Future of Teaching

New research deals blows to metrics used in New York teacher evaluations

New York City’s teacher evaluation system has serious weaknesses, according to new research that raises questions about the reliability of classroom observations and test scores as measures of high-quality teaching. And at least one of the researchers’ recommendations suggests that the city’s plan is headed in the wrong direction.

In the first study, released this week, researchers at the Brown Center on Education Policy looked at observation data from four school districts between 2009 and 2012. They affirmed that observations help teachers improve their practice, but their data showed that teachers of students with higher incoming achievement levels were typically rated higher than those with lower-performing students. They write:

Put simply, the current observation systems are patently unfair to teachers who are assigned less able and prepared students. When this bias is combined with a system design in which school-wide value-added contributes significantly to individual teachers’ overall evaluation score, the result is an unintended but strong incentive for good teachers to avoid teaching low-performing students and to avoid teaching in low-performing schools.

Researchers Grover Whithurst, Matthew Chingos, and Katharine Lindquist recommend that districts control observation scores for differences in student demographics. They also suggest that outsiders with a more independent perspective be brought in, in some instances, to replace principals and assistant principals who typically conduct observations.

If anything, New York City is moving away from the outsider model. A new evaluation deal eliminates the role of “independent validators,” who observe teachers after they received “ineffective” ratings, and replaces them with teachers who are currently working in the city school system.

The second peer-reviewed study, released Tuesday by the American Educational Research Association, reviewed the value-added scores for 327 fourth- and eighth- grade mathematics and English teachers from six school districts, including New York City. They found that some highly-regarded teachers’ students scored poorly on tests, and some poorly-regarded teachers’ students scored especially well. The Washington Post writes:

“The concern is that these state tests and these measures of evaluating teachers don’t really seem to be associated with the things we think of as defining good teaching,” said Morgan S. Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He worked on the analysis with Andrew C. Porter, dean and professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

“We need to slow down or ease off completely for the stakes for teachers, at least in the first few years, so we can get a sense of what do these things measure, what does it mean,” Polikoff said. “We’re moving these systems forward way ahead of the science in terms of the quality of the measures.”

This isn’t a surprise to anyone familiar with New York City’s use of value-added growth scores from 2007 to 2010. A New York University researcher studied the scores and found widespread errors in the data and instability among individual teachers’ scores from one year to the next.

meet the fellows

Meet the 38 teachers chosen by SCORE to champion education around Tennessee

PHOTO: SCORE
The year-long fellowships offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education were awarded to 38 Tennessee educators.

Six teachers from Memphis have been awarded fellowships that will allow them to spend the next year supporting better education in Tennessee.

The year-long fellowships, offered by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, train and encourage teachers and other educators to speak at events, write publicly about their experiences, and invite policymakers to their classrooms. The program is in its fifth year through the nonpartisan advocacy and research organization, also known as SCORE, which was founded by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist from Tennessee.

The fellowships, known as the Tennessee Educator Fellowships, have been awarded to 150 educators since the program’s launch in 2014. This year’s class of 38 educators from around the state have a combined 479 years of experience.

“The fellows’ diverse perspectives and experiences are invaluable as they work both inside and outside the classroom and participate in state conversations on preparing all students for postsecondary and workforce success,” SCORE President and CEO Jamie Woodson said in a news release.

Besides the Shelby County teachers, the group also includes educators who work for the state-run Achievement School District, public Montessori schools, and a school dedicated to serving children with multiple disabilities.

The 2018-19 fellows are:

  • Nathan Bailey, career technical education at Sullivan North High School, Sullivan County Schools
  • Kalisha Bingham-Marshall, seventh-grade math at Bolivar Middle School, Hardeman County Schools
  • Sam Brobeck, eighth-grade math at Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter Middle School. Shelby County Schools
  • Monica Brown, fourth-grade English language arts and social studies at Oakshire Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Nick Brown, school counselor at Westmoreland Elementary School, Sumner County Schools
  • Sherwanda Chism, grades 3-5 English language arts and gifted education at Winridge Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Richard J. Church, grades 7-8 at Liberty Bell Middle School, Johnson City Schools
  • Ada Collins, third grade at J.E. Moss Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Lynn Cooper,  school counselor at South Pittsburg High School, Marion County Schools
  • Colletta M. Daniels, grades 2-4 special education at Shrine School, Shelby County Schools
  • Brandy Eason, school counselor at Scotts Hill Elementary School, Henderson County Schools
  • Heather Eskridge, school counselor at Walter Hill Elementary School, Rutherford County Schools
  • Klavish Faraj, third-grade math and science at Paragon Mills Elementary School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Mavis Clark Foster, fifth-grade English language arts and science at Green Magnet Academy, Knox County Schools
  • Ranita Glenn, grades 2-5 reading at Hardy Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Telena Haneline, first grade at Eaton Elementary School, Loudon County Schools
  • Tenesha Hardin, first grade at West Creek Elementary School, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools
  • Thaddeus Higgins, grades 9-12 social studies at Unicoi County High School, Unicoi County Schools
  • Neven Holland, fourth-grade math at Treadwell Elementary School, Shelby County Schools
  • Alicia Hunker, sixth-grade math at Valor Flagship Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Alex Juneau, third grade at John Pittard Elementary School, Murfreesboro City Schools
  • Lyndi King, fifth-grade English language arts at Decatur County Middle School, Decatur County Schools
  • Rebecca Ledebuhr, eighth-grade math at STEM Preparatory Academy, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Aleisha McCallie, fourth-grade math and science at East Brainerd Elementary School, Hamilton County Department of Education.
  • Brian McLaughlin, grades 10-12 math at Morristown-Hamblen High School West, Hamblen County Schools
  • Caitlin Nowell, seventh-grade English language arts at South Doyle Middle School, Knox County Schools
  • Paula Pendergrass, advanced academics resources at Granbery Elementary School,  Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Julie Pepperman, eighth-grade science at Heritage Middle School, Blount County Schools
  • Kelly Piatt, school counselor at Crockett County High School, Crockett County Schools
  • Ontoni Reedy, grades 1-3 at Community Montessori, Jackson-Madison County Schools
  • Tiffany Roberts, algebra and geometry at Lincoln County Ninth Grade Academy, Lincoln County Schools
  • Craig Robinson, grades 3-5 science at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary, Achievement School District
  • Jen Semanco, 10th- and 11th-grade English language arts at Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Amanda Smithfield, librarian at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
  • Cyndi Snapp, fourth-grade math at Carter’s Valley Elementary School, Hawkins County Schools
  • David Sneed, 12th-grade English at Soddy Daisy High School, Hamilton County Department of Education
  • Yolanda Parker Williams, fifth-grade math at Karns Elementary School, Knox County Schools
  • Maury Wood II, grades 4-6 technology at Westhills Elementary School, Marshall County Schools

work hard play hard

Memphis teachers share basketball, even if they don’t share a district

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede

Freedom Preparatory Academy is gathering teachers from district-run and charter schools to play basketball. The teachers, mostly black men, have turned it into a networking opportunity as well as a way to let off steam.