Tag Archives: student test scores


Delta High School Project Based Learning is Achieving Success

The STEM Foundation will expand this program

Student test scores would rank Delta High School in 25th place among Washington State high schools if Delta was recognized as a high school apart from its feeder schools.  STEM Executive Director, Karen Baker stated this accomplishment was made with a cross section of students from three school districts selected by lottery.  Entering ninth grade students have math and language skills ranging from 4th to 12th grade and 47% qualify for free and reduced cost lunch.

Operating counter to the trend of the past twenty years which has schools reducing or eliminating elective and exploratory classes in favor of doubles academic classes, Delta embraces hands-on student activities with teachers integrating academics and projects.

One measure of Delta’s success is illustrated by 2011 HSPE scores.  Student growth at Delta was well above national and state norms in every category as well as surpassing student growth in area high schools. Continue reading


When Teachers Become Overseers: Casualties of the School Reform Plantation in the Bronx and Places Like it

When Teachers Become Overseers: Casualties of the School Reform Plantation in the Bronx and Places Like it

Mark Naison
Fordham University

This is a strange time to be involved in education. Either those shaping education policy on the state and federal level- many of whom have never been teachers- are incapable of imagining the consequences of their policies in actual classrooms, or they are cynically trying to destroy public education in the United States.

No better example of this is the now widely practiced policy of rating teachers based on student test scores, and using variations in those scores, through the “value added” formula, as the basis for determining teachers’ professional standing. All throughout the nation teachers are being told that if they don’t raise student test scores, they could lose their tenure, lose their jobs, and in some places be publicly humiliated as an “incompetent teachers.” If they work in a high poverty school, their school could be closed and their entire teaching staff fired.

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Press Release

A Letter to President Obama

Two grandparents on opposite ends of the continent each had a concern about the direction of education reform and its effect on their grandchildren.  Through a chain of improbable circumstances they found each other on Facebook and conjured up a letter to President Obama expressing their concerns.

Mark Naison, from Brooklyn, NY and a Fordham professor prepared a draft of the letter.  Bob Valiant, retired school administrator from Kennewick, WA, edited the letter and Bob Valiant Jr. developed a survey form and website, http://dumpduncan.org.  The letter calls for the removal of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the inclusion of parents, teachers, and school administrators in all administration policy discussions.  It insists on the immediate end to penalties and incentives to compel using student test scores to evaluate teachers, require school closures, or install charter schools.  Finally, the letter asks for a National Commission, to include parents and teachers, to explore ways to improve the public schools.

Naison and Valiant Sr. began to circulate the letter to friends on Facebook on February 3.  The signatures started rolling in and by the start of the Super Bowl on February 12 over 2000 total signatures had been recorded.  A map on the website shows they came from all across the country, from big cities, suburbs, and hamlets.  All of this happened with a purely volunteer cadre made up of parents, teachers, and other concerned citizens with no financial expenditure.  Now the goal is to continue collecting signatures until March 1 when the letter and package of signatures will be delivered to the President.


For further information, consult the website, http://dumpduncan.org.


Well, d’ho.


Our friend Mike Martin in Arizona sent this to us.  You might remember Mike as the author of  “Waiting for Superfraud,” the most popular article we have ever published (by far!).  Here he takes on the use of student test scores as a  measure of teacher effectiveness.

On Mar 9, 2011, at 8:24 AM, Michael Martin wrote:
Maybe it’s just me, but I keep hearing about how there are all these ineffective teachers in public schools that the unions are protecting. First of all, let’s ignore that unions are SUPPOSED to defend ineffective teachers until they are proven ineffective, just like lawyers are supposed to defend murderers until they are proven murderers.

It just seems to me there is no difference between the old “I have the names of 200 communists who are working for the state department” and today’s almost identical “I have the names of 200 ineffective teachers that unions keep on the job.” It seems to be a witch hunt.

In both cases it is essentially fantasy wedded to fallacy. It is as if there is an implicit assumption that all students are uniform commodities for which there is only one way to teach them along a single spectrum from bad to good. This is fantasy. The fallacy is that instead each classroom is a roomful of conundrums that teachers attempt to tailor customized instruction with varying levels of success. This single spectrum fantasy taken logically implies that somewhere in America there is a great teacher and everyone else is less effective, or ineffective. The fallacy is that teachers are actually functioning in an environment that is dynamic rather than static and children are not uniform commodities. What works one day for one group won’t always work another day with another group.
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Update on L.A. Teacher Suicide

The fallout from the L.A. Times publication of value-added analysis of student test scores has begun tragically.  While testing and assessment experts agree that the value-added rankings of teachers based on student test scores is not an appropriate use of the technique, the Obama administration and school districts around the country continue the practice.   The Times exacerbated the problem by publishing teacher names and the useless rankings.  Here is one result.  Is this what you want for Kennewick or the state of Washington?

Teacher kills himself after rankings published - Willa Rogers – Sep 27,

A very sad story here in Los Angeles today: The body of an LAUSD veteran of
13 years was found this weekend, after he’d made arrangements for a
substitute to take over his class.

For those who don’t know, a few weeks ago the Los Angeles Times published a
searchable database of teacher rankings across the district. The union
local, UTLA, has a ton of info on its website as to why the “value-added”
methodology of the rankings are flawed, and how teachers are unfairly

One of the teachers who received below-average ranking was Rigoberto Ruelas,
39, who taught fifth grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School. From LA

Continue reading


School Board Report by Tom Staly

Kennewick School Board Meeting August 25, 2010
The most discussed issue of this meeting was planning for workshops. Workshops have been conducted at each of the district schools as an opportunity for building administration and staff to formally report standardized test scores to the board. In June four proposals were under consideration by the board. August 11 a fifth proposal was offered by Dawn Adams who later consulted with Dave Bond. Adams’ idea is to have district staff report instead to members of the community. This must happen soon so district administration will immediately select “influential” community “leaders” and train them to understand the data. These community members will meet with building administrators from the 14 elementaries and 7 or more secondary schools during September. Continue reading


Problems with the use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers

Follow the links to one of the most important education policy briefs you will read this year.  Teacher Kenneth Bernstein discusses some of the important conclusions of the Economic Policy Institute brief.  At a time when the Dept. of Education is pushing to tie teacher evaluation and compensation to student test scores, this Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper (whose title is the same as this diary, and which is a pdf), pulls together the extensive relevant research that demonstrates the dangers of pursuing such a path.

To read the teacherken blog, click here.


Test Score Bomb: Don’t Name Names, Fix the System

Here are some quotes lifted from a Huffington Post article by Charles Kerchner, research professor at Claremont Graduate University.

“There is little doubt that the Times is intent on publishing the names” (of LA teachers who did not show well on the value-added analysis of student test scores).” But they shouldn’t. Here’s why:”

“First, there is a difference between public officials and public employees. Public officials are fair game for just about anything, from their expense accounts to their sex lives. Traditionally, journalism has had a different relationship with public employees. We recognize that exposing rogue cops and racist firefighters falls within the purview of journalism, but we haven’t seen their performance rankings listed. That’s considered an internal personnel matter, just as it is with employees in the private sector.”

“I understand shaming mayors, school board members, even superintendents, but using a test that teachers were never told that they were to be evaluated by to publicly shame them doesn’t pass the “all the news that’s fit to print” test. There is a public interest in exposing the school district’s inadequate evaluation system. There is no public interest in shaming teachers. It’s just mean-spirited.”

“Second, the statistics are prone to error and need to be used in combination with other indicators to gain an accurate picture of teacher effectiveness. To begin with, value-added calculations are no better than the data used to calculate them: garbage in, garbage out, as statisticians say. LAUSD student data records are notoriously prone to mistakes. I have analyzed thousands LAUSD student records and remember well the task of seeing that data from one year matched the next, that students had actually taken classes from the teachers that were listed in the student record.”

“The second source of error comes from the statistical techniques used in calculating value-added measures. There is much controversy among academic statisticians about which of the many value-added calculation techniques yields the best results. As with other powerful statistical techniques, the answers one gets depends on the techniques used.”

“The propensity of value-added techniques to produce errors has been recognized for a long time, and a recent U.S. Institute for Education Sciences report concluded that the error rate could be upward of 30 percent. Moreover, rankings tend to be unstable from year to year: this year’s high ranking teacher might be more poorly ranked next year, and vice versa.”

To read the entire post, click here.