Teachers take value-added to court

The courts may decide whether students’ test score gains are a fair way to judge teachers, note the Hechinger Report.

In what may be among the first of many lawsuits over the new evaluations—which have been adopted by multiple states—the Florida teachers union is challenging the state’s use of test scores in decisions about which teachers are fired and which receive pay raises. The Florida Education Association argues the system violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.

Everyone agrees that value-added measures, which compare students’ performance with a teacher to their past performance, aren’t entirely reliable. But are they good enough?

About one-quarter of effective teachers may be misidentified as ineffective, concludes a paper by Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington-Bothell, and Susanna Loeb, of Stanford. “The error rates,” they write, “appear to be quite high.”

And, yet, traditional methods of evaluating teachers, such as “cursory classroom observations, pass rates on licensure tests and degrees earned” are even less reliable.

“Flawed as they are, value-added measures appear to be better predictors of student achievement than the teacher characteristics that we currently use,” the researchers write.

“Ultimately, employment decisions need only be based on evaluation systems that are sufficiently valid, not perfect,” they conclude.

NYC erases low ratings — if teacher quits

New York City public schools have a “secret weapon to rub out incompetent teachers — an eraser,” reports the New York Post. If a teacher rated “unsatisfactory” agrees to quit or retire, all ratings will be changed to “satisfactory,” helping the teacher find a job in a new district.

High school coach in trouble for sex book

self-published book of sex advice and opinions has meant trouble for a high school girls basketball coach in suburban Chicago.  Bryan Craig,  also a counselor at Rich Central High School, resigned as the varsity coach and is on administrative leave while the district reviews the issue.

In the forward to the book, titled “It’s Her Fault,” Craig says his intention is to give women a guide to gaining the “upper hand in a relationship” because he is tired of hearing them complain. The book contains graphic details on his observations of the female anatomy, including what he describes as physical differences between ethnicities that lead him to conclude that “Latin women have more children.”

Among the assertions in the book is that all men and women should be promiscuous before getting married.

He also writes, “The easiest kill for a man is through the young lady with low self-esteem. Of course some will feel this is taking advantage, and yes it is.

Can he be fired for expressing his opinions? Should he be?

No, writes Darre.  Firing a teacher for something like this is a “heckler’s veto” on employment. 

Houston: Cheating is OK

Go ahead and cheat on state tests is the Houston school board’s new policy, complains Greg on Rhymes With Right.

Erica Carmouche will not be fired for helping students cheat on the state exam.

A split Houston school board has overruled Superintendent Terry Grier’s recommendation to fire a Lockhart Elementary teacher accused of helping students cheat on state exams in April.

. . . An external investigation had concluded “on balance” that Carmouche helped students on the high-stakes Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exams. Several fifth-graders reported that she pointed out wrong answers to them.

Grier pledged in July that teachers who cheated would “not be in Houston classrooms this fall.” The school board, however, has the power to accept or reject his proposed terminations.

Thousands of Texas teachers have been laid off, Greg points out. “Surely there is an honest one who can take the place of this cheater.”

The case for turnover

After praising E.D. Kain’s defense of job security for teachers in Forbes, Atlantic blogger Megan McArdle makes the case for firing teachers.

She assumes that teacher quality matters, even if it can’t erase the effects of dysfunctional families, and that it’s possible to identify very bad teachers,though  much harder to determine who’s mediocre.

She proposes raising pay in exchange for offering less job security, attracting more risk takers to teaching. The job now appeals to  people who value “good early retirement benefits” and a low risk of being fired, she writes. 

 Minimizing teacher turnover shouldn’t be the goal, McArdle argues. Despite its costs, turnover  “also has benefits: fresh blood, lower burnout rates, and an incentive for teachers to keep performing.”

 The whole idea of hiring someone in their early twenties and employing them forever . . . breeds an organization that is insular — resistant to new ideas, suspicious of outsiders, resentful of its nominal clients.  We should be looking for ways to make teaching more open to part-timers and people in second, third, or eighth career cycles, and to make it easier for teachers to move around between schools and districts, and between teaching and other industries.

Teaching should be a “high-intensity, high-reward job,” McArdle writes. “We’re going to get people burning out.”  They should move on to other jobs.

Read the whole thing and see what you think.

Back to work at Central Falls High

Teachers will return to work at Central Falls High in Rhode Island in the fall under a deal with Superintendent Fran Gallo, who’d fired the entire staff of the low-performing  school in February.  Gallo called the teachers’ union’s bluff, writes Rick Hess.

 Gallo had asked Central Falls High’s teachers to agree to a series of school-improvement measures: you know, such nutso stuff as lengthening the school day, adding 90 minutes per week of common planning time, asking teachers to do a week of paid professional development at $30 per hour during the summer (the union wanted $90 per hour), and asking teachers to eat lunch with students once a week. The teachers rejected the proposals out of hand, triggering Gallo’s escalation.

Threatened with the mass lay-off — and knowing 800 applications have come in for the school’s 93 jobs – the union agreed to “Gallo’s initial requests, including two weeks (rather than one) of summer professional development at her preferred rate,” Hess writes.

Crucially, the agreement also stipulates that Gallo and the school’s new principal will have the authority to select an outside evaluator next fall. The evaluator will provide support and intervention where needed, and will identify teachers who need to be removed. Teachers will not be able to grieve the evaluation process, and fired teachers will have no bumping rights. In short, Gallo and the principal will have everything they need in order to identify weak teachers and get them out of the system.

It’s not clear how many teachers should be fired, Hess writes. While the school has struggled for many years — only half of students earn a diploma –  “we don’t know how much any given teacher is contributing to the school’s poor performance.”