Monday, July 13, 2015

Did a focus on teacher evaluations work?

As he winds down his tenure as Kentucky's Education Commissioner, Terry Holliday is posting a few reflective pieces about Kentucky education writ large. This one deals with Kentucky's approach to teacher evaluation.
I suspect that the majority of Holliday's detractors are also opponents of corporate ed reform, or at least, most of its manifestations. But Holliday was hired to implement the legislature's SB 1 and he has done so.  

I have always appreciated that whether I agreed with a particular approach or not, the commissioner was clear about where he was headed. I only wish we could get as much clarity from our political candidates.

This from the Dr. H's Blog:
As I approach my retirement date of August 31, my last few blogs will focus on my thoughts about education initiatives at the state and national levels over the past six years. I caution readers that these blogs will reflect my thoughts and not those of the Kentucky Board of Education or the Kentucky Department of Education. My hope is that these last few blogs will encourage others to reflect and prepare for the future of education in Kentucky and across the nation.
As part of the Race to the Top (RTTT) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promoted improvements in teacher and leader (principals) evaluation programs across the nation. With a little more than one year left in President Obama’s and Secretary Duncan’s terms, there will be a lot of debate as to whether the emphasis on teacher and leader evaluation programs has paid any dividends in improving educator effectiveness and/or improving student learning.
As I reflect on the last six plus years, there were several different approaches that states took to improve teacher and leader evaluation programs. There were states that took a fast track. Overnight, it seemed that several states had a plan for new teacher and leader evaluation programs. Some states, like Kentucky, took a slower approach and asked for delays from the United States Department of Education (USED) until the state had time to review research and make the transition to new standards and assessments.
States took different approaches as to components of teacher and leader evaluation systems. A number of states were quick to develop a weighted model for teacher evaluation. Many states interpreted the federal requirements as requiring student achievement to be weighted at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation rating. Other states, including Kentucky, took a matrix approach that did not use weights but relied on principals and teachers to review the evidence from student learning and then using a matrix developed by the state come to agreement on the teacher’s rating for student achievement.
States took different approaches as far as the major purpose for new teacher and leader evaluation systems. Some states felt the new evaluation systems would drive a focus on student achievement and failure to improve student achievement would allow the state and school districts to dismiss ineffective teachers. Other states, like Kentucky, focused on teacher professional growth and effectiveness and did not see the new teacher evaluation system as primarily being an instrument for dismissal of ineffective teachers.
The time is fast approaching where every state will be reporting out the results from teacher and leader evaluation systems. USED has required a focus on distribution of effective teachers across school districts to ensure students in low performing schools have equal access to effective teachers as those in high performing schools.
Teacher preparation programs will be completing accreditation processes that require them to report on how well their graduates are doing on state teacher evaluations and with student achievement.

State tests will soon be reported across the nation. The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress results will be released this fall.
There will be TONS of articles and opinions about the impact of Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers.
I have a prediction about what we will see from all the data. Those who supported RTTT and NCLB waivers will present data to support the positive impact of these programs. Those who did not support RTTT and NCLB waivers will present data that show these programs did not have a positive impact.
As the results are reported, here are a few things to watch for:
     • Will every state report that they have over 90 percent of their teachers
        rated effective or highly effective? 
     • Will NAEP student achievement results show any improvement? 
     • Will state student learning results show any improvement? 
     • Are there large gaps between state achievement results and NAEP
     • How many state evaluation programs will be challenged in court as the
        impact of these programs start to impact teacher assignments? 
     • As Governor’s change and chief state school officers change, will the
        evaluation systems fall away and be replaced by more local control? 
     • Will teacher preparation programs utilize accreditation results to
        improve their programs? 
     • What role will the teacher evaluation debate play in local, state and
        national elections?
I caution educators as they prepare for the bombardment of information this fall. In 43 years of education, I have learned that there will always be someone who thinks they have the latest and greatest answer to the perplexing problem of closing achievement gaps and improving student learning. However, my warning to those who will lead education for the next generation is that there is no silver bullet.

Education issues are very complex. Poverty, unequal opportunities, leadership, inadequate preparation programs, low morale, low teacher pay, community expectations, lack of parental involvement, and many other issues impact student learning. My advice? Education leaders should never focus on just one of these challenges. Instead, they must recognize that the public education system is multifaceted with many interconnections and they must work to improve the entire system in order to realize real progress.


Richard Innes said...

While Holliday makes some good points, especially about no silver bullets, I think it is incorrect to say he implemented SB-1. For example, SB-1 required all the standards to be revised with new assessments generated from them in place in the 2011-12 school term. We still don't have social studies standards and neither new science nor social studies assessments.

Also, if you read SB-1, it says our standards would compare to top international countries. Whether Common Core and NextGen Science meet that is questionable.

Furthermore, the tests created from the standards are explicitly supposed to serve the needs of all students including "advanced learners." Holliday and many others have admitted Common Core provides only minimum standards. Such standards cannot support the requirement for tests that serve those advanced kids.

So, Holliday has not met SB-1 requirements.

Richard Day said...

Ward, I think you're being a little hard on the Beaver.

If you are suggesting that Holliday did not accomplish everything to perfection, OK. Sure. But that's a pretty tough evaluation.

But if you are OK with it, and willing to accept the same for your organization, then perhaps it's fair.

If we were to apply that same unyielding standard to the Bluegrass Institute's work, what would we find?

Passage of a Kentucky Right to (have rich folks prevent working folks from organizing) to Work Law - Failed.

Elimination of Common Core - Failed.

Moving as much money as possible out of public education and into private hands - Failed.

If that sounds right to you, then OK. At least its the same standard for both. But I find both appraisal a bit too harsh.


Richard Innes said...

A couple of points:

I didn’t say Holliday has not accomplished anything in SB-1. However, he has not completed a notable amount of what SB-1 requires, and he did part of it by adopting out-of-state created standards products for some of the courses (ELA, math) when SB-1 directed this to be done by state people. He only got part of the job done.

I’ll let your other straw men go as most of those issues are still very much in play. I will point out that the Right-to-Work situation is actually moving forward with somewhere around a dozen counties that have enacted this program.

Richard Day said...

C'non Riicahrd. You keep changing your assesment criteria to suit your biases. Predictable, but still disappointing.

if "moving forward" is sufficient, then why didn't Holłiday get credit from you for Next Gen, C3, or revised standards?

No straw men. just unrealized goals.

Richard Innes said...


Next Generation Science Standards, which I assume you are referring to as “NextGen,” aren’t ready for any credit.

Leaving out high school chemistry and physics – which NextGen Science did – is a cruel joke for any student who wants to go on to competitive colleges or STEM careers. Because these high end high school science courses are not covered by Kentucky’s new and incomplete science standards, there is no minimal quality control over those courses even if a school does choose to offer them.

Even worse, some schools might not offer high end high school sciences at all. I’ve been told by several science department staff members at two of our four-year universities that somewhere around 30 school districts in Kentucky don’t even offer high school physics. With NextGen Science, there is no impetus for that to change. It is even possible that some schools will figure out they can also drop high school chemistry because that material is also outside of the state’s standards and cannot appear on state assessments.

I doubt you would defend this situation if you really understood it.

If by “C3” you refer to the obviously incomplete “C3 Framework for State Social Studies Standards,” which were used in a terribly improper way to shape a still-not-approved revision to Kentucky’s social studies standards, you need to know that even Kentucky’s 2011 History Teacher of the Year, Donnie Wilkerson, has spoken out forcefully against the proposal. This very bad proposal was floated to the KBE last October. Right after that proposed revision was made public, the Herald-Leader interviewed some educators from Fayette County who were also unhappy with the draft.

I think there was a lot of other pushback because shortly thereafter the October 2014 proposed social studies standards disappeared. The revision has yet to reappear at a KBE meeting.

By the way, the people who created the October 2014 proposed revision to Kentucky’s social studies standards didn’t even read Page 6 in the C3 Framework. C3 itself says states have to add content to the framework, an important point that eluded Kentucky’s education leadership after they disbanded the first group of teachers who were assembled to revise the standards. That first team was disbanded because its members shared co-team member Wilkerson’s opinion that the C3 Framework would not be an adequate basis for new standards.

Anyway, please do more checking before talking again about C3 as it impacts Kentucky’s social studies area.

Richard Day said...

OK. If you insist…

Then, add to the list of things that are obviously incomplete the Bluegrass Institute’s main policy initiatives:

Passage of a Kentucky Right to (have rich folks prevent working folks from organizing to) Work Law - obviously incomplete.

Elimination of Common Core - obviously incomplete.

Moving as much money as possible out of public education and into private hands - obviously incomplete.

Shall we add charter schools? …or do y’all just think of that as a subset of moving as much public money as you can into private hands?

All I’m sayin’ is, it would be good if you would apply your evaluation standards fairly.