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Monday, March 19, 2012

Bashing teachers has become a contact sport

From the Art of Teaching Science, by Jack Hassard

Teacher bashing has become a contact sport that is played out by many U.S. Governors. The rules of the game are staked against teachers by using measures that have not been substantiated scientifically. For many governors, and mayors it is fair play to release the names of every teacher in the city, and their Value-added score determined by analyzing student achievement test scores. None of the data that has been published has been scientifically validated, and in fact, the data that is provided is uneven, and unreliable from one year to the next.

Steven Sellers Lapham, in a letter to the editor, wrote this on teacher evaluations:

…evaluating teachers on the basis on student test score data has been exposed as a fraud. The final nail in the coffin appeared in the March 2012 issue of the education journal Kappan. In the article “Evaluating Teacher Evaluation,” Sanford professor of education Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues echo the 2009 findings of the National Research Council.

Darling-Hammond writes in her research article:

However, current research suggests that VAM ratings are not sufficiently reliable or valid to support high-stakes, individual-level decisions about teachers.

Mr. Lapham adds that student test scores should not be used as a basis for evaluating teachers. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just released a report on the best ways to evaluate teachers. It does not even mention such an absurd idea , much less recommend it.

With this in mind, I am going to put into perspective the reform initiative that many governors, mayors, politicians, and for-profit groups and foundation are pushing on us. First, I’ll identify the three parts or legs of the reform, accountability, deregulation of schooling, the erosion of teacher education.

Then I’ll report a few stories from several states that will give you a feel for the extent of how teachers are coming under fire, and being held hostage by unscientific methods of evaluation.

Three Legs of Reform

Leg 1. The first leg of reform is steeped in accountability, of not teachers and administrators, but the students themselves. Accountability testing is now in place throughout public education in the form of high-stakes achievement tests.

The fundamental reason for the increased attacks on teachers is that education reformers believe that student achievement gains can be traced to the quality of the teacher, and that what the teacher contributes to student gains (or loses) can be measured.

The reformers believe that parents and other citizens should be privy to this data, and indeed in several cities, newspapers have published data bases revealing teacher VAM scores by name.

The reformers believe that all students can increase their achievement scores if they have the right teachers, regardless of where they live. This is one of the three-legs that reformers believe will turn the education of American students around.

Leg 2. The second leg is the deregulation of public education through the creation of charters, and the use of vouchers. As I have written, charter schools do not produce the achievement test gains that supporters claim, and the charter school movement has increased the segregation of black and Hispanic students, such that most of these students attend schools with nearly 100% either black or Hispanic students.

Leg 3. The third leg is the breakdown and deregulation of teacher education by claiming that alternative pathways into the profession is the way to go. Research shows that inexperienced, and especially un-certified teachers can not provide the quality education that more experienced, and well schooled teacher deliver.

Note: The rationale for the 3 legs is based on Failure of U.S. Public Secondary Schools in Mathematics, Michael Marder, Associate Dean for Science and Mathematics Education and Professor Physics at the University of Texas.

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