.  

AmbrosiaJ's picture

Yes

Partially, yes. The sole purpose of teachers is to ensure that students are learning. In the world we live in, exams are important tools to test this. If teachers aren't equipping students with what's needed to pass these exams, then I do believe that their teaching methods needs to be expanded or altered. 

ccalderon's picture

Evaluations

When reading the articles I also thought about evaluations. I was curious as to what evaluation model worked. But what I thinking we have to keep in mind is if there is one form of evaluation that fits with every teacher? Are we one generic type of people? I see that with NCLBH and trying to evaluate an unequal education. This might be straying a bit from your orginal post but your post reminded me of that thought I had. 

Sharaai's picture

I have to agree on the

I have to agree on the  question of evaluations and assessments. I really don't think there is one simple method that can be instilled in our nation that would allow for equal assessment of all teachers and students. I hate to state my doubts but I feel like they are reasonable doubts.  With a population as diverse as ours, one form of assessment 50 would be incredibly difficult to implement. I just keep going back to the idea of individualized assessment and just individualized educational plans, that are from a national implementation. Like we've read before, we have about 50 finlands in the US, why not look for those unique plans?

jcb2013's picture

Firing Teachers

"It takes two years, $200,000 and 15 percent of the principal's total time to get one bad teacher out of the classroom."- Terry M. Moe, Hoover Institute (CQ Researcher)

This statement is truly startling.  Obviously we don't have a legitimate method for assessing teacher effectiveness currently across our US education system, but as students and future teachers most of us have had experiences with teachers who are ineffective, and not meeting their responsibility to students.  Whether this issue is a fault created by the unions or not, it seems detrimental to teachers, students, and school districts. 

This type of termination system allows for teachers (unless they're removed from the classroom--but continue to be paid!!) to continue to teach during this time.  This means two years worth of students are not receiving the education that they are entitled to.  It also can be argued that bad teachers cause a bad reputation for teachers as a whole.  This has been reflected in the media in recent years causing teachers to be blamed for failures within our school system.  While I believe that teachers do play an integral role in student achievement, and therefore, should be held to high standards, teachers that are not fulfilling their responsibilities are causing even more disrespect for the teaching profession than already previously existed.  In addition to students and teachers, school districts are also being hindered by an inability to fire ineffective teachers.  During this time period most of these teachers are still getting paid, while remaining ineffective in their classrooms, or continuing to get paid even after they've been removed from the classroom. This means that school districts are still paying full salaries for teachers who are not meeting expectations.  This is expensive and a waste of money, especially during a time when so many programs within education are getting cut. In addition, the teachers' poor teaching is reflected in low student performance, which is not only detrimental to students, but to the standards that schools and districts are held to as well.   

In an argument for practicality I think we should think more about how other professions hiring/firing processes work.  Obviously, each profession is different and we cannot expect (or want) to directly implement their processes onto the teaching profession, but I think it would be beneficial to recognize how other professions are held to certain standards, and to learn how those who do not meet those standards are dealt with (whether they are retrained, put on probation, or fired, etc.).  I, myself feel that I do not have a solution as to how our ineffective teachers should be dealt with, especially because as was mentioned in the CQ Researcher article, we do not currently have an effective way to assess teacher effectiveness. But I do believe that this practice of Principal's fighting for two years to potentially (they may not be successful) fire teachers who are thought to be ineffective is something we should all think more about.  Who is benefitting from this system? Who is being hurt by this system?  And is it possible to fix this process before we've developed a more effective teacher assessment strategy?

sully04's picture

More Questions

I agree with your sentiments about Terry Moe's staggering quote "It takes two years, $200,000 and 15 percent of the principal's total time to get one bad teacher out of the classroom."- Terry M. Moe, Hoover Institute (CQ Researcher). Those are some shocking numbers, especially given the fact that in most other profession (especially professions that are highly valued), part of the competitive edge is how easily one can be fired. Yet, I can't help but think of a conversation our working group had a few weeks ago. Multiple group members had experienced in their field placement a teacher who was worried about their class' test scores and that reflection on their job. From the assessment of my peers, these were well-qualified teachers who are good at their jobs, yet the low test scores of their students (for various reasons such as ELL and learning disabilities) did not reflect how well their class had been learning all year. These teachers had good test scores in the past, but were feelign pressure from their principals because of only one year of low scores. In these cases, how can evaluate teachers without relying on test scores that can be misleading? I agree that standards need to be met- but the standards need to be evaluated by a team of people who observe and evaluate a teachers work before making assumptions. Once a full observation and thorough evaluation of a teacher is made, I do think that firing in a swifter manner than 2 years would inrease competition - like in other highly regarded professions. The competitive edge seems to be useful in making teachers stronger. (We've also discussed how teacher effectiveness is predicated on their willingness to work together and make each other better. In a competitive environment, rather than a community, would this work? The cycle of questions continues...)

mencabo's picture

Modeling the Way

I have mentioned this before, but the readings for this week really support the idea that despite the immovable structures that confine schools (e.g. NCLB, standardized testing), in order to change any aspect of a school, teachers and principals have to model the way. Both Travers and Richman pointed out that shared leadership is one of the most important elements in school change. It also creates a sense of unity in the school and among the faculty. (Sahlberg pointed out the importance of achieving unity too.) After all, if schools are trying to tackle big systems and policies like NCLB, sending one principal or teacher out into the battlefield will be futile. After reading these texts, I’ve come to see school change as a strategy game, but one that has really high stakes.

Since it involves a lot of strategizing, teachers and leaders have to figure out how to make the resistance work to their advantage. For example, in Baker (the school) “test prep was embedded in authentic classroom instruction to develop writing, problem solving and higher order thinking skills. It was an integral part of lessons rather than narrowly focused on skills needed to do well on the test” (18). Also, on p. 19, it says that students assess/rate each other’s work, which helps “engage students as agents in their own learning.”

 If we think of the exams and NCLB as stepping stones that can help us reach our bigger goals, then maybe we can begin to accomplish both what the state/district demands and our own vision of education (i.e. more creative learning and teaching). Of course this is hard to do and we can see that the principal and the faculty at Baker worked really hard to achieve a balance. This is why even figuring out how to work within these structures requires a lot of creativity, which is actually the topic of our group teaching for next week.  

I’ll end with a quote from the principal: “If you want people to appreciate the work you do, unfortunately, you’ve got to hit the mark…if this school hits the mark this year, somebody’s going to look a little more seriously at what we’re doing” (25). From the information that we received in this research, I think they’re doing a good job modeling the way.

mschoyer's picture

Your post speaks to exactly

Your post speaks to exactly what I've been noticing in my field placement. Between the two elementary schools I have been in this semester, I have seen striking differences. These schools are in the same district, and on paper, should be fairly similar. The culture within the schools, however, are much different from one another. Talking to my field teacher today, she highlighted the difference between the staffs. The principal at School A is far less accomadating than the principal at School B. He is less open to changes, can be strict, and likes things a certain way. This trickles down to the teachers and some of them behave similarly. With this said, I can also see how it could happen the opposite way (teachers' attitudes "rubbing off" on a principal). The environment I've seen does not hurt the children in any obvious ways, but its hard to tell. I think working  towards a more positive school culture would be best for the students. Although your post talks more about testing, I have seen first hand how a staff truly shapes school culture, in both a negative and a positive way. In order for a school to be the best it can possibly be, the entire staff needs to work together, like at Baker, in order to strike a balance and provide an ideal environment for students.

transitfan's picture

validating success

In the CQ article: "'Critics focus too much on proposals for firing unsuccessful teachers while ignoring plans to use...public recognition to reward teachers whose students improve,' [Broad Foundation director] McGinity says."

My initial reaction was that this was a ridiculous point; what kind of teacher works hard so that they will be recognized in the city newspaper? Certainly not the teachers in successful schools in Finland, and certainly not the teachers I know and respect. It should not come as a surprise that I am opposed to business-style competition as a model for improving schools, or anything for that matter. But in the Cook and Travers pieces I was reminded that there is a different type of validation.

In the Cook article; the use of consensus was cited as a reason for success within the Julia Richman Education Complex. While slow and sometimes difficult (like many of the best educational reforms- maybe all?) consensus is a process which can validate the thinking of all participants who approach it in good faith.

In contrast, the Travers demonstrated the frustration that educators feel when their work is not validated. The Baker school distrcit was implimenting reforms and strategies which were having a positive impact, but the impact was not validated by the district or the state testing.  "Baker was one of the schools [that would have made AYP under PVAAS], a significant achievement for the school, because it validated the school's commitment to support the learning of all students." To be sure, this would have been less significant had the district not been also threatening punitive action against the school. But validation not related to official AYP calculations were still important: "Baker was one of the schools [that would have made AYP under PVAAS], a significant achievement for the school, because it validated the school's commitment to support the learning of all students." (29) On an individual level, teachers expressed that it was important to them to get feedback from the principal and teacher-leaders. On a personal level, although I certainly would not teach or recognition or be more likely to become a great teacher with the promise of my name in the paper, having my thoughts and work validated by professors and collegues is important to me.

Maybe educators do need to feel validated, just not as the high-stakes accountability advocates mean it. A collaborative rather than competitive validation.

ellenv's picture

This ties in well to

This ties in well to conversation that we were having in a small group last week. A group member was commenting on the fact that in comparing Finland to the U.S., you can't say that it comes down to a presence of high stakes testing in the U.S. and an absence in Finland, because Finland does indeed have high stakes testing albeit later and less frequently. The key difference in these testing situations might be the individuals that this high stakes testing impacts. In the U.S., high stakes testing is not student centered. I mean that in the sense that this testing only really has an impact on a student if they fail (and even then, there doesn't seem to be a lot of consistency with how low scores on these tests are dealt with). The people that feel the impact of the tests the most are the teachers and school administrators, who are judged and compared using these scores in order to create a level of accountability. Alternatively, in Finland, the high stakes tests that students take are student centered. These tests directly affect the educational direction that students will take post-testing. While these scores could be used to hold teachers accountable, that is not the main focus of the testing. 

The language used in the CQ article really highlighted the extent to which high stakes testing in the U.S. is less about the students and more about comparision, whether it be comparison between teachers, districts, states, or the U.S. with other countries. I think this ties into your point about teacher validation. Even if teachers have students that are doing well on the tests, if they do not believe in the measures being used in said testing, then the high scores that their students produce might not be personally validating, even if they are recognized for this "achievement." In that sense, I think we need to recognize that one weakness of the market based system is that teachers have different motivations. This means that while the system of rewards and punishments might work well for some teachers, it isn't going to work for everyone. In a learning-behavior class I took a while back, the professor repeatedly stressed that different things are reinforcers for different people, a fact which I don't think the market based system takes into account, as is evidenced by your discussion of teacher validation.

Uninhibited's picture

Can assessment get creative?

I agree with the point that you make here in regards to collaboration vs. competition. I know that the US is in general a very competitive country and this is obviously showcased in its education policies. Race to the Top for example, is a very competitive model that was set forth by the Obama administration. The problem with completion though is that it means that there are always winners and losers, and that losers can be making good progress or demonstrates good work but they'll still be "losers." I think that this was the case at Baker, where there was an obvious effort to make change and improvement but this was not validated by the mechanism of testing. My problem with testing besides it's competitive aspect is also that it does not leave room for real assessment that is responsive to the needs/achievements of students. A student who may have achieved tremendous progress in one school year can feel very discouraged by tests that measure him/her up to standard that did not recognize this effort. In general, I think that we could think of alternative ways to measure student progress that leaves room for other forms of assessment, I just think that we have to be willing to step outside of what is the norm. I know its idealistic, but I would really like to see the type of freedom that we get in the BiCo when it comes to showcasing our learning. This seems to be a much more productive way that increases opportunity for collaboration and creativity.

Uninhibited's picture

Can assessment get creative?

I agree with the point that you make here in regards to collaboration vs. competition. I know that the US is in general a very competitive country and this is obviously showcased in its education policies. Race to the Top for example, is a very competitive model that was set forth by the Obama administration. The problem with completion though is that it means that there are always winners and losers, and that losers can be making good progress or demonstrates good work but they'll still be "losers." I think that this was the case at Baker, where there was an obvious effort to make change and improvement but this was not validated by the mechanism of testing. My problem with testing besides it's competitive aspect is also that it does not leave room for real assessment that is responsive to the needs/achievements of students. A student who may have achieved tremendous progress in one school year can feel very discouraged by tests that measure him/her up to standard that did not recognize this effort. In general, I think that we could think of alternative ways to measure student progress that leaves room for other forms of assessment, I just think that we have to be willing to step outside of what is the norm. I know its idealistic, but I would really like to see the type of freedom that we get in the BiCo when it comes to showcasing our learning. This seems to be a much more productive way that increases opportunity for collaboration and creativity.

Sarah's picture

Baker and AYP: what's going wrong?

Reading Travers’ article about how Baker continually failed to make AYP really made me question what are standardized tests measuring and how are they being designed.  Baker sounded like a really great school: my main criticisms of the article were that we didn’t actually get any real time in class observations (they may have great philosophy but struggle to implement it) and the issue of attendance was brought up a few times and stuck out to me (if kids aren’t in school, how are they expected to learn?).  But besides that, I was really on board with the way the Travers described the schools, especially the concern for every child’s education, it’s connection to the Coalition of Essential Schools, and what seemed to be very regular opportunities for teacher development and meetings.  It was really sad to see how the pressures of testing negatively impacted the things I thought were so great about the school.  For example, instead of focusing on every child, the principal felt pressure to “think more strategically” and instruct teachers to do things like select the “chosen ten” and essentially track the students based on test scores.  I also was sad to read that the school does less project based tasks, because although I understand these projects are time consuming, I think they teach important skills like critical thinking and the ability to work as a team.

As I read the article and was for the most part impressed with Baker school, I kept wondering, “Why aren’t they passing the tests?”  Rather than blame the school and the students though, I question how these tests are being designed.  What are they asking for? Yes, I agree that having standards is necessary to an extend: all students need to be able to read for instance.  But how does one go about testing that? And how can we be relying so heavily on test results if the tests might be faulty? 

rbp13's picture

Assessment and Focus on the Individual Learner

“If you’re going to help the kids see any significance in why you’re doing some of what you are doing, you’ve got to make sure that they understand what their own data suggests, whether it’s PSSA, benchmarks, their classroom achievement data, whatever it might be…And then make sure that they understand how they can make improvement” (p. 17).

After reading Travers’ (2009) paper, this quote remained salient and helped to alleviate some of the tension that I perceive between the ideal classroom environment, and the goals imposed by standardized testing. While I recognize the importance of standards, and assessments to evaluate students in relation to these standards, one of my biggest criticisms of this system is that it does not emphasize feedback. Research in psychology has shown that motivation is a significant predictor of academic achievement. Additionally, receiving feedback on one’s performance increases students’ motivation because it provides a context for the task and prevents students from seeing the task in isolation. Often, standardized tests, particularly the high-stakes tests mandated by NCLB, do not provide the opportunity for feedback to occur. Teachers, students, and their families receive the results of these tests but, until reading about Baker, I had never heard of teachers referencing specific aspects of the tests as a means of improving students’ performance. Travers quotes a teacher from Baker in her discussion of how data from these tests is used to increase achievement: “Which three standards did the kids do poorly on? And which kids were they?...What was it that messed them up when they did the benchmarks?...What was it when they read it that stumped them? Why did they get this standard wrong?” (p. 16). I think this way of thinking is a productive way to integrate the requirements of standardized testing and the goals of more comprehensive learning. Also, through presenting standardized assessment as a method of improving students’ learning, some of the pressure to perform is taken off the students. This too will improve students’ achievement.

I also appreciate Baker’s use of additional, performance-based assessments as a means of evaluating student ability more holistically. Not only were they used to assess students, but they also served to “help teachers identify they ways individual students learned, to gauge students’ academic strengths and weaknesses, and to design interventions for groups of students in a timely manner” (p. 16). Thus, assessment is being used but the focus is on the individual learner, rather than on the score and its implications at a policy level.          

lyoo's picture

feedback key

I agree with rbp13's criticism of the NCLB system-- that these state tests don't offer feedback, but simply churn out a numerical score that does little more than compare stuedents to other students in the state. I agree that feedback is critical to a student's growth and learning.  There is no point in taking/giving tests in and educational setting if these tests don't indicate what the student could be working on.  I remember when I took the PSSA's I would simply be given the score report to take home, and we never went over the questions I may have gotten wrong.  

Like rbp13,  I am also glad that Baker tried to make use of these standardized tests by analyzing the results in order to "know what data are attached to each student" (16).  But ultimately these tests were not enough and they needed to give additional assessments in order to achieve their goal of "tailored day-to-day instruction." I wonder how things could be different if Baker's teachers were allowed to come up with their own form of assessment.  If like in Finland, the teachers at Baker weren't beholden to state testing and could tailor their assessments, this whole process could be streamlined and work more efficiently.  If the teachers know what set of data they want to collect about their students, then they could give one comprehensive assessment in order to get the information they need to know to adjust their curriculum. 

hl13's picture

project-based learning

In this week’s reading I was struck by the positive aspects of Baker’s curriculum in the Travers article, and how the NCLB and AYP requirements impeded their pedagogical goals by enforcing short-term requirements. The paper describes how the school needed to balance its vision with the state and national requirements, which I think seemed to be overall negative for the school. In particular, I appreciated that “The school’s goals included helping students apply what they learned in classes to the outside world and preparing all students for life-long learning rather than short-term achievement on the PSSA” (8). This relates to something we have talked about repeatedly in class in terms of our reservations about high-stakes testing. Clearly, the requirements and tests are getting in the way of the leadership’s vision for the school, which is the same as the goals of NCLB: to give each student at the school a quality education. The problem seems to be primarily Baker’s low scores, but also the limitations of the short-term requirements of national and state oversight. Both have the same goal, but the methods conflict.

 

I thought Baker’s most admirable strategies were those they paid to life-long learning, creativity, and individualization. Particularly, “the decision to implement project-based learning as part of the curriculum, albeit it to a limited extent, took time from the Core Curriculum but promoted student creativity, inquiry, and collaborative learning” (26). I think those are vitally important parts of school life, and project-based learning is something I have thought a lot about in my education courses and field placements. (Because I think it’s great!) In my field placement this year, I see a lot of project-based learning and I think it works really well. The class has put on a musical (combining music and dance learning, along with teamwork, etc.), worked on a social studies/writing project about a coal mining community, written their own fairy tales after reading their own (and books based on fairy tales such as The Hobbit), and come up with an independent newspaper project which I will help them with. This has been one of the things I appreciate the most about my placement classroom, because I think it creates an excellent educational environment, though it makes sense how it wouldn’t directly relate to NCLB’s Core Curriculum, which is unfortunate.

 

Ultimately, it seemed that AYP got in the way of Baker’s positive mission: you’re not engaging kids through their interests and talent… because of this AYP oversight and so forth, project-based learning has been put on the back burner” (23). At my placement school, which is private, they not would likely have very high test scores, but they also do not have oversight. In terms of project-based learning, I think this is a positive thing for them. In the end, the questions I have arising from this study were, how do we get the political world to trust schools like Baker, whose leadership seemed qualified and dedicated to high achievement for all students? It seems like oversight just got in the way of what the school wanted to do. I understand it’s important to make sure schools are doing well, but in this case there was a disconnect. Also, in this environment of scrutiny and accountability, how can political bodies (like NCLB) promote project-based learning, which is hard to define but seems so vital?

 

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