Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Chicago Schools with the Most Disadvantaged Students Have the Most "Ineffective" Teachers, According to New Study
As detailed here, new teacher evaluation systems that measure teaching effectiveness based on students' achievement test scores are riddled with serious flaws. One of the most obvious is the likelihood that those systems will simply rate teachers with the weakest/most challenged students as the most ineffective. The hope of some, however, is that one might be able to demonstrate that districts are assigning teachers who are, in fact, the least effective to disadvantaged schools--a serious equity concern under both federal and state law. It is hard to say definitely which of these two possibilities a new study of Chicago schools reveals, but it tends toward the later. Either way, it is bad for Chicago Schools. The new study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research finds that:
teachers with the lowest scores on the REACH Students teacher evaluation system are overrepresented in schools serving the most disadvantaged students, while teachers with the highest observation scores are underrepresented in these schools.
The study uses data from the 2013-14 school year, which represents the first comprehensive snapshot of evaluation scores for Chicago Public School teachers under the new REACH Students teacher evaluation system. This includes value-added scores based on students’ gains on tests, as well as scores from observations of teaching practices in classrooms.
It finds 26 percent of teachers with the lowest value-added scores are in schools with the highest concentrations of poverty, while 13 percent are in schools with the lowest concentrations of poverty. The differences in observation scores are more pronounced: 30 percent of the lowest-scoring teachers are found in the highest-poverty schools, while only 9 percent are in schools with the lowest poverty. In other words, observation scores have a stronger relationship with school characteristics, such as poverty, than value-added scores.
While more research needs to be done in Chicago to understand why these differences exist, other research suggests these differences could arise because it is more difficult to recruit and retain high-scoring teachers in high-poverty schools, or because it is more difficult to get a high observation score if teaching in a high-poverty school.
The report also finds teachers in schools with better organizational and learning climates tend to have higher value-added and observation scores, and these differences remain significant when comparing schools with similar student characteristics, including poverty level.
REACH and other teacher evaluation systems employ multiple measures to capture different aspects of teacher performance. Value-added scores are intended to capture student growth on test scores, and explicitly control for measures of student disadvantage, such as poverty and previous achievement. Observation ratings are intended to capture a teacher’s level of instructional practice, and do not control for any student or school characteristics, such as poverty.
The study also finds that, on average, African American, Latino, and other minority (i.e. Asian, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Native American, and multi-racial), teachers’ observation scores are lower than white teachers’ observation scores. However, for African American teachers, who are overrepresented in the highest-poverty schools, most of this difference seems to be due to the relationship between observation scores and school characteristics, such as school-level poverty. There were no significant differences by teacher race/ethnicity on either reading or math value-added scores.
Other key findings include: There are some differences in teachers' evaluation scores, depending on experience and credentials. Teachers with more experience have higher scores on value-added and observations than new teachers. Differences between teachers with National Board Certification or advanced degrees, compared to those without those credentials, were found only on observation scores, not value added. Male teachers have lower observation and value-added scores than female teachers. On average, male teachers scored lower than female teachers on observations and slightly lower on value added than their female counterparts.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Guessing the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court justice's vote based on what he or she says during oral arguments is a dicey proposition, but Justice Antonin Scalia left little doubt of his position today in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), Reuters reports. The Court will decide in Friedrichs whether the teacher-plaintiffs' free speech rights were violated by forcing them to pay the union "agency" fees for collective bargaining and other expenses that supported political causes with which the teachers disagree. During today's argument, Justice Scalia reportedly equated the CTA's collective bargaining duties to political activity such as lobbying. If Justice Scalia's comments reflect his view of the case, the CTA's hopes that he would side with the union as a public-sector employer have been dented. Without Justice Scalia's support, CTA would lose a crucial fifth vote on the Court. The case may also decide the viability of the Court's 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Court held that nonunion public sector employees could not be required to fund political activities to which they objected, but could be required to fund activities that benefitted all employees, such as collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance procedures.
Friday, December 4, 2015
New Mexico's Teacher Evaluation System Struck Down, Raising Equally Serious Questions About the Challenge to Tenure in Other States
On Wednesday, the trial court in Stewart v. New Mexico enjoined New Mexico's value added method [VAM] of teacher evaluation. Although the state is free to continue to use its VAM for diagnostic or other purposes, it cannot use it for high stakes purposes of terminating teachers or placing teachers on notice of future termination. Nor can it use the VAM to revoke licenses or deny raises. At this point, plaintiffs have only secured a preliminary injunction. The state will get a second bite at the apple if the case moves forward to a full trial, but the court's opinion indicates any number of problems with the VAM that will require major reworking if the state intends to re-implement its system at any point in the future.
Throughout its opinion the court reaches findings that demonstrate the general unreliability of New Mexico's VAM. This is most obviously demonstrated by random variations in how the VAM affects teachers from district to district and year to year. The randomness stems from fundamental flaws, such as arbitrary cut scores purporting to separate ineffective from other teachers, a disconnect between the evaluation of students' standardized test scores and the calculation of teachers' VAMs, and numerous different types of data errors that render ratings invalid. The problems may have best been summed up by a superintendent who admitted that he could not tell the judge why a teacher was rated as ineffective. He just knew that was her rating.
This opinion stands in stark contrast to the 11th Circuit decision in Cook v. Bennett, 792 F.3d 1294 (2015), which upheld Florida's VAM notwithstanding even more egregious problems, such as rating teachers based on student scores in subjects that they did not even teach. See here for my prior analysis of that case.
More globally, the findings in New Mexico also demonstrate a fundamental flaw in constitutional challenges to tenure in Vergara v. California and Davids v. New York. Vergara and Davids claim that grossly ineffective teachers deprive students of their constitutional right to quality teaching. There are several problems with their theory, see here, but the underlying problem is that the method by which they purport to label teachers ineffective--VAMs--is unreliable itself. In other words, even allowing the idea that retaining grossly ineffective teachers rises to the level of a constitutional violation, plaintiffs in California and New York lack the tools to reliably deal with the problem. As such, their proposed solution would be unfair to teachers and likely violate due process.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
A new report by the Commonwealth Institute shows a net loss in teachers and resources over the past six years and growing student need. The net result is a school system in a worse position to serve its students today than before the recession:
Recent headlines have suggested that Virginia has 5,000 fewer positions in its K-12 schools now than before the beginning of the recession. The problem is actually much worse. Taking into account growing student enrollment, Virginia’s schools are missing over 11,000 positions, including 4,200 teachers. Also missing from Virginia’s schools are an additional 1,500 instructional staff, who should be assisting teachers in the classroom and helping students outside of it, and 5,500 support staff, who should be keeping the schools safe and running, getting students to and from class, and caring for student’s physical and behavioral health.
These missing positions stem from a combination of schools eliminating positions that they can no longer afford to support and schools not hiring staff to keep up with growing enrollment. Schools made these tough decisions because the state cut school funding moving out of the recession, pushing a greater share of the cost onto cashstrapped localities. In turn, as school divisions responded to budget pressures, they started to reduce staff and cut salaries.
Get the full report here.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
For those who missed it, Edweek published a chart and synopsis of all the current litigation challenging states' teacher evaluation systems. Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, and Texas all have ongoing cases. Most of those states actually have more than one case proceeding.
For a background explanation of how those teacher evaluation systems work and the practical and legal flaws embedded in them, see here.
Monday, September 21, 2015
The briefs are in the appeal of Vergara v. State. Amici in support of the state are exposing a huge evidentiary flaw in the plaintiffs' case: the lack of causation. For those who are new to the case, last year a California trial court held that teacher tenure was unconstitutional, concluding that tenure prevented schools from removing grossly ineffective teachers. The court reached a similar conclusion in regard to the state's "last-in-first-out" statute, which requires reassignment and retention be based on seniority during reductions in force.
The San Francisco Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and the Education Law Center wrote:
Plaintiffs . . . did not show, nor can they show, that the challenged statutes require the retention of clearly ineffective teachers or that those statutes resulted in assignment of teachers incapable of delivering curriculum and instruction to students in particular classrooms, schools, or districts. That is, plaintiffs did not show that the “Permanent Status Statutes,” and in particular, Education Code section 44929.21, subdivision (b), requires districts to reelect ineffective teachers at the expiration of their two-year probationary period. . . . Plaintiffs focused on the processes for dismissing teachers . . . . While plaintiffs critiqued these processes as a matter of public policy, they did not produce sufficient record evidence establishing that the statutes required districts to retain unqualified and ineffective teachers. . . .
At best, plaintiffs presented anecdotal evidence that in some instances, the challenged statutes could contribute to retention of ineffective teachers. However, the trial court’s analysis, given the record below, does not show or support a causal connection between these statutes as compared to the many other factors linked to teacher quality, and the deprivation of a constitutional education in specific California districts or schools.
Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk's brief on behalf of constitutional law professors was even more specific:
Friday, August 21, 2015
A new study by Seth Gershenson, Stephen Holt, and Nicholas Papageorge finds a disturbing trend of racially disparate expectations for students based on race. The abstract offers this summary:
Teachers are an important source of information for traditionally disadvantaged students. However, little is known about how teachers form expectations and whether they are systematically biased. We investigate whether student-teacher demographic mismatch affects high school teachers’ expectations for students’ educational attainment. Using a student fixed effects strategy that exploits expectations data from two teachers per student, we find that nonblack teachers of black students have significantly lower expectations than do black teachers. These effects are larger for black male students and math teachers. Our findings add to a growing literature on the role of limited information in perpetuating educational attainment gaps.
More specifically, they find that "relative to teachers of the same race and sex as the student, other-race teachers were 12 percentage points less likely to expect black students to complete a four-year college degree. Such effects were even larger for other-race and other-sex teachers, for black male students, and for math teachers. In addition to being statistically significant, these effects are arguably practically significant as well, as they constitute more than half of the black-white gap in teacher expectations."
Read the full study here.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
The New York State Education Department has released the data from the standardized tests administered to elementary students at the end of this past academic year. The opt-out movement scored a much bigger victory (if victory was its goal) than I ever would have imagined. Some students opted out for valid health and other reasons, but a whopping twenty percent of students refused to take the tests without any valid excuse. Presumably they objected based on principle.
A five or so percent opt out would have done little to upset the status quo, but one of this size has enormous ramifications. First, as a condition of receiving federal education money, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind) mandates that 95% of students take the test. The Secretary of Education has the power to waive a number of requirements, but the Secretary cannot waive this requirement. Congress wanted this one to stick. As analyzed in an earlier post, this poses a real quandary. The purpose of the provision was to make sure that schools did not conveniently exempt their weakest students from the test to push up their pass rate. But when students simply refuse to take the test, holding the school accountable seems unfair and contrary to the purpose of the Act. The Secretary could take a page from the reasoning of King v. Burwell (the recent Affordable Care Act decision offering a creative reading of the Act to save individual tax credits) and ignore the statutory language and violation. But absent creative reasoning, New York is in violation it cannot escape.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Sheri Lederman, a 4th grade teacher in Great Neck, New York, with 17 years of experience, is challenging New York's value added method (VAM) for evaluating teachers. In 2013-14, the system rated her as "ineffective." This struck her as implausible due to her long track record of strong student achievement results and positive evaluations by her superiors.
Monday, July 20, 2015
In The Constitutional Challenge to Tenure, I spend an extended amount of time evaluating the merits of teacher evaluation systems that rely on students' standardized test scores work. This might appear to some as a digression, but the the attacks on tenure are premised on the assumption that these new evaluation systems can tell us who needs to be fired. If only it were so. Thus far, these evaluation systems have proven speculative and unreliable. Yet elevating the prominence of teacher evaluation systems would appear to be a primary goal of the movement.
Last week, the advocates and attorneys who brought us Vergara v. California made this more obvious. They filed a second lawsuit to force sixteen California school districts to do more to evaluate their teachers based on students' test scores. They argue that collective bargaining agreements in those districts are prohibiting the districts from evaluating teachers in accordance with state statute. The complaint is here.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
This blog's title is the bottom line takeaway from Dan Goldhaber, Lesley Lavery, and Roddy Theobald's new study Uneven Playing Field? Assessing the Teacher Quality Gap Between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students. The abstract explains:
Policymakers aiming to close the well-documented achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students have increasingly turned their attention to issues of teacher quality. A number of studies have demonstrated that teachers are inequitably distributed across student subgroups by input measures, like experience and qualifications, as well as output measures, like value-added estimates of teacher performance, but these tend to focus on either individual measures of teacher quality or particular school districts. In this study, we present a comprehensive, descriptive analysis of the inequitable distribution of both input and output measures of teacher quality across various indicators of student disadvantage across all school districts in Washington State. We demonstrate that in elementary school, middle school, and high school classrooms, virtually every measure of teacher quality we examine—experience, licensure exam scores, and value added—is inequitably distributed across every indicator of student disadvantage—free/reduced-price lunch status, underrepresented minority, and low prior academic performance. Finally, we decompose these inequities to the district, school, and classroom levels and find that patterns in teacher sorting at all three levels contribute to the overall teacher quality gaps.
Friday, July 10, 2015
With Watered Down Analysis, Eleventh Circuit Holds Florida Can Evaluate Teachers Based on Their Students' Scores In Someone Else's Course
Thursday, July 2, 2015
The Supreme Court granted certiorari Monday to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the case about compulsory teachers' union dues that some observers say will threaten union financing. Friedrichs challenges California's “agency shop” laws, which require public employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment, Friedrichs argues that state's agency shop laws violate the First Amendment particularly when the union's positions conflict with individual teachers' on-the-job interests or personal beliefs. Friedrichs' certiorari petition presents two issues:
(1) whether Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements (that require teachers to join the union or pay the equivalent of union dues) should be invalidated under the First Amendment; and
(2) whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.
In Abood, the Supreme Court held that nonunion public sectors employees could not be required to fund political or social activities to which they objected, but employees could be required to fund activities that benefitted all employees related to “collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment purposes.” Because Abood controlled the outcome of Friedrich's claims, the Ninth Circuit summarily affirmed the district court's ruling against Friedrich.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Last year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the claims against the New York Board of Education could move forward. Plaintiffs had alleged the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test (“LAST”) had a disparate impact on African Americans, was not validated as job related, and, thus, the state's use of it violated Title VII. The case was remanded back to the trial court. Earlier this month, the trial court in Gulino v. Bd. of Educ. of City Sch. Dist. of City of New York, 2015 WL 3536694 (S.D.N.Y. June 5, 2015), found:
After reviewing all of the evidence offered by Dr. Outtz and the parties, including expert opinions and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, . . . that the BOE unfairly discriminated against African–American and Latino applicants by requiring them to pass the LAST–2. Like its predecessor, the LAST–2 had a disparate impact on African–American and Latino test takers. And like its predecessor, the LAST–2 was not properly validated as job related, because the exam's designers did not employ procedures to identify the specific areas and depth of knowledge of the liberal arts and sciences that any competent teacher would need to understand. The BOE's use of the LAST–2 was thus unfairly discriminatory under Title VII.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
In 2013, North Carolina achieved, through legislation, what the plaintiffs in Vergara v. State in California are trying to achieve through litigation: the elimination of tenure and the minimization of due process limitations on terminating teachers. Last year, a North Carolina trial court struck down the legislature's attempt. The court held that the changes violated the state constitution's contracts clause. Given the prevailing pressures in the state and the legal theory upon which plaintiffs had prevailed, whether the decision would hold on appeal was far from clear.
A little over a week ago, however, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina affirmed the trial court, agreeing that the elimination of tenure and certain processes violated the state contracts clause. The contracts clause precedent in the state is not necessarily important in an of itself, at least not outside the state. States vary in how and whether they treat tenure as a vested contractual right. (See pages 17 to 18 of this article for more on that point). What is important nationally is the factual necessity analysis that occurs within contract clause analysis, regardless of the state. Even if tenure or due process creates a vested right, precedent still allows states to take the right away if they can establish an important state interest in doing so and that the particular action the state took was reasonable and necessary to achieve that state interest.
This North Carolina court's analysis on this last point-the reasonableness and necessity of eliminating tenure--is a direct repudiation of the theory of Vergara. The North Carolina court accepts that improving teacher quality and education quality are important interests, but rejects the state's argument that eliminating tenure and process are reasonable or necessary means of achieving that end. The court's analysis is sufficient lucid that it bears an extended quote here:
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Florida Gov. Rick Scott acquiesced in April to complaints that teachers' evaluations were too heavily weighted to how well their students performed on state standardized tests, signing into law a measure to the reduce the percentage that student scores made up of teachers' evaluations from half to one-third. But one Florida county, Polk County, recently announced that student standardized scores would have no impact on its teachers' evaluations this year. Polk County says that it is bound by a clause in a collective bargaining agreement with a teachers union and therefore it cannot follow state law. The clause prevents the Polk County school district from using student scores as a job-performance factor until both the district and the union, the Polk Education Association, mutually agree on the evaluation system. If the contract provision prevails, similar clauses could impact Florida's teacher evaluation system throughout the state. Read the article about the district's stance here.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
On May 22nd, the district court in Brewer v. District of Columbia Public Schools, 2015 WL 2438069 (D.C. 2015), dismissed a former music teacher and union member’s case against the District of Columbia Public Schools (“DCPS”). The teacher had retired after learning that his position was being eliminated due to a Reduction in Force (“RIF”) employment action by the DCPS. He then brought suit.
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The Department of Education's new longitudinal study on teacher attrition indicates that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Past research has indicated that new teachers leave the profession in droves. The common refrain is that half of new teachers leave within five years. Looking at five years of data (from 2007–08 through 2011–12), the Department found that 83% of the new teachers in the first year of the study were still teaching 5 years later. The biggest hit was in the first year, after which 10 percent of teachers left the profession. In subsequent years, however, attrition fell to only two to three percent. The study also found that two factors appeared to play a role in those schools with the lowest attrition rates: salary and mentorship.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Bruce Baker posted what may be the best school finance and teacher quality post in a while. He was responding to the New York State Education Department's most recent response to the fact that students in high poverty schools in the state have teachers whose salary is $21,000 per year less than teachers in the lowest poverty schools. The state also acknowledge that "students in high poverty schools are nearly three times more likely to have a first-year teacher, 22 times more likely to have an unlicensed teacher, and 11 times more likely to have a teacher who is not highly qualified." NYSED's proposed strategy to resolve the problem, however, was troubling. Its sole solutions were: