Please go here and print this article. Grab a cup of coffee and go to that special place where you do your best reading. Read, wash your hands, and come back to this blog.
So what do you think? According to the article, teacher evaluation using high stakes test scores of children is something open to debate. On the one side you have the evil union president warning about the unfairness factor when working with students from challenging backgrounds. On the other side you have reformers saying that teacher evaluation using the high stakes test scores of children from challenging backgrounds isn’t a problem. And after reading this article (and flushing the toilet), you now know what?
Not a damn thing of value!
In fact, after reading this disaster masquerading as journalism, most readers will come away less informed. Why? Because the supposed journalist has framed the issue of using high stakes tests scores from children in the evaluation of teachers as just another “debate.”
Here’s what this side says. Here’s what the other side says. You decide.
This is sh!tty journalism. Actually it’s not journalism at all. It’s what’s now called reporting. When you report you don’t have to be informed, you just repeat what others say and make sure you have contradictory comments from “the other side.” This is supposedly balanced reporting. Nonsense!
So let’s take a couple snippets from this article to demonstrate my point.
“Teachers at more affluent suburban school districts will have an unfair advantage over urban and rural educators when the state’s new teacher evaluation system is implemented next year, the president of Harrisburg School District’s teachers union said.”
Fact or Excuse? This is a fact. This is not the union president’s opinion. The research is absolutely clear on this issue. Children from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds tend to score lower on high stakes tests. It’s just an annoying fact. This doesn’t mean that students from these challenging circumstances can’t learn.
Where I do take issue with the union president is by framing this as an issue of fairness. Saying it’s unfair sounds like whining. Speak truth! Using sh!tty data to hurt teachers is wrong!
The spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the executive director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools disagreed. There are safeguards in place in the new evaluation system that will account for the barriers to learning students in urban and rural districts bring with them to school, they said.
The spokesman (Tim Eller- no degree in education and has never been a teacher) and the director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools can disagree all they want. Again, this is not a matter of one side agreeing and the other side disagreeing. As I said above, it is a fact that socioeconomically challenged students bring many other variables to the table of learning. And the supposed “safeguards in place in the new evaluation system that will account for the barriers” are experimental at best.
They are trying to say that Value Added Measurements (a complicated experimental statistical operation) can screen out the socioeconomic challenges children bring to the classroom. So far VAM’s can’t even achieve error rates less than 20% using suburban teachers teaching suburban kids. Therefore if the spokesperson and executive director believe in “safeguards” they are either misinformed or their thinking deluded.
The new assessment system uses an array of criteria to measure student achievement, including student growth measurements that determine whether a student has made progress from one year to the next, said Tim Eller, spokesman for PDE.
Tim Eller (no degree in education) can “say” whatever he wants I guess. However it’s still bullsh!t.
“The way this teacher evaluation system is broke out doesn’t look at one year of information. It’s multiple measures, and that portion that is teacher specific looks at a three-year average and what’s looked at is a growth rate overall,” he said. “The evaluation system will analyze any type of growth in that averaging period.”
“To just rely on one year of data wouldn’t be fair,” Eller added. “[Three years] allows for anomalies in one area not to have a significant impact on other areas. It’s a fairer way because Pennsylvania is a very diverse state from the rural to urban areas.”
And Tim Eller (no degree in education) can make this outrageous claim on the foundation of what research? Oh wait there isn’t any research that conclusively states that using three years of sh!tty data in the form of high stakes test scores makes VAMs “fair.”
Teachers everywhere want clear evaluation models,” she [director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools] added. “I think the new system has a number of safeguards in place. Teachers are not penalized for the barriers.”
I don’t care what director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools “thinks.” This is not about her thoughts. Especially when her thinking has no support in any of the research on the use of VAMs.
Look, after I read this, drank my coffee, and washed my hands I was livid. First of all, Tim Eller (no degree in education) and the director of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools have no business making any comments concerning the complexity of teacher evaluation—they’re not qualified! Second, the framing of this story as a balanced debate misinforms readers.
This is not an exercise in objective reporting-presenting both sides of an issue fairly. There is nothing objective about reporting when the “facts” are totally situated on one side of an issue. In this case, the overwhelming evidence is conclusive. You can’t evaluate teachers (urban, rural, suburban, sub-Saharan) using sh!tty tests that provide sh!tty data.
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