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David B. Cohen

David B. Cohen

Last month’s legislative drama involving Assembly Bill 5 provided a snapshot of the dysfunctional politics of education policy, with distrust and division inflaming what should be worked out in a calm and straightforward manner.

All stakeholders would welcome teacher evaluation improvements, but disagreements about the nature of the reform unfortunately dominated discussion, pushing aside areas of likely consensus. If the debate could be grounded in evidence, research on best practices, and areas of agreement, California could pass a bill that would actually be useful to educators and address the accountability concerns of the broader community.

First, let’s all take a deep breath. The urgency of teacher evaluation reform has been overstated; high-achieving students in California are not differentiated so much by teacher evaluations, but rather by the powerful influences of family wealth and educational attainment, and by access to schools with more money, better staffing levels, more robust offerings, and greater stability. Even some of the strongest critics of teachers and unions concede that teachers account for a small portion of the overall factors that shape students’ lives and opportunities to learn. Teacher evaluation reform by itself is not going to bring dramatic improvements to student learning, especially if our state is unable or unwilling to invest in other supports for education and children’s well-being. California is last among the 50 states when it comes to providing administrative support, counselors, nurses, and librarians, all of whom make a significant difference in schools.

At the same time, teacher evaluation is ripe for improvement. In 2010, Accomplished California Teachers published a policy report in which we detailed our desire for a robust teacher evaluation system, one that would incorporate student learning and provide ongoing feedback to support the continuous improvement of every teacher. I’ve worked on this issue for several years now, and discussed it with teacher leaders up and down the state, and I’ve yet to meet a teacher who resists the idea of using student work in an evaluation process – if it’s done in the right way, for the right reasons. In fact, the teachers who contributed to our report were thirsting for more feedback – ongoing high-quality evaluation processes focused on improving their practice.

AB 5 did contain provisions that would improve evaluations, but it did not satisfy some education reformers who want standardized test data to be integral to evaluation. Those individuals or groups who engage in particularly strident advocacy for testing, as well as verbal attacks on those of us who disagree, will end up damaging their own cause in two ways. First, by assuming the worst intentions of teachers and teachers unions, they spread distrust. Second, by promoting the use of students’ standardized test scores in teacher evaluation, they risk creating a system worse than the one we already have. Teachers are looking for partners who acknowledge and want to address all of the challenges in schools and in our students’ lives, and who refrain from smear tactics when presented with abundant evidence that testing data will cloud rather than clarify evaluations.

We can advance the cause of quality teaching, provide for accountability, and build a solid consensus around improving teacher evaluation. It won’t be easy for some people to imagine this, but the way forward is simple and clear: Stop arguing about standardized testing, and focus on the substantial areas where we can agree about what matters.

Using California’s existing standardized tests in evaluations is a polarizing approach with significant practical limitations. Teachers and evaluators should instead agree upon the use of assessments selected from the regular work in the classroom, an approach that will work for every teacher rather than the minority who teach tested subjects and grade levels. Our current state tests are about to be phased out anyway, and it would be imprudent to stake major policy decisions to assessments still in development. Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, estimates that we would need at least a few years’ worth of data from Common Core assessment before we could start interpreting the results. Common Core standards also suggest a whole-school approach to skills development, which will likely help students, but significantly complicate attempts to link scores to individual teachers.

Provide the supports to improve

Stronger evaluations would offer me the direct involvement of skilled administrators and peers, with feedback from students and parents. Give me the time and resources to do as teachers in other leading nations do, spending several hours each week reviewing student work, lesson design, classroom observations and assessment results in a collaborative effort to improve outcomes. Evaluate holistically using all of these types of information, and provide the support necessary to make improvements. If we have administrators who can’t make informed judgments about teachers using that approach, then the problem is elsewhere in the system, larger than we feared, and not fixed by using test scores.

Let’s strive to improve the daily practices of teaching and learning, in a professional atmosphere, relying on solid research, high standards, and consensus building grounded in mutual responsibility. James Popham, professor emeritus at UCLA and an expert in all matters of assessment, wrote of teacher evaluation, “As someone who’s been dipping in and out of the teacher evaluation research literature for more than 50 years, I’ve come to a conclusion about the only truly defensible way to evaluate a teacher’s skill. Because of the inherent particularism enveloping a teacher’s endeavors, I believe the evaluation of teaching must fundamentally rest on the professional judgment of well-trained colleagues.”

Some teachers agree that fellow teachers would provide the best evaluation, and some prefer administrators. The ACT report on evaluation suggests that state policy ought to provide guidance that supports districts and schools developing “well-trained colleagues” of all types, and let them work out the details locally. One size does not fit all: a couple of smaller California districts have shown convincingly that peer evaluation can surpass traditional models by providing more frequent evaluations, better quality evaluations, a high degree of professionalism, and superior labor-management relations.

In the aftermath of AB 5 and the divisive political battles waged around it, California’s best path to successful evaluation reform is to build trust among stakeholders by focusing on evaluation practices with the strongest consensus, strongest research base, and strongest track record of success in schools nationally and internationally.

David B. Cohen is associate director of Accomplished California Teachers, and a National Board Certified Teacher currently teaching English part-time at Palo Alto High School. He writes an education blog at InterACT.


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  1. Paul Muench 4 years ago4 years ago

    What’s wrong with standardized tests? Why is it possible to come up with a better agreed upon standard than the CST? The key words being “agreed upon” due to the nature of compromise.

    Replies

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      In a nutshell, the tests are very narrow, limited in scope and limited in their ability to measure what we claim to value. As Chris suggests, we could do much more for our students by looking at real and meaningful student work that actually presents evidence of their learning. For example, many of my students can correctly identify the problems in a sentence on a test and bubble in the correct answer. That does … Read More

      In a nutshell, the tests are very narrow, limited in scope and limited in their ability to measure what we claim to value. As Chris suggests, we could do much more for our students by looking at real and meaningful student work that actually presents evidence of their learning. For example, many of my students can correctly identify the problems in a sentence on a test and bubble in the correct answer. That does not actually prove that they can write a correct sentence on their own. Let’s assume some agreement around the idea that writing is a skill worth mastering. A useful evaluation (which is different from supervision) would involve a group of teachers, perhaps working with an administrator, an instructional coach, writing expert, etc., determining what their students’ common needs are in writing development, and how best to address those needs. They’d meet regularly, studying results, studying research, analyzing their practices and the outcomes, reflecting, and refining their practice. Is there a good standardized test for writing? Not really – the existing models have been shown to be easily gamed or manipulated once a student has a baseline level of competence. Do you want teachers to waste time coaching kids on how to trick computerized writing assessments, and then wasting more time analyzing the results as if they prove something? Far better to engage everyone in more meaningful acts, grounded in clear standards and evaluated for growth and improvement rather than baseline compliance.

      • Paul Muench 4 years ago4 years ago

        That’s an appealing vision for what California might achieve some day. And a much tougher standard for teachers to meet if administered correctly.

  2. Chris Miraglia 4 years ago4 years ago

    I am pleased to see this discussion at this level. For those who continue to push teacher evaluations based on standardized tests it is important to note the inconsistencies and divisiveness of such a tool. Case in point the current situation in Chicago of which part of the issue is teacher evaluation based on test scores. Being in the classroom for over 27 years, I would welcome a evaluation based upon agreed-upon standards which would … Read More

    I am pleased to see this discussion at this level. For those who continue to push teacher evaluations based on standardized tests it is important to note the inconsistencies and divisiveness of such a tool. Case in point the current situation in Chicago of which part of the issue is teacher evaluation based on test scores.

    Being in the classroom for over 27 years, I would welcome a evaluation based upon agreed-upon standards which would include participation in professional development, and some form of student achievement (not standardized test-based), and student engagement. I definitely agree with John in the fact that the current system is fraught with neglect and that fact that David states is a systemic problem is right on.

    I await the day that I am evaluated by a trained colleague and administrator who can help me improve as an educator as well as creating a climate that includes dialogue. Not only will this assist me as a professional, but knowing the areas I need to improve on will also help my students.

    Finally I am encouraged by the dialogue that is taking place in this state despite the current political climate. With the work of the groups who advocate civil discussions and in particular who created the publication “Greatness by Design,” I hold hope that I will be part of a system that although not perfect, is a considerable improvement on the currently much maligned evaluation system.

    Replies

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      Glad you chimed in, Chris. I'm also hopeful that "Greatness by Design" will influence the discussion and the direction of the teaching profession in California. It's useful to note that the task force included school board members, superintendents and other administrators, advocates from various organizations, researchers, and teachers of course - and their consensus was that teacher evaluation does not benefit from the inclusion of value-added measures. Until we've had a few … Read More

      Glad you chimed in, Chris. I’m also hopeful that “Greatness by Design” will influence the discussion and the direction of the teaching profession in California. It’s useful to note that the task force included school board members, superintendents and other administrators, advocates from various organizations, researchers, and teachers of course – and their consensus was that teacher evaluation does not benefit from the inclusion of value-added measures. Until we’ve had a few years of Common Core assessments in the state, I think the whole discussion as it relates to teacher evaluation should be moot. It’s clearly unscientific and frankly, quite unprofessional to argue that significant policy levers should rest on the fulcrum of tests that have yet to be finished, seen, or administered.

  3. john mockler 4 years ago4 years ago

    David Thank you for a very productive article. I just wonder a bit. For 40 years local districts have had the requirement to do two big things. 1) Establish Standards of student achievement in every (repeat)every area of study. And 2) Evaluate all Certificated (read that teachers, administrators, superintendents, counselors, etc) each year for the probationary period and every two years there after. There are 4 areas of … Read More

    David Thank you for a very productive article. I just wonder a bit. For 40 years local districts have had the requirement to do two big things. 1) Establish Standards of student achievement in every (repeat)every area of study. And 2) Evaluate all Certificated (read that teachers, administrators, superintendents, counselors, etc) each year for the probationary period and every two years there after. There are 4 areas of evaluation including student progress towards establish standards (or use state standards where available), classroom environment, adherence to curricular requirements, and other duties expected of the position. The fact that essentially no districts have obeyed this law is the real issue. That is not a failure of teachers that is a failure of School Boards and School Administration. John

    Replies

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      Without disagreeing with you, John, I'd add two things. First, just taking your idea a step further, it's a failure that goes even higher than school boards and administration. I don't say that with any harsh intention - I think it ended up being beyond the capacity of most players in a flawed system. Secondly, I wonder if part of the behavior at the school level is a sort of nullification, a … Read More

      Without disagreeing with you, John, I’d add two things. First, just taking your idea a step further, it’s a failure that goes even higher than school boards and administration. I don’t say that with any harsh intention – I think it ended up being beyond the capacity of most players in a flawed system. Secondly, I wonder if part of the behavior at the school level is a sort of nullification, a tacit agreement that Ed Code was calling for something that was fraught with problems of validity and practicality. That may not make it technically correct, but it’s like a stretch of road where everyone knows the posted speed limit makes no sense, and the police don’t give speeding tickets to people driving safely.

  4. navigio 4 years ago4 years ago

    David, David, why'd you have to go get all reasonable on us..? ;-) Seriously though, great article and I agree. I also appreciate the call to actually do something productive instead of merely arguing about what things shouldnt be done, and tempering that with the realization that its actually possible to make things worse and thus simply trying stuff at random is inappropriate. I would also suggest for people to become more involved in school-level activities. … Read More

    David, David, why’d you have to go get all reasonable on us..? 😉

    Seriously though, great article and I agree.

    I also appreciate the call to actually do something productive instead of merely arguing about what things shouldnt be done, and tempering that with the realization that its actually possible to make things worse and thus simply trying stuff at random is inappropriate.

    I would also suggest for people to become more involved in school-level activities. Specifically, school site councils have discussions about assessments (both standardized and on-going local) all the time. Including what they do (or dont) mean and how they can be used as input to policy/program decisions that best help teachers help students.

    These meetings are public. If anything, it will help people come to the realization that things are not as black and white as much of the rhetoric makes them out to be.

  5. Paul Muench 4 years ago4 years ago

    I think I get your point. You're not making a statement about teacher quality. You're making a statement about the quality of teacher evaluations. Which in summary is that our current legislation about teacher evaluations is not making a difference in schools. "nor is there reason to believe that teacher evaluation reform would make up for all of the advantages found in top schools and districts." Does this mean that you believe teacher evaluation … Read More

    I think I get your point. You’re not making a statement about teacher quality. You’re making a statement about the quality of teacher evaluations. Which in summary is that our current legislation about teacher evaluations is not making a difference in schools.

    “nor is there reason to believe that teacher evaluation reform would make up for all of the advantages found in top schools and districts.”

    Does this mean that you believe teacher evaluation will make no significant impact until those advantages are addressed? I’m considering the possibility that different teacher evaluations could help everyone even though they don’t eliminate all differences between students.

    Replies

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      Thanks for asking these questions. To clarify, I'm all in favor of better teacher evaluations. The teachers I worked with on our evaluation policy report were, like me, tired of infrequent and insufficient evaluations. The team included teachers with anywhere from 5 to 30 years of teaching experience; elementary, middle and high school; charter and traditional; urban and suburban; large and small districts; various regions of the state. We all agreed that … Read More

      Thanks for asking these questions. To clarify, I’m all in favor of better teacher evaluations. The teachers I worked with on our evaluation policy report were, like me, tired of infrequent and insufficient evaluations. The team included teachers with anywhere from 5 to 30 years of teaching experience; elementary, middle and high school; charter and traditional; urban and suburban; large and small districts; various regions of the state. We all agreed that better evaluations would be more frequent, including our students’ work, and focused on improving practice for all teachers at all career stages. So by all means, let’s work on this strategy for school improvement. However, the intensity of the poltical rhetoric around evaluation is counterproductive. Yes, if we improve evaluations, I’d expect to see improved student learning, but this policy lever is not a game changer if it happens in the absence of other improvements. I think AB5 opponents got a bit carried away in their arguments about what the bill needed and what its effects would be either way.

  6. Ann 4 years ago4 years ago

    “Even some of the strongest critics of teachers and unions concede that teachers account for a small portion of the overall factors that shape students’ lives and opportunities to learn…”

    My understanding is that research shows that the quality of teacher even for one year can determine students’ future success. Demographics are correlates.

    Replies

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      Ann, your understanding is incorrect. If I had to guess, I think you're referring to a study commonly referred to as the Chetty study. Even taking the study at face value, it's not strong enough to say one teacher would "determine students' future success." They did suggest that teachers whose students get higher scores also earn more money in their careers, are less likely to be pregnant as teens, etc. Sounds great, … Read More

      Ann, your understanding is incorrect. If I had to guess, I think you’re referring to a study commonly referred to as the Chetty study. Even taking the study at face value, it’s not strong enough to say one teacher would “determine students’ future success.” They did suggest that teachers whose students get higher scores also earn more money in their careers, are less likely to be pregnant as teens, etc. Sounds great, but if you break down the actual numbers, it becomes less impressive: a few dollars a week is not “determining” success. For lots of reviews and links suggesting we shouldn’t even take Chetty’s study at face value on the topic of value-added measures of teachers, see:
      http://nepc.colorado.edu/blog/review-chetty-study

      • Ann 4 years ago4 years ago

        I guess your idea of success is different than mine. I am referring to that study (2.5 million students). We who are educators all know how a poor teacher impacts the students and the school,including the teachers who have to try to catch up their ill taught students. Your argument suggests good teaching doesn't matter; that demographics are some sort of destiny. And if you think "a few dollars a week", avoiding teenage pregnancy, and … Read More

        I guess your idea of success is different than mine. I am referring to that study (2.5 million students). We who are educators all know how a poor teacher impacts the students and the school,including the teachers who have to try to catch up their ill taught students.

        Your argument suggests good teaching doesn’t matter; that demographics are some sort of destiny. And if you think “a few dollars a week”, avoiding teenage pregnancy, and attending college isn’t an important goal for education….well I’m not sure where you are coming from.

        • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

          Ann, I'm not sure who your "we" is. I'm a career teacher, and I've worked with hundreds of teachers around the state and country; I've found very, very few who put any stock in value-added measures. The team that I worked with on the ACT teacher evaluation report all agreed that we don't want weak teachers in our schools, and I bring similar feelings to the issue as the parent of two kids … Read More

          Ann, I’m not sure who your “we” is. I’m a career teacher, and I’ve worked with hundreds of teachers around the state and country; I’ve found very, very few who put any stock in value-added measures. The team that I worked with on the ACT teacher evaluation report all agreed that we don’t want weak teachers in our schools, and I bring similar feelings to the issue as the parent of two kids in public schools; but we don’t agree that test scores identify good and bad teachers. See this blog post for numerous studies and professional organizations backing my position.
          http://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/vam-nauseum-bleeding-the-patient/

          You have to try pretty hard to twist my argument into “teaching doesn’t matter” – did you really misunderstand me, or did you change my meaning to make your point? I also didn’t say that pregnancy and college aren’t important. I wrote a blog post on this topic earlier this year (link below) and I’d be glad to continue the dialogue if we can focus on what’s written rather than distortions thereof.

          http://accomplishedcaliforniateachers.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/look-forward-2012/

          • Ann 4 years ago4 years ago

            I am well aware of the reluctance of many teachers to be held accountable for student achievement using quantitative measures. Value added is a measure of individual student improvement that takes into account multiple external factors, including standardized tests. It provides a tool for not only administrators and parents but for teachers themselves to evaluate their teaching. Saying they don't want weak teachers but resisting a method to cull poor teachers (or even to try … Read More

            I am well aware of the reluctance of many teachers to be held accountable for student achievement using quantitative measures. Value added is a measure of individual student improvement that takes into account multiple external factors, including standardized tests. It provides a tool for not only administrators and parents but for teachers themselves to evaluate their teaching. Saying they don’t want weak teachers but resisting a method to cull poor teachers (or even to try )shows the insincerity of this claim. In any case your editorial attacks the motives of those who wish to use student test data demonstrating you’re guilty of what you are accusing others of. In fact you are doing the same in your response to my posts.

          • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

            Your declarations regarding VAM simply reflect more wishful thinking than established facts. A large body of research (cited all over my blog) exposes serious problems with VAM-in-evaluations as a concept, and the debacle last spring in New York City provided a perfect illustration. More importantly, as I've linked in my own blog posts repeatedly, the leading professional organizations for education research have held that you can't derive valid inferences from a test if you … Read More

            Your declarations regarding VAM simply reflect more wishful thinking than established facts. A large body of research (cited all over my blog) exposes serious problems with VAM-in-evaluations as a concept, and the debacle last spring in New York City provided a perfect illustration. More importantly, as I’ve linked in my own blog posts repeatedly, the leading professional organizations for education research have held that you can’t derive valid inferences from a test if you switch the purpose of the test from measuring students to measuring teachers. The technical term is “instructional sensitivity” – the tests lack a baseline and are affected by too many factors to be precisely “sensitive” to the teacher’s effect. For that reason, our state tests are not validated for purposes of teacher evaluation. Unless you have something to cite that goes beyond modest correlations, I don’t see much point in going on with this line of argument.

            My claims about what my peers and I want ought not to be deemed “insincere” just because we don’t want what you think we should want. The ACT report and my post above both include positive suggestions for how to improve the evaluation of teachers without resorting to VAM, and I’ve backed up my position quite thoroughly. The real test for our sincerity would be the extent to which we’ve actually pursued our stated goals to improve teacher evaluation – which I assure you is an ongoing process, one that I can detail for you if you like.

            And again, please focus on what I wrote. Use quotations. Where did I attack anyone’s motives? I do “attack” what I see as weaknesses in other people’s approaches and arguments concerning teacher evaluation, but I see no opinion offered about why they do what they do. I did ask if you altered my meaning accidentally or intentionally. I’m sorry if you were offended by my speculation that your motive in constructing your response might have been “to make your point.”

        • el 4 years ago4 years ago

          VAM is inherently invalid using the tests we have, and even if it was valid, it only covers a very small cohort of teachers. K-2 is your foundation - without strong teachers in those grades you have nothing - and they cannot be evaluated with those exams. So you already need a better way; why not use the better way for all teachers? Something to consider about VAM is that they have so much variance that … Read More

          VAM is inherently invalid using the tests we have, and even if it was valid, it only covers a very small cohort of teachers. K-2 is your foundation – without strong teachers in those grades you have nothing – and they cannot be evaluated with those exams. So you already need a better way; why not use the better way for all teachers?

          Something to consider about VAM is that they have so much variance that they could also make a weak teacher look stronger, making it more difficult to remove a problem staff member.

          Test scores are useful as an advisory discussion point, a “Huh. Why do you think that is?” moment whether the results are stellar or terrible. But trying to evaluate teachers from 300 or 3,000 miles away is never going to give results as useful as having a quality someone walk into the classroom and observe on a regular basis.

          • Ann 4 years ago4 years ago

            Wishful thinking eh? Not. You site research and links from your own benefactors! Face it, you exist in a closed feedback loop. In the real world we are looking at measuring outcomes. Its going to happen and you might as well prepare yourself and your constituents for that reality. "high-achieving students in California are not differentiated so much by teacher evaluations, but rather by the powerful influences of family wealth and educational attainment, and by access … Read More

            Wishful thinking eh? Not. You site research and links from your own benefactors! Face it, you exist in a closed feedback loop. In the real world we are looking at measuring outcomes. Its going to happen and you might as well prepare yourself and your constituents for that reality.
            “high-achieving students in California are not differentiated so much by teacher evaluations, but rather by the powerful influences of family wealth and educational attainment, and by access to schools with more money, better staffing levels, more robust offerings, and greater stability.” Well how did you know they were high achieving students? Oh the test? Yes sir, that is how we measure educational outcomes. All you are saying is we only want what we want which is for us to decide we are doing well choosing our own criteria.

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      Ann, we're getting further away from any substantial debate. I see no effort to address the core issues by citing any evidence, and you continue to distort what I say/write. For example, "All you are saying is we only want what we want which is for us to decide we are doing well choosing our own criteria." Not what I said, and not true. We do our jobs according to curriculum … Read More

      Ann, we’re getting further away from any substantial debate. I see no effort to address the core issues by citing any evidence, and you continue to distort what I say/write. For example, “All you are saying is we only want what we want which is for us to decide we are doing well choosing our own criteria.” Not what I said, and not true. We do our jobs according to curriculum standards and professional teaching standards provided by the state (or in some cases, the district). The tests from the state barely cover those standards, and do it poorly, and too late to be of any use to me. So no, we do not choose my own criteria, nor do the state tests address the criteria.

      As for your vague reference to citing “my benefactors”, are you critizing me for linking to a policy report that I helped write? Or do you imagine my benefactors include all of the major professional association for educational measurement and research that back my position, and every statistician, psychometrician, educator and economist who points out the weakness of VAM?

      You ask how we know students are successful without tests – and you claim to be the one in the “real world”? I’m speechless.

      • Ann 4 years ago4 years ago

        Yes Mr. Cohen your links to evidence are generally to your own blog posts or include advocates, organizations and benefactors, many with direct ties to your organization, including funding. The only criticisms of the Chetty/ Friedman (Harvard and Columbia) study I found are from these same advocates and organizations. Yours is a political viewpoint, theirs academic. Try to find your words. I really want you to share exactly how you propose to measure 1) student outcomes and 2) … Read More

        Yes Mr. Cohen your links to evidence are generally to your own blog posts or include advocates, organizations and benefactors, many with direct ties to your organization, including funding.

        The only criticisms of the Chetty/ Friedman (Harvard and Columbia) study I found are from these same advocates and organizations.

        Yours is a political viewpoint, theirs academic.

        Try to find your words. I really want you to share exactly how you propose to measure 1) student outcomes and 2) teacher quality. Give specifics, please.

        • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

          Ann, sorry for the delayed response. The reason I link to my own blog posts is that typically, each one of them contains many, many links to research conducted by organizations such as RAND, ETS, SRI International, or research summaries by the likes of the National Academies, U.S. Dept. of Education, the National Education Policy Center, and Economics Policy Institute, and the joint statement regarding validity that was put out over a decade ago … Read More

          Ann, sorry for the delayed response. The reason I link to my own blog posts is that typically, each one of them contains many, many links to research conducted by organizations such as RAND, ETS, SRI International, or research summaries by the likes of the National Academies, U.S. Dept. of Education, the National Education Policy Center, and Economics Policy Institute, and the joint statement regarding validity that was put out over a decade ago by the National Council for Measurement in Education, the American Education Research Association, and the American Psychology Association. I’m sorry I don’t have time to retrieve all those links again for you. Regarding the critiques of the Chetty study, stating where they come from doesn’t invalidate their critiques, nor do I think anyone is removed from politics at this point. As for benefactors, I wish I had as many as you seem to think I do. I have no professional or financial connection to any of the organizations mentioned above, except that Accopmlished California Teachers received a grant from a foundation that also funded a study by SRI. That study had nothing to do with value-added measures. I think I’ve addressed your other comments in my original post and other comments I’ve left here. No need for me to “try to find my words” – I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words on this topic, and made it abudantly clear where you can find that writing if you really care to consider other points of view.

  7. Paul Muench 4 years ago4 years ago

    I'm thinking about the followimg two statements. "California is last among the 50 states when it comes to providing administrative support, counselors, nurses, and librarians, all of whom make a significant difference in schools." and "The urgency of teacher evaluation reform has been overstated; high-achieving students in California are not differentiated so much by teacher evaluations, but rather by the powerful influences of family wealth and educational attainment, and by access to schools with more money, better staffing levels, … Read More

    I’m thinking about the followimg two statements.

    “California is last among the 50 states when it comes to providing administrative support, counselors, nurses, and librarians, all of whom make a significant difference in schools.”

    and

    “The urgency of teacher evaluation reform has been overstated; high-achieving students in California are not differentiated so much by teacher evaluations, but rather by the powerful influences of family wealth and educational attainment, and by access to schools with more money, better staffing levels, more robust offerings, and greater stability.”

    It almost appears as if you are saying that librarians are more important to schools than teachers. Although my better judgement says that its the language you chose to use and not your assessment. Given that neither of these statements were accompanied by any appeal to evidence, I am inclined to see them as statements of self interest rather than attempts to bridge understanding. Maybe the evidence is obvious to you, but I’m suggesting that trust is built and not blindly given. Can I assume we agree on that? So better to say why you believe as you do than what you believe.

    Replies

    • David B. Cohen 4 years ago4 years ago

      Paul - how does it appear that I'm suggesting "librarians are more important than teachers"? I mentioned a variety of services that help determine the overall quality of a school, and you picked out one. (For what it's worth, there were some studies in Colorado years ago that showed school libraries were more highly correlated to a school's overall achievement than any other factor. You might also search Stephen Krashen's work for similar … Read More

      Paul – how does it appear that I’m suggesting “librarians are more important than teachers”? I mentioned a variety of services that help determine the overall quality of a school, and you picked out one. (For what it’s worth, there were some studies in Colorado years ago that showed school libraries were more highly correlated to a school’s overall achievement than any other factor. You might also search Stephen Krashen’s work for similar research). As for the second statement, it’s self-evident: the vast majority of California schools have pretty similar evaluations, so it’s clearly not evaluation that differentiates or determines school quality, nor is there reason to believe that teacher evaluation reform would make up for all of the advantages found in top schools and districts.
      Overall, this post was not intended as a review of research. For that, see the link above (click “policy report”), or go to my blog and search topics I may have written about and cited more comprehensively in the past.

    • el 4 years ago4 years ago

      I would say that it's hard to understand how we will be able spend more time doing more and better evaluations (and this would include even the kind that are mere number crunching of student test scores) without finding time for someone in administration or time from other teachers (inevitably this takes them out of the classroom, don't forget) to do them. If we're #50 in support staff, as we are, already many important tasks … Read More

      I would say that it’s hard to understand how we will be able spend more time doing more and better evaluations (and this would include even the kind that are mere number crunching of student test scores) without finding time for someone in administration or time from other teachers (inevitably this takes them out of the classroom, don’t forget) to do them. If we’re #50 in support staff, as we are, already many important tasks and activities are getting short shrift, with the students in the end feeling the result.

      My guess is that the correlation of great schools with school librarians is less about the impact of great librarians (fabulous though they are) but more about what it says about the school’s resources and priorities. Librarians are often the first cut, and they provide valuable support for reading and also to teachers, leaving everyone spread a bit thinner, and giving kids less access to engaging reading materials. Our school keeps its library open with volunteers, but they are not able to perform some of the behind the scenes value of a true librarian, which includes ordering new books and discarding older ones.

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