Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 07/28/2010

Were some D.C. teachers fired based on flawed calculations?

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is Aaron Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He writes the Sociological Eye on Education blog for The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, non-partisan education-news outlet affiliated with the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media. Pallas has also taught at Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Northwestern University, and served as a statistician at the National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education.

In this post, Pallas goes into detail about why he believes the D.C. Public Schools botched the calculation of value-added scores for some of the teachers who were among the 241 fired last week by Chancellor Michelle Rhee.

By Aaron Pallas
We live in an age of accountability and transparency – and yet some school districts seem not to be playing by the rules. I recently wrote about the lack of accountability in the way districts report how they calculate teacher “value-added” measures that are used for medium-stakes and high-stakes personnel decisions (such as granting teachers tenure or firing them).

Districts such as Washington, D.C. and New York City have failed to disclose the technical materials that describe the strengths and weaknesses of their chosen value-added technology. There are hundreds of decisions regarding how to calculate value-added scores in a given school district, some of which may be routine, and others of which might be controversial.

Moreover, these decisions have consequences for who gets what score – and this is a serious matter if the scores have medium and high stakes for teachers.

Below, I illustrate how value-added scores may have been misused in the termination of 26 teachers in the D.C Public Schools last week and the classifying of hundreds of other general education teachers in grades four through eight as “minimally effective.”

I cannot be sure that this is what happened, as no technical report on the IMPACT system ratings is available.

The only documentation currently on the DCPS website is the DCPS IMPACT Guidebook for General Ed Teachers with Individual Value Added (IVA), which was published in October 2009, concurrent with the announcement of the system.

Perhaps Mathematica Policy Research, the contractor for the IMPACT system, figured out an alternative approach; based on the information available, there’s no way to tell.

There’s no polite way to say this: The procedures described in the DCPS IMPACT Guidebook for producing a value-added score are idiotic. These procedures warrant this harsh characterization because they make a preposterous assumption based on a misunderstanding of the properties of the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS).

To comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, the DC CAS measures student performance in reading and math in grades three through eight and grade 10, as well as student performance in science, biology, and composition in select grades. The test, developed by testing contractor CTB/McGraw-Hill, is designed to track student mastery of the D.C. content standards.

Tests generally take the form of multiple-choice and constructed-response items; the pattern of correct responses generates a raw score, indicating the number of correct items (with partial credit for constructed-response items), sometimes with a correction or “penalty” for guessing. These raw scores are converted into scaled scores, scores on a scale that represents a common yardstick for multiple versions of a test.

For example, there were 54 questions on the math portion of the SAT in 2008, and raw scores ranging from -5 to 54 were converted into scaled scores in the familiar 200-800 range.(It’s possible to earn a negative raw score on the SAT because of the so-called “guessing penalty,” but the lowest possible scaled score is 200.) In D.C., then, if this year’s third-grade reading test is slightly easier than last year’s test, a given raw score would convert into a lower scaled score than the same raw score would have in the preceding year.

Some tests, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, are designed to be vertically equated. This means that the same scale is used to locate the performance of students in different grades.

In a vertically-equated testing system, a score of 450 represents the same level of performance regardless of whether it was earned by a fourth-grader or a fifth-grader.

Tests need not be vertically equated to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, which merely demands that test-takers in each grade be classified as “proficient” or “not proficient” in relation to grade-level content standards.

Typically this is done first by converting raw scores into scaled scores, and then in a second step determining the scaled score threshold that separates students judged proficient at that grade from those who are below that standard.

The scaling approach taken by the DC CAS is, to my mind, pretty unconventional, because the scaled scores do not overlap across grades. In grade four, the minimum possible scaled score is 400, and the maximum possible scaled score is 499. In grade five, however, the minimum possible scaled score is 500, and the maximum possible scaled score is 599. (The same approach is used in grades six through eight.)

This means that a fourth-grade student who got every question on the fourth-grade math assessment correct would receive a lower scaled score than a fifth-grade student who got every question wrong on the fifth-grade assessment.

That sounds ridiculous, but it’s not problematic if the scale for fourth-grade performance is acknowledged to be different from the scale for fifth-grade performance. The design of the DC CAS allows for comparing performance in fourth grade in one year with fourth-grade performance in the next year; but it doesn’t permit measuring how much students have gained from one grade to the next. Measuring growth from one grade to the next requires a test that is vertically equated.

Which brings us to the value-added calculations for the DCPS IMPACT. As is common in value-added measures, a teacher’s “value added” is determined by the difference between the growth expected for a student (or class of students) with a given set of characteristics with a typical teacher, based on a statistical prediction equation, and the growth actually observed for that student (or class of students) with that particular teacher.

How is that growth measured? According to the DCPS IMPACT Guidebook, the actual growth is a student’s scaled score at the end of a given year minus his or her scaled score at the end of the prior year. If a fifth-grader received a scaled score of 535 in math and a score of 448 on the fourth-grade test the previous year, his actual gain would be calculated as 87 points.

Subtracting one score from another only makes sense if the two scores are on the same scale. We wouldn’t, for example, subtract 448 apples from 535 oranges and expect an interpretable result. But that’s exactly what the DC value-added approach is doing: Subtracting values from scales that aren’t comparable.

By assuming that the difference between a student’s score in one year and his or her score in the following year is a definite (and precise) quantity, the DCPS value-added scheme assumes that the scaled scores are measured on an interval-level scale, in which the difference between a score of 498 and a score of 499 represents the same difference in performance as the difference between 499 and 500.

But this simply cannot be. The difference between 498 and 499 is a tiny difference among very high achievers in the fourth grade. But the difference between 499 and 500 is the difference between the highest performing fourth-grader and the lowest performing fifth-grader; and there are many fourth-graders who outperform low-scoring fifth-graders.

And heaven help the poor teacher who is teaching a class filled with students who’ve been retained in grade.

A fifth-grade student who got every question wrong on the reading test at the end of fourth grade and every question wrong at the end of fifth grade would show an actual gain of 500–400=100 points.

A fifth-grader repeating fifth grade who had a scaled score of 510 the first time through, and a scaled score of 530 during his or her second year in fifth grade, would show an actual gain of just 20 points. DC’s value-added methods may, of course, simply exclude students who are retained in grade from the calculations, but that sends an unpleasant message about whose scores count when teachers are evaluated.

Did DCPS completely botch the calculation of value-added scores for teachers, and then use these erroneous scores to justify firing 26 teachers and lay the groundwork for firing hundreds more next year?

According to the only published account of how these scores were calculated, the answer, shockingly, is yes.


Follow my blog all day, every day by bookmarking And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page at Bookmark it!

By Valerie Strauss  | July 28, 2010; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Teachers  | Tags:  DC CAS, IMPACT evaluation system, d.c. public schools and teachers, d.c. schools, d.c. teachers fired, how rhee fired teachers, rhee and d.c. and fire and teachers, rhee fires teachers, value added and teachers, why rhee fired teachers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: New analysis blasts Obama’s school turnaround policy -- and tells how to fix it
Next: Study: Error rates high when student test scores used to evaluate teachers


Thanks to both of you.

And since the D.C. testing has not been expanded to high school, you ain't seen nothin yet.

I was shocked when I read the Gates-funded methodology that we in Oklahoma have committed to. The VAM model will be based on 5th grade math scores, which is the most reliable use of the model. The scores from the three preceeding years are stable, and our 5th graders look like America. But anyone with options gets their kids out of our neighborhood schools rather than send them to middle school. So the peer pressure and the school conditions of 6th graders aren't remotely comparable. By high school, only the most challenging students remain, so how can a 5th grade model set a realistic target for high school?

Worse, over the years we've compiled a zoological garden of different tests for different purposes. Clearly the middle school tests aim toward facts and rote learning, while the newer and the high school tests aim towards college prep. How can you set a growth target for a high school algebra teacher based on "Math" scores from middle schools? How do you use "Science" scores to set targets for Biology teachers' test growth?

Or do they intended to triple rather than double the number of tests by replacing some of the old ones?

The new tests, presumably, will be consistent with the Common Core Standards. So after students get a nonstop diet of lowest common denominator test prep and drill and kill for NCLB testing, high school teachers will have a completely different challenge.

Here's my theory, the unintended effect of using test scores with make subjective factors more important. Because high school principals and most of their teachers will have no realistic chance of meeting growth targets, a circle the wagon mentality will be bred, and adminstrators will feel even more compelled to surround themselves with "yes men."

Posted by: johnt4853 | July 28, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

This is what happens when you put someone in charge of a schools system who is not qualified. Many good teachers lost their jobs unjustly.

I'd like to know who in the central office has a Ph.D. in the field of psychometrics? If test scores are going to be high stakes, then someone with a Ph.D., who knows what s/he's doing should be employed by the schools system to make sure the tests are valid and reliable.

When Rhee finally leaves the truth will finally come to light and everyone will realize they jumped on her band wagon far too soon and without proper and rational scrutiny.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 28, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Valerie, please tell me this is making it into the hard copy of the post?

This should be national news.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | July 28, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely unbelievable!

Posted by: lacy41 | July 28, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I would think that they would have found this when they looked over the data. I don't think they could make such a major, obvious mistake since they do spend a lot of time on data.

This was quite well written and easy to follow. Thanks for writing this column.

I think it is important to remember that if a good teacher is fired, they will probably find a job elsewhere. It is the students of the district where they used to work that will lose out.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 28, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Many thanks to Skoolboy... always an erudite voice of reason and sound research. If only mainstream media and "statistically inept pundits"* would pay attention.

*For more incisive writing on this topic, see Bruce D. Baker's blog post at schoolfinance101:

Posted by: Incidentally | July 28, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Did DCPS completely botch the calculation of value-added scores for teachers, and then use these erroneous scores to justify firing 26 teachers and lay the groundwork for firing hundreds more next year?

According to the only published account of how these scores were calculated, the answer, shockingly, is yes."

Good article, but the conclusion is dead wrong: There is nothing shocking abouyt the fact that DC used a statistiaclly flawed instrument to fire teachers. It was never the point of Rhee's reform to evaluate teachers, merely to fire them. As I've mentioned in prior blogs, not only is IMPACT flawed as to the value-added testing data, but it is also flawed in its observational rati8ng and presumptions of what makes "good" teaching. Most of the criteria it posits as good teaching practice has actually been proven to be poor and damaging teaching practice. I one wre to set out to create an eavaluation that systematically punishes the best teachers and rewards the worst, this would be it.

Posted by: mcstowy | July 28, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Another highlight from the Bruce Baker highlighted study:

Chapter 5:
“… more than 90 percent of the variation in student gain scores is due to the variation in student-level factors that are not under control of the teacher.”

Posted by: edlharris | July 28, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

My concern is that people will say that out of 4,000 teachers, certainly 241 must be ineffective enough to get fired -- but that's not the point - the point is that this is supposed to be a precise data-driven, accurate instrument to ferret out ineffective teachers - and it is NOT

Posted by: efavorite | July 28, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Hello....Mr. Mayor......Mr. Fenty....I know someone is reading this article in your office. If not, someone should be reading it. Can someone from state dept. of ed explain this concept to Rhee, please. She is dying to use scatter-plots with variables that are not congruent.

Well done! Love it. Never liked Scale Scores in educational testing at all. It is more than likely that all the education chancellor received from the prestigious universities and grad schools failed to instruct her PROFICIENTLY on calculus and statistics. The longer she stays in the office the more clear her under-qualifications become. On the scale of 0-400 ( Ineffective - Highly Effective), she scored -3 on her ability to reform DC schools this year. Pack your bags, honey. Security, Security....Escort Ms. Rhee out of the building and inform her that her personal effects will be mailed to her within next 10 years. (applause and shouting in the background) Rhee is leaving with downcast face.....Hello, Oprah. Welcome to DCPS. We are glad you decided to join DC Government. You will like our schools more than Nigerian School Systems. And, you get to be on TV every day. But, you should be used to it by now, right?!....Would someone please throw that broom through the window. Rhee is waiting for her ride in the front of the building. (broom falling)

Posted by: inickdc | July 28, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I hope you will report on the Rhee administration's response to this criticism and I hope you will seek out other statistical experts to confirm or disconfirm this analysis. It's hard to believe that her administration could be *this* inept but after the budget negotiation circus (Oh I have more money than I thought; oh no I don't; oh that's okay I'll get it from foundations; oh btw it's tied to me)I guess I shouldn't be surprised by anything.

Posted by: oldmh | July 28, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

There are lots of teachers on the market due to budget cuts, and how does one put this on their resume?
None of these teachers will be rehired. They're name is tarnished.

Posted by: tutucker | July 28, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

If this is found to be true, then ... a shout-out to Ms. Rhee -- Both you and Jason Kamras need to formally apologize via mainstream media to those teachers whose careers you have derailed.

Posted by: hnjhat | July 28, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that Jason Kamras knows what he is doing. He is Rhee's puppet and incapable to independence.

Posted by: inickdc | July 28, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

of independence (corrected)

Posted by: inickdc | July 28, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

"I think it is important to remember that if a good teacher is fired, they will probably find a job elsewhere."

No they won't, there are no teaching jobs.

Posted by: aby1 | July 28, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone (Valerie, Prof Pallas) asked DCPS if there's a technical report or for a clarification on the calculation before asserting that it's wrong?

This critique is based on a bunch of assumptions and a year-old document. It might be worth requesting current information before jumping to conclusions.

Posted by: amr11 | July 28, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Why am I not surprised by this? Impact was rolled out too quickly for anyone in central office to have assessed its effectiveness and accuracy.

Besides, Rhee was too busy scheming how to get rid of the next crop of teachers to be bothered by inconvenient factors such as fairness.

Posted by: vscribe | July 28, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Well, we really do not need any official report from DCPS. Statisticians can tell you that scale scores measures more often than not indicate performance trends that are difficult to merge across differentiated variables. For instance, the bell curve parabola will be greater with each successive value unless each values' origination and destination trajectories are aligned. The varied performances among different groups and subgroups will inevitably be greater for a long time before it changes the pattern-trend and the apex of parabola begins to slim down.

How many years, decades, or centuries must we waste before we realize that quantifying learning is not going to be expressed accurately EVER. Education IS NOT a precise science. Neither is medicine, astronomy, et cetera. There are no absolutes and no vague promises. Kids either learn or they don't. Maslow would lose his PhD and rescind on his theory of actualization had he heard of this mess with DCPS. No all kids are meant to be lawyers, doctors, and scientists. If so, we will be out of mechanics, receptionists and mail-(wo)men pretty soon. What we need is a MAJOR reform of education so as to provide Free and appropriate Education that would fit differentiated clientele: professional, technical, vocational, trade-based, on-the-job-training, language-immersion programs, etc. We are so obsessed about Johnny passing Lit course in highschool that we neglect to prepare Johnny for whatever he has the capacity of doing and choosing to do.

In sum, we need administrators who are prior educators with substantial teaching records (+- 15 years) to lead the school. Rhee is a lay-woman and a despised manager who has NO KNOWLEDGE of pedagogy, education, and human capital management.

Let's just hope that Fenty will be out in October and with him will be Rhee.

Posted by: inickdc | July 28, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Sorry guys, my point was that the KIDS and the school district suffers when good people are fired. That is not a good way to run a district, firing good teachers, that was my point.

Posted by: celestun100 | July 28, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

By next week she will claim they were child abusers and pedophiles.....

I think I saw this movie already

Posted by: mamoore1 | July 28, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Race to the Top is wretched.

I feel deep loathing for Obama and Duncan, for that despicable snake, Sharpton, calling this kind of crap/reform the new civil rights issue... I feel it for so many DemocratsasRepublicans, including those locals with their shiny mailers, crowing about their moves to get increased charters in NY, for Race to the Top... sending this to ME!

NY didnt win first round of RttT, so they got busy, jumped into the hyped, frenetic chase for the $$$, got legislation passed before second round, with a bunch of willing NY DemocRATS, with the union's blessing.

These NY wonders doubled the charter cap and tied test scores to teacher evaluations. They will go after tenure next.

Signed by Dem gov, Patterson. (Who would have thought we'd have done better with Charlie Crist?!)

Randi Weingarten, formerly head of UFT, now AFT, sold out teachers big time... she helped shepherd this Rhee deal into being.

NYC Teachers got sold out by Randi Weingarten's protege, Michael Mulgrew, now UFT head ... All for RttT in the 2nd round. He used to sing a different tune about charters and teacher evals. But smoke (and mirrors) got in his eyes... Race, race, race... right over the backs of teachers... to the top? That is the top?


Oh whoops! Lookee here!

NY's just-released TEST SCORES for 2010... FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! (SCAM Unveiled!)

Evaluate THAT, suckers!... headaches all around.... "value added" headaches...

New York Students' Passing Rate Plummets -

They had to make the tests harder because they were such a joke, progressively dumbed down to let Bloomberg and Klein crow. (Bloomberg is eating crow now... )

Now the truth outs... big dips in Math and ELA.

Read more: Daily News (exposed state dumbed tests):

"New York City test scores plummet year after officials makes statewide exams tougher"

(And the golden GatesWay to 'success', charters, fared much worse too. Oh my!)

Bloomberg... Klein... UFT... NYSUT... I wish I could say it is with glee that I see your stupidity come home to roost, but that is dwarfed by the sadness and anger I feel at all the damage done.

NY is supposed to be a "liberal" state, NYC, a liberal city... yet, the unions caved... and so many unions are caving... and so much is being dynamited, so many years of union work to remove teachers from the bad old days, and now they are just removing teachers...


Along comes a New Democrat with a "reform" vision - Barack Obama, and his partner in Snake Oil, Arne Duncan. Democrats are selling us out right and left. And unions are capitulating and teachers are losing ... and this is where all those years of fighting have gotten us?

What a racket!

I wont be voting for Obama. I Am DONE.

Posted by: NYCee | July 28, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone happen to hear this interview with Sec. Duncan on "All things Considered."
Tell me what you think.

He claims that more reform has happened in the past 18 months than in the past decade because of the leadership at the local level. (What?)

He says a lot of other things that make me crazy insane.

I guess all of the people speaking out against Race to the Top are wrong. This program is about innovation and creativity.

I'm also confused as they have an excerpt from NEAs president slamming the federal government, and Secretary Duncan states he has a great working relationship with the union presidents?

My head hurts.

Posted by: tutucker | July 28, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Where are the teacher unions in this debate? quite informative piece but comparing or calculating growth from varying scales is an elementary quality check. Value add, weighting or whatever you want to call it, it's simple analysis to reveal this flaw. The WTU and the national unions should have been on this from day 1.

Posted by: oknow1 | July 29, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

My score before the Value Added (50%) component was 375 (highly effective). I was referred to administration for a Master Educator position three times. After the calculations my score dropped to 305 (70 points - effective).

A large number of my students were advanced/proficient. One of the two that scored below basic is being retained. On top of the test score matter is the School Value Added (5%) of my score. I am being held accountable for teachers who may not have done their absolute best. Their scores or performance should have nothing to do with me.

When Human Resources assigns teachers to a school without an interview and the school cannot even predict what they are getting. We had a terminated teacher assigned to our building. Her previous principal did not follow the process for termination and she had to be rehired somewhere else. My scores reflects what she was incapable of doing.

The IMPACT system is flawed and unfair. That extra money they dangle in your face for highly effective is nearly unreachable for math and reading teachers who have 50% of their score based on test scores.

One of my other co-workers who scored in the lower 300's before the final score now has a score higher than mine. She teaches a non-testing subject.

Posted by: DCTEACHER301 | July 29, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

"[Duncan] claims that more reform has happened in the past 18 months than in the past decade because of the leadership at the local level. (What?)"

This is technically true, if you translate "reform" as "change" and consider the change at the local level forced by people wanting to get RttT money.

Notice he didn't say it was good or valuable in any way to students, teachers or families - just that it was happening.

This is the kind of double-speak not taught in school, unless you take a course in advanced media presentation. These courses are expensive and are only offered to bigwigs.

What is needed is a course for the layperson to learn how to decipher this language and now to nail people into providing accurate and useful information.

Reporters used to know how to do this, but you don't see much of it these days.

Posted by: efavorite | July 29, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Agreed that disclosure is needed. Without true disclosure, his analysis is worth nothing more than mine.

That being said, the whole system can be explained with three things in mind
1) Ignore the hundreds digit. It just shows what grade they are in. There is no vertically equated scale. Full stop.
2) Assume 100 points is the normal, expected growth. Less than 100 is a below average teacher. More than 100 is above average.
3) A one point difference in one grade is relatively the same as a one point difference in a second grade.

With these three point in mind The author's main point about 498-499 being totally different from 499-500 is not even possible.

Of course the sensationalist title of the article (followed with a convenient ? to cover his behind in case everything he writes turns out to be garbage) will be enough to convince people that holding teachers responsible is somehow inherently evil, but I guess that was the whole point anyways.

Posted by: brownie3 | July 29, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, DCteacher301, for the explanation of what can happen with the IMPACT ratings.

I think the point of the 5% applying to all teachers in a school is to encourage teamwork. Was this done in your school?

I also think that no amount of teamwork can raise some scores to where they need to be for the teachers to be rewarded.

Posted by: efavorite | July 29, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

@brownie3, I'm not sure that what you're saying works. First, if you just lop off the first digit, then there would be no 100 point differences. A 485 would be 85, a 585 would be 85, and the subtracted difference would be 0. What would that mean? Not having vertically integrated scoring systems means that you can't use this data for anything external like deciding whether teachers should be fired. The question is whether or not the data was somehow recoded. It has to have been for this to be legit.

Second, what does a one point difference in one grade mean? There's only one score. The author was referring to the comparison between grades.

Creating scoring systems to prove some kind of external relationship, or rather verify some external relationship (high test score=good teacher) is really complicated stuff and cannot be taken this lightly.

Posted by: peteyamama1 | July 29, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse


From the editorial: The D.C. teacher firings, Sunday, July 25, 2010.

It's important to stress that termination decisions were made after each teacher underwent a thorough review based on the district's new teacher evaluation system, known as IMPACT, that combined observations of teachers with student test score data. IMPACT replaced a completely subjective system, so it is hard to accept arguments about the new system -- with precise standards, multiple observations by experts and clear expectations -- being unfair.

Any questions?

Posted by: beansforbob | July 29, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

beansforbob - What a ridiculous post. Quoting the WP Editorial page on anything having to do with unions and education is like quoting Sarah Palin on Science or Ronald Reagan on Economics. They have no idea what they are talking about.

Posted by: mcstowy | July 29, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Thank you efavorite,
According to Diane Ravitch, reforms to Duncan mean more privatization of public schools, more emphasis on testing, more judging teachers by student scores, more closing public schools.

I always thought of reform as providing a quality education to all students through improving instruction as well as various after school or summer type programs for certain students who need it. (A safe and nurturing place for kids.)

I thought reform was about getting out of the industrialized aspects of public schools and moving towards the critical thinking, 21st century kinds of education needed.
Duncan's reform will keep us in the old school of teaching as we're too afraid to think outside the box when our job is on the line.
Fear is the worst motivator.

Posted by: tutucker | July 29, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Once again, Ms Strauss either writes herself or has a guest write some of the best and highest impact education articles being generated in any newspaper today. Keep it up...

Posted by: pepper6 | July 29, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I am a dedicated five year DCPS teacher. In the fall of 2009, I was hired into the DCPS system and I must say my first year was very interesting to say the least. For years I have motivated all students with to reach their highest potential, and some of my students have made significant progress under my care and I refuse to allow myself to take any credit for their achievement, after all they earned it! When I receive the DC-CAS scores recently, I was elated to discover that most of my students scored proficient in Reading and made modest growth in mathematics. This year, I was able to build a great rapport with my students. I also built a wonderful and working relationship with my parents as well. It was not until May of this year when I finally felt confident that my job was safe and secure. I scored pretty well on IMPACT (Effective), so I had no reason to worry, even though there were always rumors about certain teachers losing their jobs. Well on June 11, 2011 as I was exiting the building, my principal handed me a letter, and I knew it wasn’t good. I didn’t open it until I got into my car, that’s when I found out when I was excessed, thus ending my tenure in the building I had worked in for only a few months. My heart was torn into pieces and I cried, grieving at the fact that the following week would be my very last with my students that I grew to love and enjoyed. For the past month, I interviewed for many positions but to no prevail. No principal has returned any e-mails or have asked me to come in for an additinal interviews. So I don’t know what the future holds for me! I don’t even know what is going to happen once the 60 days past on August 11. Due to the fact that I am considered probationary status, I don’t know if am going to be eligible for a buyout or remain in the system for a year. Can some provide any pointers?

Posted by: TheExcessedTeacher | July 29, 2010 6:53 PM | Report abuse


There are some inconsistencies in your post that may just be writing errors, but those inconsistencies make me doubt you.

I am not the grammar police; we all make typos, but you mean 2010 not 2011, right?
"Well on June 11, 2011 as I was exiting the building, my principal handed me a letter, and I knew it wasn’t good. "

Do you have five years teaching and one year at DCPS?
"I am a dedicated five year DCPS teacher. In the fall of 2009, I was hired into the DCPS system and I must say my first year was very interesting to say the least."

I don't think there's anything for DCPS to buyout. Schools typically don't have severance packages. If you exit the profession you can cash in part of your retirement but you will also pay a huge penalty and get hit with taxes.

Talk to your union rep.
Read your contract.
Talk to a knowledgeable veteran colleague from your site.
Visit the principals in person.

To the public reading this.
Read DCTEACHER301's post.

Posted by: stevendphoto | July 29, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know the history of the DC-CAS? Was it created solely to meet NCLB requirements?

If so, Rhee and Co probably figured that they have to measure "growth" with whichever instrument is available. In a couple of years, with the ushering in of national standards (currently slated for 2011-12), there will possibly be a national test Perhaps a vertically-integrated test might make the statistical absurdities (like those mentioned) go away.

There are flaws in the current system, no doubt. I'm trying to get a few things clarified as next year I have a student who achieved a 499 score. How will the student be able to growth 100+ points? Not possible and my score will be lower as a result.

But, on the positive side, I learned that students in my class were well above the mean in reading and that validates my approach to some degree. In math they were above the mean but not to the same degree. After analyzing individual scores, I learned that the higher-level students did not show as much progress and now I need to examine my practices.

To use the well-worn phrase: Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
IMPACT does provide much better feedback to teachers on how they are doing relative to each other. It will motivate the competitive-minded to dig a bit deeper and to innovate, and in a few years Rhee and Co will have the teaching corps they desire and the firing ax will not swing as much (and yes, I'm willing to accept the ax if my students do not test to the mean with like students and my evaluations are in the 2.5/4.0 range).

No one is celebrating the firings of people that may have been dedicated and willing to do this hardest of jobs.
But my take on it is that this was a long time coming due to overprotective union practices, political patronage, and a willingness to hire unqualified people to the profession. These are management failures (unions and administration are both complicit) and I wish there was more acknowledgment of that and less blame cast upon teachers, many of which are put in dire straits with little to no support.

My impression of Fenty and Rhee is that they are trying to correct decades of
bad politics and public administration.
Their personal styles leave a lot to be desired, and they are not getting everything right the first go-around, but enough for the public to enable them to see it through and to clean up the absolute mess they found.

Posted by: thetensionmakesitwork | July 30, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

mcstowy: God, you're dense. The Post has stated its position and you have no questions of them, only spittle.

You don't question why information contrary to The Post's editorial doesn't appear in print. You don't even question where and how The Post came by its (apparently) secret information, if the editorial page did if fact obtain such secret information.

It's not surprising, I guess, given the state of public education. Still, most would think ... but I guess there are always those like you out there.

Posted by: beansforbob | July 30, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

What is idiotic is the analysis by Dr Pallas. He really needs to contact a math professor or maybe a high school math student.

First of all with the score obviously increasing by 100 each year the baseline for growth is 100 not 0. There is an offset as the prof explained. However, once known it presents no problem at all. If your difference is 100, no gain, less than 100, a decrease in score, greater than 100 a relative gain.

Secondly, the effect on the IMPACT score is not a problem as explained by prof Pallas in the following passage

"Which brings us to the value-added calculations for the DCPS IMPACT. As is common in value-added measures, a teacher’s “value added” is determined by the difference between the growth expected for a student (or class of students) with a given set of characteristics with a typical teacher, based on a statistical prediction equation, and the growth actually observed for that student (or class of students) with that particular teacher."

Since the growth will be compared (demeaned, etc) then the test and grading need only be the same. If most students show a change of 103 (3 relative points improvment) and a given teachers students show 106, they are doing well.

Lastly, prof Pallas is correct in that if the scale is off there are problems. However the scale is not off. It has a 100 pt range each year. The problem would be if it was 400-499 one year and 500-545 the next and 546-622 the following year. That would negate the use of subtration. However, since the scale is the same and the score range is only offset (adding or subtracting a constant number) then the subraction of yearly scores is valid.

I would blame the Blog hostess, but it is reasonable to trust a Prof from a reputable school.

Posted by: leeindc1 | August 3, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company