Today's news -- May 7, 2014



Federal judge: It’s ridiculous to judge teachers by test scores of students they don’t have, but it’s legal in Florida

A federal judge in Florida said that it is wildly unfair that the state evaluates many teachers on the standardized test scores of students they don’t have or subjects they don’t teach, but he ruled that can’t stop it because it is legal. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker ruled in a lawsuit filed in 2013 by seven teachers and their unions which challenged the state’s educator evaluation system. The teachers said they had been or would be evaluated on the scores of students they haven’t taught and on subjects they don’t teach and that this violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clause of the Constitution.  How does this work?  Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exams are only for math and reading. Teachers in all other subjects are evaluated on school-wide averages for FCAT scores. Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, said that only about 30 percent of Florida public school teachers teach both students and subjects for which there are FCAT tests. Kim Cook, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, was evaluated at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school where she works and was named Teacher of the Year in December 2012 . Her students were too young to take the Florida Comprehensive Assessment System (FCAT), but 40 percent of that evaluation was based on test scores of students at Alachua Elementary, a school into which Irby feeds, whom she never taught.  Plaintiff Catherine Boehme, a certified biology teacher at West Florida High School of Advanced Technology in Escambia County in 2011-12, argued that half of her evaluation was flawed and shouldn’t be used for high-stakes purposes, but many states are doing it anyway. In Florida, half of a teacher’s evaluation comes from these scores and the other half from administrative observation; the ratios are different in different states. Walker agreed that the evaluation practice was unfair, but said the case was about the legality of the assessment system, according to a statement by the Florida Education Association: “The unfairness of the evaluation system as implemented is not lost on this Court,” he wrote. “We have a teacher evaluation system in Florida that is supposed to measure the individual effectiveness of each teacher. But as the Plaintiffs have shown, the standards for evaluation differ significantly. FCAT teachers are being evaluated using an FCAT VAM that provides an individual measurement of a teacher’s contribution to student improvement in the subjects they teach.” He noted that the FCAT VAM has been applied to teachers whose students are tested in a subject that teacher does not teach and to teachers who are measured on students they have never taught, writing that “the FCAT VAM has been applied as a school-wide composite score that is the same for every teacher in the school. It does not contain any measure of student learning growth of the … teacher’s own students.” In his ruling, Judge Walker indicated there were other problems. “To make matters worse, the Legislature has mandated that teacher ratings be used to make important employment decisions such as pay, promotion, assignment, and retention,” Walker wrote. “Ratings affect a teacher’s professional reputation as well because they are made public -- they have even been printed in the newspaper. Needless to say, this Court would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would find this evaluation system fair to non-FCAT teachers, let alone be willing to submit to a similar evaluation system.” “This case, however, is not about the fairness of the evaluation system,” Walker wrote. “The standard of review is not whether the evaluation policies are good or bad, wise or unwise; but whether the evaluation policies are rational within the meaning of the law. The legal standard for invalidating legislative acts on substantive due process and equal protection grounds looks only to whether there is a conceivable rational basis to support them,” even though this basis might be “unsupported by evidence or empirical data.” Ford said the union would keep fighting the system, and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel also commented, saying: “Florida’s current evaluation system is unconscionable,” Van Roekel said. “It is deeply disappointing that during a week when we are supposed to be celebrating teachers, the district court determined that it could not halt the unreasonable evaluation of most teachers in Florida based on a measure of student performance that has nothing to do with the actual instruction the teachers provide.” Late last month in Houston, seven high-achieving teachers, along with the Houston Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas  alleging that the Houston Independent School District uses a badly flawed method of evaluating teacher effectiveness, known as the “Educational Value-Added Assessment System.” It, too, evaluates teachers on scores of students they don’t have.

Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association, said his organization was "disappointed" in the ruling and said the union was reviewing whether to appeal the decision. "This evaluation system is clearly unfair and isn't a valid measure of the teachers in our public schools," Ford said in a statement. "We will continue to point out this unfairness and we will continue to work to find an evaluation system that is fair, open and provides a sensible way to properly evaluate our public school teachers." Joe Follick, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said the state was "pleased" with the decision. "We are pleased that we can put the focus where it should be -- ensuring all students receive the best education possible with these evaluation and accountability tools in place," Follick said.,0, (Andy Ford quoted) (Andy Ford quoted and NEA mentioned) (Andy Ford quoted and NEA mentioned) (FEA and NEA mentioned)

Voucher accountability a myth? (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted) (Joanne McCall quoted)

Corporate vouchers expand; AAA joins as second manager


Test prep kills learning, but standardized testing is big money

What is the single most important thing that elementary schools need to instill in their students? Think about it. What one thing will help our kids grow up to succeed in school and set them on their way to succeed in life? It's not something in math, or in reading, or science, but it provides a foundation for kids to excel in all these areas. Give up? Here it is: love of learning. Love of learning is the precondition for achievement, it provides the motivation for it. A child who loves learning will learn to think critically as well as soak up new skills and new information because it will be fun. Most kids show up in kindergarten loving learning. Elementary school is a time for learning basic skills like computation and how to sound out words, but it should also be a time for deep exploration into fascinating topics, and project-based learning. The last thing it should be is a time for "drill and kill," for the kind of mind-numbing, soul-sucking, repetition of exercises that teach little more than how to take a test. Every year, however, more and more of kids' time is spent on exactly that, thanks to standardized testing and the countless hours spent prepping for it. The end result is not only time wasted, but all too often an extinguishing of kids' love of learning. Thus, tests themselves are detrimental to children's education. And let's be even more clear about what the problem is with test prep. As Marc S. Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, explained: “There is far too much test prep if, by test prep, we mean setting aside good and challenging curriculum in order to prepare students for low-level tests of basic skills that rely on remembering facts and the rote application of procedures.”


A history of Pearson’s testing problems worldwide


The nuances of testing in low-performing schools


New report cites $100 million-plus in waste, fraud in charter school industry


Both sides agree to contract in Monroe (Holly Hummel-Gorman quoted)


Report: Confusion, lack of training caused Lake class-size violations,0,3781557.story


District takes “turnaround” action at nine schools in Pinellas


Proposal calls for security changes in Duval schools


Hillsborough superintendent meets with bus employees


Legg reflects on session


A REAL paradigm shift in education


North Carolina: The negative impact of Read to Achieve for third graders


Study finds lifetime wage gain from college degree

While it is fashionable in some circles to question whether students gain economically from a four-year college degree, new data released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco suggest that the benefits are significant. Counting both the average costs of going to college and lost wages from time enrolled, the study estimates that the lifetime earnings premium for a four-year degree is more than $800,000. Further, most people with a degree recoup the costs of their education by age 40.


Florida Polytechnic University's freshman class is full


How Warren wants to help student loan borrowers (Randi Weingarten quoted)

Where does Florida rank on list of best states for working moms?,0,


Signature variations jeopardize hundreds of votes in Florida


Barbara Petersen on government openness


Job incentives go bust again


Northrop Grumman is mystery Project Magellan company[%271%27]


Florida squarely in cross-hairs of climate change, new report says


U.S. climate has already changed, study finds, citing heat and floods


Infrastructure spending creates thousands of jobs, billions in growth and reduces deficit


Surprise! “Pro-business” policies hurt state economic growth


Cantor: I'm fine with deficit-raising tax cuts, but not unemployment insurance


Insurers say most who signed up under health law have paid up


Supreme injustice


 0 user(s) rated this page
Login to leave a comment
No Comments yet