Thursday, April 10, 2008

Misinterpretation (Deliberate?) on Tests and Tenure

Kevin Carey at the Quick and the Ed at the Education Sector, which is part of the Rotherham Empire, misses the point of our post on tenure and testing.

Ed Notes offers a justification for banning the use of student performance data in teacher tenure decisions: Using test scores to estimate teacher effectiveness is methodologically complicated. (This is true). Therefore, it should be outlawed. (This is absurd).

Yes teacher effectiveness is complicated and therefore test results should not be used, or misused. Why outlaw it? Because the practically criminal people running the NYC schools are not to be trusted. But read on, as Carey says:

Most important things, including teaching, are complicated. If we squelch every attempt to understand such things and act on that knowledge, we'll be left knowing very little about very little, which more or less describes the state of knowledge about teacher effectiveness today. Indeed, most teacher policy failures are a function of privileging easily measurable unimportant things, like master's degrees and state certification, over difficult-to-measure important things, like effectiveness in boosting test scores.

Do you understand any of this jargon? Let me translate: I think it means that we know little about teacher effectiveness but let's throw testing for tenure against the wall and see if it sticks. If there's a high body count of teachers who don't get tenure due to something we know very little about, so be it. Us policy wonks need data, data, data.

I do agree with Carey that MA's and state certification mean little in teacher effectiveness. But how come the wonks always use the term "like effectiveness in boosting test scores." I love the word "like." Like what else makes for teacher effectiveness? They always stop at boosting scores - how about, like Johnnie enters a class as a serial killer and leaves tame as a pussy cat but alas, the teacher is a failure and denied tenure because he didn't boost Johnnie's test score. Or the teacher did fabulous science projects with the class which turned many kids onto science but, darn, we just don't know how to measure a rise in enthusiasm.

Carey goes on:

Ed Notes also offers the "it hasn't been tested" argument, i.e. the chicken-and-egg theory of policy obstructionism: it can't be tried because it hasn't been proven; it can't be proven because it hasn't been tried.

I love being called a dreaded "policy obstructionist." The "teacher effectiveness" crowd seem to use the "it hasn't been tested" argument when it comes to class size reduction, i.e. the chicken-and-egg-theory of class size reduction obstructionism, preferring to focus on teacher effectiveness (which is guaranteed to improve with lower class sizes) despite the fact no one has come up with any way to judge other than observation - not a bad way if done objectively. (Here I will be accused of not wanting this method either because I always talk about vindictive principals, but offer the solution of teachers being allowed to call in an independent arbiter. And while I'm on this, I often tell teachers under attack to tape an observation, which seems to make some supervisors incredibly nervous.)

And of course the obligatory attack by Carey on Eduwonkette for calling all the hysteria over the tenure/testing law "union-bashing:"

Meanwhile, some unknown person who claims to be a social scientist but isn't willing to offer any credentials to prove it labels all critiques of the union's role in legally banning evidence of student learning from judgments of teacher effectiveness as "union bashing."
I'd always been under the impression that "science," and thus "social science," involved certain values of empiricism, evidence, and transparency of information..
But maybe "science" means something different wherever they hand out anonymous, theoretical social science degrees, I don't know.

Now, isn't it interesting how Carey on the one hand disparages official teaching credentials
most teacher policy failures are a function of privileging easily measurable unimportant things, like master's degrees and state certification, over difficult-to-measure important things, like effectiveness in boosting test scores."

....but attacks Eduwonette for not showing her credentials, without which we obviously can't trust what she says. The quality of what she (or he -wouldn't that be a kick) write is enough for me. Like take this one from Eduwonkette:

Joel Klein, in his op-ed, even blames unions for the existence of achievement gaps:

Protecting grownups rather than making sure students can read and do math is how our country has gotten into the educational mess it's in today. It's the reason we have shameful racial achievement gaps separating our white and Asian students from our African-American and Latino students.

That's why there are no achievement gaps in North Carolina and Texas!

And add Florida and Mississippi and probably a few other non-unionized states around the nation. Gotta love Wonkette, credentials or not.

And what if it turns out that Eduwonkette drives a school bus? Her credentials are what she has to say. Enough for me.

And note the consistent attack on Wonkette by the Rotherham crowd for being anonymous. Boy, will they all be surprised when she turns out to be 13 and in junior high school.

A future post will go into more detail the entire BloomKlein tenure/testing PR sham.


  1. Your obsession with exposing the anonymous (but only if they disagree with you, of course) borders on the pathological.

    Outlawing the use of student performance as one of many measures to use in evaluating teachers is so absurd that the union and the legislators have, in doing so, exposed themselves as completely uninterested in improving schools. Common sense has no place in the world of the UFT!

  2. As I've said numerous times, I'm only interested in exposing you as a non-teacher and don't care who you are. That you claim to be a dedicated teacher yet spend your days monitoring this and other blogs and leaving your anti-teacher, anti-unions droppings all over the place is the true obsession.

  3. Too bad the only measure of student achievement is those stupid test scores which don't show anything.

    Why doesn't anyone care if the kids actually learn something? Until we find a way to accurately measure that, the tests are a sham.

  4. Joel Klein must have very pleased with his incompetent little self when he wrote:.

    "Protecting grownups rather than making sure students can read and do math is how our country has gotten into the educational mess it's in today."

    Sure, how about a course in 19th centuty management techniques? Let's bring back poor houses, too.

    Can someone assure me that if he didn't have Billionaire Mike's Protection that he would still be the (faux) Chancellor?

    This is a man who clearly cannot grapple with the complexities of real life problems.

    This is a man who in the face of an urban school system with uncountable problems has only two answers: hold back students and get rid of teachers. Nothing nuanced and multifaceted coming off his his desk. No outreach to parents and communities to solve the real problems, no evidence of an attempt to deal with multiple value system of the multiple cultures in the city. No evidence that things like poverty have devasting effects. No evidence that holding kids back without really helping them is nothing but a political gesture to the right.

    This a man who can hold two contradictory thoughts and not see the contradiction (according to the NY Daily News no less).

    This is the man who in the face of a mound research (remember 3rd grade high stakes?) can chose to ignore it since his puppet master needed to start his "Eduction Mayor" Campaign (forget that now these kids are 8th graders and he still is not happy with their scores so he needs to keep punishing them).

    This is a man so incapable of addressing real problems that he has principals incarcerate anyone who fails to yield to their supreme authority without question.

    This is a man so two faced that he has his minions collect survey after survey and then use the surveys against the students, parents, and teachers who bother to respond to the survey.

    This is a man who should have never been selected chancellor of the public school system of the city of new york and who has been so scared of being found out that he struck first and hard putting fear into the hearts of all other in the system and his doing his best to keep that fear alive.

    Hid failures of leadership should be causing him to feel deep shame, but he doesn't know the meaning of shame. In fact he thinks he's great.

    But the real shame is on the parents, the teachers, the union and all the politicians who know much better and have let him get away with the atrocities.

    It seems the only voices out there are the private one, and of course the bloggers and those who read them.

  5. You nailed it. Let's not forget the enormous sums spent to give the appearance this was a smoothly functioning corporation. Looking forward to the next thing Joel Klein gets to run into the ground. I just hope some corporation that is thrilled by what he did in ny gets taken in. If you hear anything, sell the stock immediately.


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.