Thursday, September 01, 2011

Haimson: The 40% solution? NYT editors parrot the Billionaire Boys club and ignore the science

Leonie Haimson:

Today, in an editorial, (posted below)  the NY Times inveighs against the recent court decision that held that the new teacher evaluation system should be based 20 percent rather than 40 percent on state test scores, as mandated by a law passed by the Legislature.
Somehow NY Times editors are under  the delusion that teacher evaluation system based 40 percent on  state test scores, which themselves have been absurdly manipulated over the last several years, would be a more “rigorous” system.  They even appear to agree that if any teacher  did poorly on the that one portion of the system for one year only, he or she would deserve the lowest of ratings – as the Commissioner King would prescribe – in a perversion of the entire notion of multiple measures.

It is sad that none of the research showing the fallibility and potentially destructive effects of such a simplistic rating system has managed to penetrate into their heads.  Thus the Times shows itself as averse to research and expert opinion on the subject as the Wall Street Journal and the Daily News – and as firmly under the sway  of the oligarchy of ignorant billionaires and hedge fund operators who are now making education policy in this nation.

As Marc Epstein  put it accurately, “If the issue is education reform, put Governor Chris Christie in a room with Governor Andrew Cuomo; Joel Klein, the education reformer and lifelong Democrat; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; and the editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Post and New York Times, and you'd think you're at a family reunion straight out of "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet."

For a far more reasonable analysis of this eminently fair court decision, that merely ratified the nation that the Regents and the State Education Department should respect  the legal framework informed by their own advisory taskforce and negotiated by themselves, the legislature and the unions, see  Mike Petrilli of the conservative Fordham Institute who says NY Regents: Stop the madness!

Too bad the editorial board of the NY Times continues to show itself as averse to the expert consensus as embodied in this letter from the National Academy of Sciences on “Race to the Top”, which warned against a reductionist and ultimately unreliable teacher evaluation based heavily on standardized test scores,  as well as this letter from renowned academics, protesting Commissioner King’s unilateral decision to ignore the law.

The NY Times editors should recall their principled stance they took when the Bush administration allowed the influence of politics and big money to overwhelm research, science, and good sense.  Instead, on the issue of education policy,  they seem headed in the same ignorant and profoundly damaging direction.


A Blockage on Teacher Evaluations

Published: August 31, 2011
New York and its teachers’ unions acted in the best interest of the state’s children last year when they agreed to replace a useless teacher evaluation system with a rigorous process that takes student achievement into account and provides clear sanctions for ineffective teachers. But a dispute over regulatory language has landed the two sides in court. Last week, a state court ruling unwisely blocked a crucial part of the plan that could label as “ineffective” teachers who do a particularly poor job of improving student performance. The state should appeal that part of the ruling.


·         Times Topic: Teachers and School Employees
Under the old system, teachers were observed haphazardly in the classroom and given glowing ratings even when their work was abysmal. Under the new system, scheduled to take effect this school year, teachers will be evaluated partly on student achievement and partly on classroom performance, and categorized as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Those who need help will be given coaching. Those rated ineffective for two straight years could be fired in an expedited process.
The court battle is over whether regulations issued by the New York State Board of Regents comply with the law that authorized the new evaluation system. Under the law, teachers would be subject to a 100-point evaluation system, with 60 percent of their score based on various measures of teacher performance and 40 percent based on student achievement. Of the student achievement portion, the law says, half should be based on state tests and half on locally selected measures.
In last week’s ruling, a state judge said districts may not choose for their local measure the same indicator of student improvement provided by the state. But they have the option to create a different local measure using state tests. The court went on to invalidate a rule that would label as “ineffective” teachers who got the lowest ratings on both the state and local student performance measures. That would gut the new regime, which aims to make sure that ineffective teachers improve or leave the system.

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