Posts Tagged ‘evaluation’

School in 2013

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

We found out what it’s like to be on pins and needles in anticipation of the outcome of each adult’s personal assets. The 112th Congress finally forced itself to raise hands; so now we know who pays and how much.

Soon the country can anticipate the Battle of Spending Cuts. Most important to teachers, what about the United State government’s ability to fund programs for positive student achievement? Will all education funds be cut?

One can thank California voters for decisions in the last election to pass Proposition 30 by a good margin which means that the state will be able to balance its budget and fund public schools and other safety net issues. In addition, Proposition 32 was defeated by a large margin so it can be said that people in California don’t want outside Super PAC money to influence the state and, at the same time, squelching union contributions to support programs that are in its interests.

In spite of constant country-wide criticism from supposed experts who blame unions for all state problems, it can be said in California that there is still a place for group advocacy.

For teachers it’s surprising to find out that in 1865, fifteen years after California became a state and formed its legislature, John Swett, the first organizer of the California Educators Society (original name of California Teachers Association), asked for “fair share” taxation to support public schools. Later the association advocated for the first state-wide school tax. In 1866 legislation to establish free public schools became law. Class-size reduction was legislated in 1895.

Amazing! It’s almost 2013 and the same issues that promote student achievement come around again. While you teach, expect to think about and even volunteer for committees on the myriad issues involving teacher evaluation, quality of learning, and due process.

Teachers, no matter where you are, keep a smile on your face, but be determined in 2013 to remember the past and pursue the future success for all your students.

An addendum to the post on Guns in Schools: It has been noted in the media that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF)  has long been without a director, only acting directors and deputies have been in charge of ATF policies. For a strong background check system, a director must be  confirmed by the Senate which has been dragging its feet on approval of all appointments needed by the current administration. Safety in schools depends on swift action.

Teacher Thoughts on Testing

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Teachers, have you read about the angry strikes in Chicago, fury at the San Francisco school board, union relief that collective bargaining may not be cut off in Wisconsin?

teacher team analyzing tests

teacher team analyzing tests

Actually, the education issues that have disrupted the beginning of the 2012-13 school year drill down to more debate over teacher evaluation. But make no mistake, you can google loads of successful ways to collaboratively implement a new system.

However, put aside the fact that students from mid to high income families do well and really good teachers provide a great education. In low-income neighborhoods, difficulties arise, even in schools deluged with resources. Home situations for the students in those schools make even the safest school haven a precarious place for academic achievement.

The expert’s mantra is high quality teachers, longer school hours, and rigorous testing. Despite nodding heads, only longer school hours can be implemented and maintained with minimal contest. Good teaching can over time be developed, encouraged, improved, and supported.

Rigorous testing is a great idea, but have you ever seen a standardized or criterion-referenced test that met the student’s assessment needs all the time? The goal is to assess students’ achievement at grade level proficiency, but have you seen 50 different state tests provide consistent and comparable outcomes? Nevertheless, a single test score is the part of evaluation that preoccupies all stakeholders-teachers, administrators, department of education officials.

Even when the school relies on formative testing (assessments every eight weeks or so to analyze student success and student needs), factors outside the classroom must also be confronted before real achievement can be seen.

What about…

Who is making up the tests? A nation-wide company trying to please 50 state curriculums? A test publishing company niggling over questions to cover every single state standard for a grade level?

Do the test items really assess the grade level skill? For instance, does a first grader make an error (choose ‘bad’ rather than ‘dad’) because he hasn’t mastered the letter sounds or because he mixes the shape of the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’?

Is a student’s age taken into account in the scaled or percentile score that shows success?

Does the teacher’s evaluation, points given for how many students perform proficiently on one yearly test, take account of the transiency of students in her class during the year? Give credit for the high-performing, low-performing, and behavior modifications among students in the class? Balance the pros and cons of her years of teaching?

Teachers, keep in mind that good evaluation tools should rely on adequate professional development, decent facilities to provide students and teachers a safe learning environment, enough administrative and community support. Then good student test scores can be used for a percentage of your yearly evaluation.

Waivers Set Off More Change

Friday, July 13th, 2012

The news that five more states have received waivers from Congress’s 2001 No Child Left Behind Act adds up to 29 states so far that have requested help from the United States Department of Education.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation which has cluttered Senate and House committee desks since the 2007 date for revision, still has not made it to any votes. Therefore, action by the U.S. Department of Education allows states to make changes. Several other states who have sent applications for waivers have not received notification yet. And Iowa, for instance, had no measures for teacher performance in its application and was returned for further development.

For a state to get a waiver to abandon NCLB goals of 100% student academic grade level status by 2014, the application must have new reasonable standards in place that evaluate school and teacher progress for student academic success. The waivers must emphasize service to special education, English Language Learners, and economically disadvantaged youth. Test scores on a yearly summative test must be used as only one of several factors such as peer review, graduation rates, and attendance to establish school success.

Waivers are big news. Another specific issue in the media concerns middle school age students. (See New York Times, 6-18-2012, The Middle School Conundrum) Should those students be relegated to separate schools with teachers who are isolated from elementary teachers? Often, especially with budget cuts by state legislatures, teachers do not receive professional development that may open eyes to the range of academic and social/emotional issues for that age student.

The question comes down to support K-8 schools or 6-8 middle schools. Honestly, the configuration of school demographics and infrastructure for each school district will determine the outcome. Either way, the administration and faculty must set up the school program to care for the intellectual range and be sensitive to the emotional needs of these students.

No state education department want students to fail a reading or math course, have a poor attendance rate, receive marks for unsatisfactory behavior. That student is unlikely to graduate.

With the possibility of failure or success in mind, Ohio has been in the news for revising its school goals. (See The Plain Dealer 7-2012) With a GOP governor and legislature, a Democratic mayor in Cleveland, a strong superintendent of Cleveland schools, and 2010 Race to the Top funds, the state will put a new plan in place by the 2013-2014 school year, affecting all state schools but especially Cleveland.

The most important changes were agreed to by all from the governor to the teachers. The school principals as well as teachers will be observed, asked to establish yearly goals, and be evaluated on them. Principals will be required to assert more academic leadership, not just address the budget and discipline. Evaluations for all school employees will determine hiring, moving to another school, and raises. Seniority will not be the factor it once was. Besides test scores, staff will take part in team professional activities and engage the community.

For Cleveland Schools, the need for change is most important. The schools have depressed scores which has led to Watch status. Passage of a tax bond will be required to support changes in Cleveland.

Hope for success.

Raise Your Voice! Resist! Reform!

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Union! Union! Sometimes good. Sometimes too late.

Last year Los Angeles needed a legal settlement before the district spread layoffs around, not keeping to the rule of seniority. Earlier this year, San Francisco had its chance, wiping away seniority when turning around failing schools. Of late Oakland Public Schools teachers face the same long-established union rule, waving their hands in resistance to a plan to reform some of its very low-performing public high schools-first of all, by ignoring seniority and making all teachers re-apply to teach in the three high schools. See “Teachers resist radical reform” by Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2012.

If only a decent teacher-administrator-school evaluation was part of California’s Education Code. Some education experts blame the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers for resistance to change the rules. Other pundits cheer the need to bargain. Think of the current debacle in Wisconsin.

The state legislature has proposed a considerable number of bills to address education issues, but only one calsl for evaluation legislation for each district. Money seems to be the first issue.

Assembly Bill -AB 18 has offered the largest reforms depending on funds, even supported by Tom Torlakson, current Superintendent of Instruction. AB 721 and AB 1741 have been read to the legislature to promote similar reforms for post-secondary education, including mechanisms to restore funding.

On the other hand, there is a pro and con silent argument over the part of the education code that requires sex education and proposes a bill to “opt out.” Look at AB 1756 versus AB 1857 which includes teaching curriculum on sexual violence and requiring administrators to perform specific roles similar to requirements in elementary schools (AB 1880). Senate Bill-SB 1080 supports particulars of sex education also.

Speaking of funding, the big issue for California schools from kindergarten to post-secondary is the passage (or not) of one of the initiatives in the November election.  Bills that address the funding issue are AB 2202 and SB 1461 for post-secondary services.

The only bill that addresses evaluation-seniority comes in here-is Senate Bill 1458, written it seems to benefit the Tom Torlakson and the state’s Department of Education if a waiver proposal is sent to the U.S. Department of Education. The bill asks for changes to teacher and student accountability; changes to the scores used as benchmarks for the state’s Academic Performance Index (API); and graduation rate changes.

Will such a California bill pass and be signed? There are months and months to wait for new legislation in 2012.

Charter Schools-the Latest

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

David Sirota, liberal but not an expert on education details, wrote a piece for the New York Times, Friday, March 23, headlined “Charter schools aren’t solving education ills.”

a beach town elementary in California

a beach town elementary in California

No kidding! But dutiful as this blog is, earlier charter school posts, dated 9-9-2009, 12-9-2009, 1-27-2010, and 6-23-2010, were reviewed to see if some other answer could be found. Nope.

The topic is brought up every few months. According to Sirota “inevitably the conversation turns to charter schools-those publicly funded, privately administered institutions.” As of 2012 the statistics claim 2 million American students at charter schools all over the United States. Compare that number to 6 million students in traditional public schools in California alone.

In 2012, looking at current deficits, states can’t bear to rewrite state tests, put new evaluation procedures in place, provide adequate funds to train teachers at colleges, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools, the main reason education “experts” always claim charter schools are the “silver bullet.” Even so all those revisions must occur to close the achievement gap-the main goal for which charter schools have been contemplated.

The National Education Association (NEA) “believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.”

And there’s the problem as we’ve read in report after report, some mentioned in Sirota’s column. The main criticism is that the charter school close to your home may not improve the child’s academic success (as shown by test scores). Why? For all the same reasons that your traditional neighborhood pubic school may not be up-to-par.

Then, what’s to talk about for your next conversation? Here’s the list. Charter and traditional public schools can insist on a test that follows the Common Core Standards that all but a few states have agreed to. Doesn’t have to be the same test-who wants to be accused of manipulating the free market for developing tests. The question once the tests are developed probably should be can the tests be compared to find out if the achievement gap among students is closing.

Next, young children who enter Kindergarten before 5 years of age might be allowed more than one year to prepare themselves for the rigors of first grade reading and mathematics in a 21st century education. Is your child young and does the local school (charter or traditional) provide this transitional opportunity if he/she is not ready? It’s been put off in California.

Finally,many education go-getters advocate for “choice” by parents. Home-schooling is the choice of one GOP candidate. To top it off, a fee voucher is put forward by so-called authorities to choose a parochial, private, or charter school. Charters are authorized with the promise to improve student achievement as a condition of relief from some of the rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools. However, since the public school district already pays for a chartered school, why would a voucher help?

For writers of this blog, as the NEA suggests, employees of such schools should be subject to the same public sector labor relations statutes as traditional public schools. In addition, charter school employees should have the same collective bargaining rights as their counterparts in traditional public schools.

There we are-stuck with a conflict that cannot and will not be compromised. No new state tests, no new evaluation procedures in place, no adequate funds to train teachers at colleges, much less support school districts to turn around failing schools.