Thursday, May 17, 2018

Would the new teacher evaluation bill fix the dysfunctional test-based system that currently exists? The answer is no.

UPDATE: James Eterno, NYC teacher has posted a petition, urging the Governor and the legislature to  repeal the state law which ties teacher evaluation to test scores.  This is unlike the current bill, which continues to tie evaluation to alternative assessments or the state exams, unreliable, unfair and statistically invalid ways of rating teachers.  Instead, NY schools would return to locally determined teacher evaluation methods that existed before Race to Top, Arne Duncan and Bill Gates managed to dupe the state and the teachers union into adopting the current dysfunctional system.
A new bill, passed by the NYS Assembly and being considered by the NY Senate as S08301, would change the teacher evaluation system in the state for (at least) the fourth time since 2010.  Despite the claims of NYSUT, the state teacher union, a careful reading of the bill does not indicate that it would de-link teacher evaluations from student test scores.  

Instead, teacher evaluations would continue to be partially determined by student “growth scores,” which in turn would be based on “alternate assessments” as approved by the NYS Education Department or where desired locally, still based on the state exams.  Thus, the concerns expressed by the NY State School Boards  Association, the New York Council of School Superintendents and other education groups, that this bill, if passed, could mean even more testing for students, appears warranted, since the state exams will continue to be given anyway, as mandated by federal law. 

More discussion of the teacher evaluation issue, which NY State can’t seem to get right, is in an column written by Gary Stern of LoHud News,  in which he calls the system “a ghastly mistake that won't die.” Diane Ravitch argues that the currently teacher evaluation law, called APPR, should just be repealed, and the decision how to evaluate teachers should go back to the districts, as it was before the promise of Race to the Top funds lured the state to create a new system based in part on student test scores.  My view? If the law is not to be simply repealed, there should be hearings, public input and careful consideration as to what should replace this complex and unreliable mess of a system, rather than the current bill.

The below detailed analysis was written by Deborah Abramson-Brooks of the Port Washington Advocates for Public Education and NY State Allies for Public Education.
Can we PLEASE settle this once and for all?

The proposed legislation -- recently passed in the NYS Assembly with a "same as" bill now sitting in the NYS Senate -- is all about amending the current teacher evaluation law, NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d.  The proposed legislation affects only *some* of section 3012-d; those portions of 3012-d that are not addressed in the proposed legislation remain intact. Accordingly, it is IMPERATIVE that the proposed legislation be read in conjunction with existing NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d. If you like to use a ruler and red pen, feel free to put the documents side-by-side and start red-lining, or adding!

Myth #1: tests will be decoupled from teacher evaluations. FALSE.
I have seen/heard waaaaay too many comments suggesting that the proposed legislation permanently decouples testing from teacher evaluations.  Sorry, no. 

Teacher (and principal) evaluations remain segmented into two categories: student performance and classroom observations. According to the proposed legislation, student performance will continue to be based on some type of assessment, whether it's a state exam, or some "alternative assessment" that SED will approve. The difference is that the NY State Education Department will no longer be able to mandate that a district MUST use the STATE test scores for teacher evaluations; rather, this is subject to local collective bargaining discretion.

The following is from a NYS Assembly press release:

"THE LEGISLATION WOULD REMOVE THE MANDATE that state created or administered assessments be used to evaluate a teacher's or principal's performance. The Commissioner of Education would be required to promulgate regulations providing ALTERNATIVE ASSESSMENTS FOR DISTRICTS THAT CHOOSE NOT TO USE THE STATE ASSESSMENTS. The selection and use of assessments would be subject to collective bargaining. The bill would also eliminate the use of the state-provided growth model in a teacher or principal's evaluation. ALL TEACHERS WOULD BE REQUIRED TO HAVE A STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVE (SLO) consistent with a goal-setting process determined or developed by the Commissioner.

The legislation would also ELIMINATE THE USE OF CERTAIN RULES TO DETERMINE A TEACHER OR PRINCIPAL'S OVERALL RATING, and make permanent provisions that prohibit grades three through eight ELA or math state assessments scores from being included on a student's permanent record."  (my emphasis added)

TRANSLATION: 1) SED is precluded from mandating that districts use the grades 3-8 state exams and/or Regents exams to evaluate teachers; BUT NOW, districts can *choose* to use the state exams to evaluate a teacher/principal, or some alternative assessment approved by SED, via local collective bargaining.

Myth #2: no more growth models!  FALSE.
As mentioned above, *some* type of test/assessment must still be tied to the teacher evaluation.  Some districts may choose to use the state exams in grades 3-8.

Some districts may choose to use Regents exams for high school teachers.  (It remains to be seen if SED will allow districts to use Regents exams for all teachers, or only those whose classes culminate in a Regents Exam.) 

Other districts may decide to use one of the SED-approved alternative assessments, which come with their own growth models, i.e., NWEA MAP, and which are no more reliable for this purpose than the state exams.  Whichever assessment is used, some type of growth model will likely be required by SED, or else how would a district determine student growth, a requirement that remains mandated in the state law?  See NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d(2)(c): “Student growth’ shall mean the change in student achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time;” and NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d(4)(a) which also discusses student growth. 

Whichever assessment is used, expert statisticians have been sounding the alarm bells that *any* test-based growth model – whether VAM (Value-Added Model) or the SGP (Student Growth Percentile), or some other model -- used for high-stakes considerations should immediately be viewed with great suspicion.  Many experts, including Diane Ravitch, call these models “junk science.”  The AmericanStatistical Association has come out against this method of evaluating teachers, and there is an entire website called VAMboozled, written by expert statistician and Professor Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, who explains in detail why growth models based on student test scores are an unreliable and unfair way to evaluate teachers.

Finally, in the lawsuit filed by Great Neck teacher Sheri Lederman, Justice Roger D. McDonough of the New York State Supreme Court found that the portion of the NYS teacher evaluation statute that linked student growth scores to the teacher’s evaluation was irrational and produced results that were “arbitrary and capricious,” and ruled that the teacher scores and ratings that flowed from them were illegal. At that point, however, the Legislature had already voted on a moratorium against using state test scores in teacher evaluation until the school year 2019-20. 

The moratorium is coming to its end; thus this bill.

Now let's read the entirety of the current APPR law, NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d (a/k/a part of The Education Transformation Act of 2015), alongside the Legislature's red-lined/green additions version to THAT LAW, and see what else changes/stays/gets added.  Here is NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d:

Subdivision 1 of 3012-d remains intact. That section provides: "Such ANNUAL EVALUATIONS SHALL BE A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR FOR EMPLOYMENT DECISIONS including but not limited to, promotion, retention, tenure determination, termination, and supplemental compensation. Such evaluations SHALL ALSO BE a significant factor IN TEACHER AND PRINCIPAL DEVELOPMENT including but not limited to coaching, induction support, and differentiated professional development." Translation: high-stakes employment decisions remain.

Subdivision 2, Definitions, remains intact.

Subdivision 3, Ratings, as in H-E-D-I (meaning Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective) designations, remain intact.

Subdivision 4, Categories; continue to define APPR by student performance along with classroom observations. Translation: tests continue to be linked to APPR.

What changes: *For the first student performance subcomponent: 1) "a teacher shall have a student learning objective (SLO) consistent with a goal-setting process determined or developed by the commissioner, that RESULTS IN A STUDENT GROWTH SCORE;" 2) the law continues to say: "for any teacher whose course ends in a state-created or administered assessment, such assessment MAY be used as the underlying assessment for such SLO" -- meaning the state tests can still be used as the underlying assessment for the SLO; but 3) the mandate to use a growth score based on the state exams is eliminated.

What else changes: *For the optional second student performance subcomponent: a district may locally select a second measure and be either: (A) BASED ON A STATE-CREATED OR ADMINISTERED TEST (again, meaning the state exams); or (B) based on a state-designed supplemental assessment (again meaning the state exams).  The state-provided growth model mandate is eliminated.

This language in 3012-d(4) remains intact: "The commissioner shall determine the weights and scoring ranges for the subcomponent or subcomponents of the student performance category that shall result in a combined category rating. The commissioner shall also set parameters for appropriate targets for student growth for both subcomponents, and the department must affirmatively approve and shall have the authority to disapprove or require modifications of district plans that do not set appropriate growth targets, including after initial approval. The commissioner shall set such weights and parameters consistent with the terms contained herein."  This gives a whole lot of power to Commissioner Elia, who has in the past put great reliance on unreliable standardized exams.

In addition, the entire provision regarding classroom observations remains intact.

Subdivision 5, Rating Determination. 1) The draft legislation completely removes what must happen to a teacher or principal who is rated using two subcomponents in the student performance category and receives a rating of ineffective for both. 2) BUT... it otherwise leaves the HEDI matrix intact, which in essence means student growth scores and teacher observation are weighted 50/50, and sometimes the student growth portion is given more weight.

Subdivision 6, Prohibited Elements, entire section left intact.  So, for anyone claiming that student portfolios could be used instead of standardized exams, check out subsection (a):

“The following elements shall no longer be eligible to be used in any evaluation subcomponent pursuant to this section: a. evidence of student development and performance derived from lesson plans, other artifacts of teacher practice, and student portfolios, except for student portfolios measured by a state-approved rubric where permitted by the department.” 

And for anyone saying that unit tests (meaning designed by the classroom teacher) could be used to measure student performance, check out subsection (d) that rules out the use of: “any district or regionally-developed assessment that has not been approved by the department.”

Subdivision 7 continues to ensure that the process by which weights and scoring ranges are assigned to subcomponents and categories is transparent and available to those being rated before the beginning of each school year. The draft legislation completely removes what must happen to a teacher or principal who is rated using two subcomponents in the student performance category and receives a rating of ineffective for both.

Subdivision 8 says a student may not be instructed, for two consecutive school years, by any two teachers in the same district, each of whom received a rating of ineffective under an evaluation conducted pursuant to this section in the school year immediately prior to the school year in which the student is placed in the teacher's classroom.... remains intact.

Subdivision 9 regarding the right to terminate a probationary (non-tenured) teacher or principal remains intact.

Subdivision 10 regarding the local collective bargaining representative negotiating with the district remains largely intact.

Subdivisions 11 and 12 remain intact.

Subdivisions 13 and 14, looping 3012-d to 3012-c (which outlines the subcomponent scores that align to H-E-D-and I) remains intact. NYS Ed. Law section 3012-c here:

Subdivision 15 remains intact.

The draft legislation adds a new subdivision 16, to provide that 1) the grades 3-8 state tests "shall not be required to be utilized in any manner to determine a teacher or principal evaluation required by this section;" 2) SED (Commissioner Elia) is required to promulgate rules and regs providing alternative assessments that may be used; 3) the selection and use of an assessment is subject to collective bargaining law; 4) any unexpired collective bargaining agreement in effect on the date this proposed legislation takes effect (if ever) stands until the entry into a successor collective bargaining agreement, and a successor collective bargaining agreement must comply with applicable law and timelines, etc.

Translation: all new collective bargaining agreements must comply with the amended APPR law (if it passes) or, conversely, whatever assessments are used in the district’s teacher evaluation system must be negotiated with the union.

And finally, the draft bill discusses the grades 3-8 test scores vis-a-vis a student's permanent record. (FWIW, this issue is addressed in NYS Ed. Law section 305(45) – not NYS Ed. Law section 3012-d.)

NYS Ed. Law section 305(45) provides: "no school district or board of cooperative educational services may place or include on a student's official transcript or maintain in a student's permanent record any individual student score on a state administered standardized English language arts or mathematics assessment for grades three through eight, provided that nothing herein shall be construed to interfere with required state or federal reporting or to excuse a school district from maintaining or transferring records of such test scores separately from a student's permanent record, including for purposes of required state or federal reporting." 

 The most recent expiration date for that provision was December 2018; the recent  budget bill amended that expiration date to December 2019, via Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2018.  The draft legislation seeks to eliminate the expiration date altogether.  NYS Ed. Law section 305 here:

Happy red-lining!



James Eterno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Eterno said...

Great post. If you want to see the evaluation system go, join 1,200 who have already signed our petition to repeal the evaluation law.

Let's make it a big campaign issue in the governor's race.

I removed an earlier comment because I didn't see the update where you linked to our petition.
Thanks for linking to it.