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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/ 1/2010

Is D.C.'s teacher evaluation system rigged?

By Valerie Strauss

My guest is Aaron Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Pallas writes the Sociological Eye on Education blog for The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media.

By Aaron Pallas
Two old jokes about doctors and medical school:
Joke #1: 50 percent of all doctors finish in the bottom half of their medical school class.

Joke #2: Q: What do you call the person who finishes last in his or her medical school class? A: “Doctor.”

Why do we laugh at these jokes? (At least, the first time we hear them?) Because there’s an incongruity in the idea of very high achievers (as most medical students are) being portrayed as low achievers.

It’s all relative, of course. The 50 percent of the doctors who finish in the bottom half of the class at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, arguably the top medical school in the country, are not low achievers. The school accepts only 5 percent of its applicants; the average undergraduate GPA of admitted students is 3.85; and the average MCAT composite score is 35, in the top 5 percent of test-takers nationally.

In contrast, the average GPA of admitted students at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) is about 3.4, and the average MCAT composite score is 26, around the 50th percentile of test-takers nationally. Not low achievers, to be sure, but not in the same league as those at Hopkins.

If we looked at the bottom 10 percent of Hopkins medical students, they might well exceed the achievements of 80 percent of the students at LECOM. Where do we draw the line to label a student as a “low achiever”?

That’s one of the problems with value-added measures of teacher performance, which are in the news again as New York City considers releasing its teachers’ value-added scores. (The teachers’ union has sued to stop their release.) Value-added measures are based on ranking teachers against one another. They are relative measures, in the sense that a teacher’s ranking depends entirely on the performance of other teachers.

We can contrast value-added measures with the other main thrust in the development of new teacher-evaluation systems, classroom observations by raters trained to evaluate teachers’ practices according to a clear set of criteria and standards. Such classroom observations are an absolute measure; the rating of a teacher is against a fixed yardstick of what constitutes good practice, not against other teachers.

In a value-added measure, there are winners and losers, since the technique demands that some teachers appear more effective than others. In contrast, rating teachers according to an observational protocol could result in all teachers being rated “effective.”

Although many new teacher-evaluation systems join value-added measures of teachers’ contributions to students’ test scores with classroom observations of teachers’ practices, the architects of these systems have not thought through the implications of combining relative measures of teacher performance (e.g., value-added measures) with absolute measures of teacher performance (e.g., classroom observations). Or perhaps they have thought this through; if so, I don’t like their thinking.

Many readers will be familiar with the IMPACT teacher evaluation system piloted by the Washington, D.C. public schools in the 2009-2010 school year. I say “piloted” because the system was brand-new and had not been tried before.

The first year of IMPACT had real consequences. In July, outgoing D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee fired 165 teachers on the basis of their scores on the IMPACT evaluation, which generated a score for each teacher on a scale from 100 to 400 points.

(It’s really a scale from 1 to 4, but the components are multiplied by the weight they get in the overall IMPACT score calculation.)

Teachers whose overall score was between 350 points and 400 points were classified as “highly effective”; those whose scores were between 250 points and 350 points were labeled “effective”; teachers with scores between 175 and 250 points were rated “minimally effective”; and teachers who scored between 100 and 175 points were labeled “ineffective.” Teachers in the ineffective category were subject to immediate dismissal. Any teacher rated minimally ineffective two years in a row is also subject to immediate termination.

The components of the IMPACT system varied for different teachers in D.C. For general-education teachers in grades four through eight, 50 percent of their IMPACT score was based on an individual value-added (IVA) score comparing the performance of a teacher’s students on the standardized 2010 D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) to that of other teachers whose students were deemed similar at the start of the 2009-10 school year.

(Computationally, the teacher’s final value-added score ranging from 1 to 4 was multiplied by 50.)

An additional 40 percent of the score was derived from five classroom observations carried out by the school principal and “master educators” hired by the district, in which teachers were rated against a Teaching and Learning Framework with nine different dimensions (e.g., deliver content clearly, or engage all students in learning). Five percent of the overall scores was based on the principal’s rating of the teacher’s commitment to the school community, and the final five percent on a school value-added score estimating the academic growth of all students in the school in reading and math from 2009 to 2010.

We still don’t know anything about the properties of the individual value-added calculations that make up 50 percent of the evaluation for Group 1 teachers in grades four through eight in D.C. Although some teachers were fired in July on the basis of their value-added scores, DCPS has not released the technical report prepared by its contractor, Mathematica Policy Research, detailing the method. (An official told me recently that the technical report is expected to be released later this fall.) But the information that is available raises serious questions about the IMPACT framework.

The IMPACT reports that were provided to Group 1 teachers calculate what is described as a “raw” value-added score in reading and math that represents whether a teacher did better in raising students’ scores from 2009 to 2010 than other teachers did with similar students. (That’s not actually how the value-added calculations work, because the scores for different grades aren’t directly comparable, but it’s what D.C. reported to its teachers.)

For example, a teacher whose students scored 3 points higher, on average, on the 2010 D.C. CAS assessment than similar students taught by other teachers would have a raw value-added score of +3. A teacher whose students scored 4 points lower, on average, than similar students taught by other teachers would have a raw value-added score of -4. These raw value-added scores were then converted into a final value-added score.

Value-added measures create winners and losers. By definition, if there are teachers who are doing better than average, there will be other teachers who are doing worse than average. The average raw value-added score for teachers is 0, and a D.C. official confirmed that 50 percent of the teachers have scores greater than 0, and 50 percent have scores less than 0.

But the conversion of the raw value-added scores to a final value-added score involves more than just tinkering with numbers, because the final value-added score is what places teachers at risk of being labeled ineffective or minimally effective, and hence at risk of being fired. This is a value judgment, not a matter of statistics. How did the DC IMPACT system determine what value-added score represents effective or ineffective teaching?

The table converting raw value-added scores to the final value-added score tells the story. In reading, teachers whose raw value-added scores were between -.2 and .1 received a final score of 2.5. Raw value-added scores below -.2 received a final score of less than 2.5, with those with scores of -5.9 or below having a final score of 1.0.

Conversely, raw value-added scores greater than .1 had final scores greater than 2.5, ranging up to a final score of 4.0 for teachers whose raw score was 5.8 or above.

What this means is that 50 percent of all teachers received a final value-added score below 2.5, and 50 percent received a final score greater than 2.5. But what’s the meaning of a 2.5? Recall that the overall IMPACT score defines a teacher who averages lower than 2.5 on the various IMPACT components as minimally effective or ineffective.

And a teacher who scores in this range two years in a row is subject to immediate termination.

So here it is: by definition, the value-added component of the D.C. IMPACT evaluation system defines 50 percent of all teachers in grades four through eight as ineffective or minimally effective in influencing their students’ learning. And given the imprecision of the value-added scores, just by chance some teachers will be categorized as ineffective or minimally effective two years in a row. The system is rigged to label teachers as ineffective or minimally effective as a precursor to firing them.

The pendulum has simply swung from one end of absurdity to the other; if many systems have historically rated 99 percent of teachers “satisfactory,” as documented in “The Widget Effect,” we now have in D.C. a system that declares exactly 50 percent of teachers ineffective or minimally effective.

Not all of these teachers will be terminated, although if their entire evaluation were based on value-added measures, they could be. Ironically, the classroom observation ratings assigned by D.C. principals and “master educators” are, on average, higher than the value-added scores that teachers in grades four through eight received. So it’s the fact that observers generally judge teachers’ practices to be effective that offsets the risk of dismissal on the basis of value-added scores. These observations are based on holding up a teacher’s performance to an absolute yardstick of what constitutes good practice, rather than comparing teachers to one another.

We still don’t know very much about the properties of these classroom observations, however, and it’s certainly worrisome when a school superintendent signals to principals that the evaluation system is to be used to dismiss teachers. Bill Turque of the Washington Post reported that former Chancellor Michelle Rhee told D.C. principals in August, “Unless you are comfortable with putting your own child in a classroom, that teacher does not have to be there .... So either go hard or go home.”

Rhee has now gone home, but the IMPACT evaluation system appears here to stay. Is it in the top half of teacher-evaluation systems? Only time will tell.


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By Valerie Strauss  | November 1, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Schools, Guest Bloggers, Teacher assessment  | Tags:  d.c. and impact, impact, michelle rhee, nyc teacher ratings, rhee legacy, teacher evaluation, teacher ratings, value added measures, value-added  
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The indelible and sad fact is the great majority of DCPS educators believe that, yes, 95-99 percent of them perform "satisfactorily" or "effectively." They refuse to connect their self-asserted level of performance with the decades of dropouts, nonreaders and other flaming signs of abject failure of the system.

Many, but not all of these teachers, won't accept any responsibility for educating kids in the classroom, even after attributing some of the failures to "poverty" and "parental issues."

These teachers deny any measure of responsibility and accountability, and their union nonetheless demands top dollar and job security for them.

This is a real disgrace by such teachers and a stunning ripoff of the citizen-taxpayers and a continuing crime against the prospects of The Children.

Posted by: axolotl | November 1, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Contrary to the vitriolic comments axolotl likes to spew about DCPS teachers, we have no problem in accepting responsibility for teaching our students and for their academic success when we are evaluated fairly, equitably and on things which we are able to control.

The reality, as this article and many others have clearly proven, is that basing a teacher's evaluation on student test scores is seriously flawed and unreliable.

People can continue to hide their heads in the sand and keep heaping unrealistic expectations upon teachers' shoulders but until people admit that the home environment seriously affects a child's academic success, both sides will continue to draw lines in the sand. Study after study and hard data have proven this. This does NOT that every child born into poverty is doomed to failure. It DOES mean that teachers who teach in high poverty schools have the deck already stacked against them. Look at any data and you can clearly see that student performance is linked to a family's income and the parents educational level.

IMPACT is not only an unreliable evaluation tool, it is extremely subjective and is being used to target specific teachers. For example, in one school in southeast, the principal already told teachers she's not giving above a 2.5 for classroom observations. However, her friends she's hired at the school over the past couple of years seem to be rated "highly effective." In addition, master educators are coming in and scoring teachers 3.0 and above. What does this tell you?

Another example, many teachers were "highly effective" before test scores came back. However, some fell into the "effective" and "minimally effective" category after test scores. If master educators, who are "experts" in their field, are saying by their observations that basically "this teacher really knows how to teach" and yet the test scores bring the overall scores down then maybe students aren't doing their job.

Teachers are NOT the problem in DCPS. Wake up and smell the coffee people.

The truth always comes to light and it will about IMPACT and the disaster Rhee created in DCPS.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | November 1, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Rhee's comment about principals being comfortable with their own children in a teacher's classroom actually makes sense.

The problem comes when a principal is incompetent and is judging teachers based on some subjective criteria that has nothing to do with good teaching, just a personal preference of the principal.

I believe that I have read that Rhee thinks that "churn" is good for a system. Since that is the case, the evaluation system being designed to get rid of teachers should not surprise anyone.

What is strange is that this "churn" idea is accepted as good by some without any questioning of it. It is good to have new people in a system. It is not so good to have unstable situations in schools. The goal should be to attract good people, not to churn everyone around for the sake of change.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 1, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Can you (or Bill Turque) get data breaking down the Highly Effective teachers? Eg, what their position, how many teach classes where the students standardized test scores are figured into their evaluation, what schools they are located and how long have they been teaching.

Also to consider is the real life application of public teacher ratings:
For example, there is a school with two 4th grade teachers- one is rated HE, the other is not or is new.
Most parents want their child in the highly effective teacher's room. How would the principal say no?

Posted by: edlharris | November 1, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

celestun100 wrote: I believe that I have read that Rhee thinks that "churn" is good for a system. Since that is the case, the evaluation system being designed to get rid of teachers should not surprise anyone.
Yet research has shown that a high rate of teacher turnover affects student achievement in a negative way. Also interesting is that the evaluation system in MCPS, while similar to Impact in the observation portion, actually seeks to support and help struggling teachers by providing mentors and additional staff development for a year to help get them on track. Those that don't improve often end up resigning. The goal is not to just fire teachers but rather to help them become more effective. I believe in DC the goal was to fire them and replace them with TFA's. That strikes me as a conflict of interest where Rhee was concerned.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Sarah (aka axolotl),

All your epideictic arguments always fall back on the victimization of children and the fleecing of taxpayers. In addition, your rhetoric speaks as if you could solve all the world's educational problems if you could just make every teacher accountable for what he or she does in the classroom and somehow curb union corruption. Your position clearly demonstrates the simplistic problem-solution-like attitude that has plagued the ignorant for generations.

Oh, by the way, it was a true crime to suffer through your appeal with the capitalization of "The Children." It is laughable and pathetic (pun intended). And I suggest that you move away from these reductionist arguments. They only showcase the limits of your own understanding.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 1, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Sarah (aka axolotl),

All your epideictic arguments always fall back on the victimization of children and the fleecing of taxpayers. In addition, your rhetoric speaks as if you could solve all the world's educational problems if you could just make every teacher accountable for what he or she does in the classroom and somehow curb union corruption. Your position clearly demonstrates the simplistic problem-solution-like attitude that has plagued the ignorant for generations.

Oh, by the way, it was a true crime to suffer through your appeal with the capitalization of "The Children." It is laughable and pathetic (pun intended). And I suggest that you move away from these reductionist arguments. They only showcase the limits of your own understanding.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 1, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Strauss,

Once again, you are incorrect. Teachers are not assessed on the value added comparison of their colleagues. Students are grouped by similar characteristics across the district (i.e previous performance on the CAS, demographics, special education) Then, these students and their performance are compared to other students who have similar demographics and performance to determine the level of growth they are moving from year to year. If students of similar demographics and needs are seeing higher gains while other students with similar demographics are showing negative growth then one can adequately deduce that the teaching is the central factor. Teachers are then assessed on whether their students are moving in the same direction of positive growth...Mathematica determined that students showing a grade level or more of improvement in a year are showing significant growth. Teachers who are able to do this compared to students with exactly the same types of students across the district are compared. For example, students who are achieving at high levels at School Without Walls are not compared to students achieving at the lowest levels at Ballou. Quite the contrary, students who have similar backgrounds, special needs or even high achievers are compared for their growth against their counterparts.

My question to Valerie and to those who do not agree with this system is this- What if you sent 2 of your children to the same school with 2 different teachers for algebra. Let's assume that both of your kids are at the same level of proficiency in math and at the end of the year one of your children moves to advanced level on the assessment and one of your children falls to basic. This is clear evidence that one of your children's teachers added significant value to her learning while the other showed negative growth...are you saying you would be fine with this?

Or would you just argue that one is more important than the other...

Posted by: teacher6402 | November 1, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402 wrote: My question to Valerie and to those who do not agree with this system is this- What if you sent 2 of your children to the same school with 2 different teachers for algebra. Let's assume that both of your kids are at the same level of proficiency in math and at the end of the year one of your children moves to advanced level on the assessment and one of your children falls to basic. This is clear evidence that one of your children's teachers added significant value to her learning while the other showed negative growth...are you saying you would be fine with this?
Of course you are assuming that both children learn exactly the same way and have the exact same ability level. From experience, I can tell you that is unlikely. As a parent, I can tell you that your scenario would not happen at our house as I worked with both of my children every night and if I sensed one was having a problem, I took the necessary measures to correct it. Those measures would depend on what I perceived the problem to be. Perhaps my child was struggling simply because he/she didn't understand the material or needed to be taught in a different way. Unfortunately curricula nowadays is pretty rigid and assumes that all children will be paced the same and taught the same way. In this case, I would either tutor my children myself or find someone else to do it.

If I perceived the issue to be something that the teacher was doing then I would contact the teacher. I would even contact them repeatedly if I felt that I needed to. It's amazing how the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I see that all the time at my school. Either way, I have enough experience with children to know that no two will perform exactly the same way.

To prove your point, you would need to take those same two siblings after a year and switch them between the two teachers to see if the one that is ahead begins to fall behind. Test scores are simply unreliable.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse


Strauss did not write the piece; therefore, she can not be incorrect. Aaron Pallas did. You can't even assign blame correctly.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 1, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402 - there could be many non-teacher related differences, even between siblings.

One sibling could have lost his best friend - whom the other sibling didn't know well. One sibling might get yelled at or even beaten by a parent while the other is the "favorite" who never gets reprimanded. One sibling could have a chronic illness, etc,etc.

Posted by: efavorite | November 1, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I keep thinking about teacher6402's comment about having 2 siblings score differently on tests. Kids learn differently and have different ability levels. Sometimes there are learning issues that don't show up until the child is older. I've experienced this within my own family. One simply cannot put all of the responsibility on the teacher. There are instances where my kids had the same teacher yet they performed very differently on tests.

This all goes back to the fact that some kids just don't test well. My oldest child was labeled as "gifted" in 2nd grade. School was always easy to her and she always tested extremely well. It really wouldn't have mattered what kind of teacher she had. She would've tested well. Yet she almost didn't graduate from high school. She was a classic underachiever. Her standardized test scores, however, would never have revealed that. My younger one was the complete opposite. He struggled on tests but he was a consistent average student.

I've thought about this a lot lately because in Montgomery County, where I teach, we are expected to have all kids be college ready. What exactly does that mean? MCPS has identified 7 keys to college success that students need to meet. Now here's the irony. My oldest child met all of the 7 keys yet she flunked out of one semester in college. At 27 years old, now she tells me that she attempted college because she thought she was required to. That was the message hammered into her. She is just one of those people who is extremely creative and who will never settle into one career or job choice for life.

My youngest met only 1 of the 7 keys--he got 1100 on his SAT (after 2 tries. The oldest got just under 1400) out of 1600. He didn't meet any of the others. Yet he graduated from a good college in 4 years with a 3.0 average.

The difference is that he knew what he wanted to do and had a long term goal for himself. He was motivated where the older one wasn't. These are basic differences between 2 students that have a major impact in their performance. Pigeonholing kids with a one-size-fits-all curriculum and holding their teachers accountable for test scores that are beyond the teacher's control are not going to change that or improve education in any way.

I'm so glad my kids are out of school. I simply would hate to have them subjected to that mentality. It would have been damaging to them.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Teacher 6402
You bring up an interesting hypothetical situation.

In my family, we are all good at math and love it. So, one child would not fall to basic. I would teach my child myself if necessary.

But, that wasn't your point. Your point is that a teacher who lets a child fall to basic is ineffective and should be let go.

Personally, I do think teachers should try to reach all kids, but I don't think it is possible. In third grade my daughter told me that everytime math was going to get fun some little boys started to run around the room and act silly and the teacher said "sorry, no fun activities, you can't handle it" to the class. My daughter started to hate math. I don't believe the teacher was ineffective, she just had more than her share of boisterous students that year.
I told my child's fourth grade teacher (she had a milder group of kids) that my child suddenly hated math and used to love it and that teacher took it upon herself to praise my daughter and encourage her in math class. Now my daughter loves math again. Teachers matter, but parents have to be involved and not every group of students is easy to teach.

Posted by: celestun100 | November 1, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Teacher 6402,

I went through the article again and I can't find anything to support your claim. You state that "teachers are not assessed on the value added comparison of their colleagues." And guess what? There is nothing that contradicts that fact in Aaron Pallas' article.

Look at the following paragraph from Pallas:"For example, a teacher whose students scored 3 points higher, on average, on the 2010 D.C. CAS assessment than similar students taught by other teachers would have a raw value-added score of +3. A teacher whose students scored 4 points lower, on average, than similar students taught by other teachers would have a raw value-added score of -4. These raw value-added scores were then converted into a final value-added score."

After reading through this paragraph again, it is clear to me that students are being compared to other students. It is a good thing that you are not being judged by your own reading ability. I'd have to give you a very low value-added score.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 1, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

The fact is that tests don't always show what a student knows. Sometimes the test format itself is the problem. I just dealt with this issue this week. I had to give a county assessment in my 2nd grade music classes. One student just had no clue what to do. It was a test in which the students listened to a musical example then identified the instrument family they heard. There were five examples. The answer sheet had 5 numbers with 4 pictures after each number representing each family o instruments. I have the students turn their papers face down while they are listening then I tell them to turn their paper over and circle the picture in the row next to number 1 (2,3,4, or 5) that shows what they heard. I actually give directions that are even more specific. After each example I tell them that they should have one circle in row #1, one circle in row #2 etc. This student circled all the pictures in #1 and one picture in #2. He totally blew his test. He apparently knew it and he was in tears. After collecting the papers I played each example and had the students answer them aloud. The problem student knew the answers. His test didn't indicate that however. I proctored third grade MSA testing last year and that was a real eye opener. Sometimes a student didn't understand a vocabulary word or the wording of a question and they would raise their hand and ask. I was only allowed to say, "Read it again, do your best." So the student may have answered a question incorrectly even though he/she knew the answer. We had an incident a few years ago where the state tests had a section on map skills. The test used the term "legend" whereas the teacher had used the term "key" when teaching the kids how to read a map. They had no clue what "legend" meant, even though they most likely would have done very well if the teacher had been allowed to tell them. It's this type of thing that make standardized tests unreliable as the ONLY measure of student learning. They only show a small piece of what the student has learned. Sometimes they aren't even aligned properly with the curriculum which really messes things up given that teachers are not allowed to see the tests ahead of time.

Kids aren't machines. It would be nice if they could be programmed to simply spit out all the test answers they were taught. Sadly it doesn't work that way. Anyone who thinks it does and anyone who thinks that standardized tests are the most important thing they are teaching to, really shouldn't be in the classroom. That, to me, is the definition of an ineffective teacher right there.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

musiclady - I think a lot of parents realize the differences among their children, as you have, and don't really expect teachers to perform some magical feat that the parents themselves can't - and don't want to perform.

I'm hopeful that the more these crazy ideas are discussed and exposed, the more they'll be perceived as crazy and not "for the children" at all.

I'm afraid right now there are too many like teacher6402 who are indoctrinated and thus not open to common sense. In a way, I'm glad thy're getting more attention -- it means the end of this foolishness is nearer.

Posted by: efavorite | November 1, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

efavorite--Thanks. I agree that most parents see the differences in their own children. One would hope that most teachers would also see the differences in the children in their classes. I know the ones at my school do. We often agonize over kids (like the one I mentioned above) who are forced to demonstrate their knowledge in a way not suited to the way they learn. I fear we are really damaging the students currently in school. It's so sad. I sincerely hope this madness is over by the time I start having grandchildren.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

You all don't know what you're talking about...if two students who are at the same academic proficiency level enter a class with 2 different teachers and in one class the student moves to advanced and in the other the student moves to basic by the end of the year- which has been happening in DC for the last decade- then the teaching sucks! It's called negative growth- And guess what, it's been happening in DC for 2 students move beyond the primary grades they are showing negative growth-- which in education means that the students are not moving at the same pace as compared to students at their same grade levels across the nation...This isn't due to illness, asthma, poverty and whether or not the sky is's the teaching!!! But, I suppose to the worst teachers in the nation you can never admit that otherwise you'd have alot to account for, now wouldn't you? Why do you think so many parents are fighting to get their kids in Banneker, School Without Walls, and ain't the lunches!! Why do you think parents often lobby for their children to get a particular teacher who has success with all students--it ain't the classroom computers!! Why do you think some teachers show gains in their student assessments and others don't--it's the teachers STUPID!

Also, many of you clearly have no understanding of what value added means so there is no point in explaining- perhaps, many of you on here were one of those students who as efavorite stated were the other sibling, "One sibling could have lost his best friend - whom the other sibling didn't know well. One sibling might get yelled at or even beaten by a parent while the other is the "favorite" who never gets reprimanded. One sibling could have a chronic illness, etc,etc." and this is why you don't understand and can't be taught...yeah, that's it...LOL! Maybe you all were the other sibling...

Posted by: teacher6402 | November 1, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Nice parting shot, teacher6402. You give up on your students that fast?

DHume1, why did you call axolotl "Sarah"?

Posted by: edlharris | November 1, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Alan Pallas (or a simple randomizing device) could show us that there really are average and good teachers with the bad luck of even three successive years of poor student performance. The consulting epidemiologist who who doesn't think the herd or the teacher needs to be slaughtered following miserable student outcomes would first insist on looking at extensive teaching behavior before finding unexpectedly bad student performance fully explicable by bad teaching practices. There are both unlucky drivers out there as well as some very bad ones. Only the latter should be stopped from driving.

I've created performance standards for major Department of Labor training programs from enrollee performances and characteristics and pre-tests. There was no requirement in the statistical calculation that any training center be deemed failing because of relative ranking. As in all statistical process control, it is up to management to decide how to use data.

Unfortunately, misapplication of statistical models, like false and misleading testimony on degree of certainty about guilt following fingerprint or DNA similarities, all distracts from genuine non-performance of some teachers. Malpractice by police and prosecutors will result in genuinely guilty parties being found not-guilty. So it is with IMPACT.

I'm not thinking of teachers with less patience and more bad days than they used to have. I'm thinking of teachers who for whatever reasons desist from doing much more than showing up on most days they do show up at all, in their last year of teaching. That's not a blast at veteran teachers, either. My own children suffered teachers new to the profession who quit teaching and started their search for a new career sometime during the school year, while not surrendering their positions or salaries until June. There's lots of battle fatique out there, and also some fraction of school principals who are fragging the wounded on their own team.

I'm sure that if Alan Pallas gave his initial reference to Johns Hopkins-trained physisicians more thought, he'd find a different and better one, rather than confusing input and output. Hundreds of thousands of bilateral radical mastectomies later, it has been demonstrated they disfigured women and needlessly so for their long-term survival. The treatment was wrong and the understanding of the disease process was mostly incorrect. But it contributed so much to Johns Hopkins' reputation.

The Lake Erie College - trained osteopaths weren't miseducated with Halsted's destructive models of oncology, and so they did less harm.

Similar shortcomings of IMPACT are also obvious to many. While many of the performances and tricks IMPACT insists on might make a difference as tips-to-try in appropriate situations for some trying-but-failing teachers, there's not much evidence the sum of it isn't a hypochondriac's medicine cabinet of elixirs and tonics.

Posted by: incredulous | November 1, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Teacher6402--no one is saying these kids cannot be taught or that they cannot learn. They ARE saying that a single testing format performed on 2 days out of a school year of 184 days does not accurately represent what a student has learned or how effectively a teacher has taught them. Some kids just don't handle the format well at all and do not demonstrate what they have been taught in that particular format. If you don't believe that then you obviously have not tried different ways of teaching to see how different teaching methods affect the way different kids learn. That's really a shame and an incredible disservice to your students.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

@ed harris- you obviously don't understand's not I who believes that one sibling can't learn while the other can...

@musiclady- what a ton of crap...I'm so tired hearing from people that some students don't test well or don't do well with that format or they just don't have inhalers or the right textbook...that's a bunch of crap from teachers who don't know how or who are unwilling to differentiate their instruction and plan...

I was a poor kid without health insurance and did just fine in school, but I had teachers that believed I was smart- they never branded me as "one of those kids that don't do well on that format" and they certainly never asked me if I had health insurance or if my parents were loving, good many of us who have had success in our lives have come from totally normal, stable households...what a crock of SH%$! You teach who is in front of you and you create an environment in your classroom that welcomes all students and has high expectations of all students. I have been moving student achievement for years as a teacher with some of the most challenging student home life issues and I am so fed up with the crap teachers in this district who want to get paid for admitting that they can't teach and blame it every issue that so many successful people overcame in their lives--in fact, it's usually a great teacher that is the difference in lives...not inhalers and health plans!

I'm done blogging on's the same narrow minded people who are not educators or probably RIFFed teachers who want to be paid for the rest of their lives for doing NOTHING!!! If you think like efavorite and Valerie Strauss that some issues such as economics and health plans doom our students to failure then why the hell do we need you in the classroom? You might as well just close down the schools and tell the kids what you've already said on this blog---You are destined for failure!

I have no interest in being a part of this anymore. I'm going to go teach and make a difference!

Posted by: teacher6402 | November 1, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

It is all about accountability and responsibility, teacher6402. If I made a analytical or reading comprehension mistake, I would have owned up to it. I wouldn't be ranting about how I am right and no one understands me.

edlharris, I decided to call axolotl that because of the unique rhetorical skills he/she possesses. They are strikingly similar to someone I know whose name is Sarah. Both have a I-can-solve-the problems-better-than-academics attitude and frequently shoot from the hip before thinking. Both liken themselves to the average American taxpayer. And both see themselves as separate from everyone else.

Posted by: DHume1 | November 1, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

teacher6402 wrote: I'm so tired hearing from people that some students don't test well or don't do well with that format or they just don't have inhalers or the right textbook...that's a bunch of crap from teachers who don't know how or who are unwilling to differentiate their instruction and plan...
If kids don't learn differently or test differently, how do you explain the reason different kids have specific accommodations during testing? Why do some kids need a scribe or elimination of time constraints or someone to read the test to them? Once again. No one is saying that kids can't learn. We are saying that some kids learn differently and as such they may very well need and deserve a different way of demonstrating what they have learned. Those are some ways that instruction IS differentiated. That is what most of us do. That is also why good instruction includes multiple and varied measures of student achievement. It is why good teacher evaluation systems look at these different types of student achievement as a way of determining whether or not a teacher has been effective. Are you not reading our posts through? We are simply saying that using test scores as the only measure of student achievement is not accurate and may possibly result in firing effective teachers while ineffective teachers remain employed.

And please don't attack us based on your frustration. You obviously have no clue as to where, what, or how we teach or what our qualifications are. No one has attacked you this way. Please make an attempt at being professional.

Posted by: musiclady | November 1, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

DHume1, thank you.
I get that point about Sarah.

I am curious about who posts and why.
I don't have a problem using my real name, so I find the choice people use interesting:efavorite(Rhee critic, DCPS employee or parent), musiclady(music teacher from MCPS), phillipmarlowe(?),bbcrock(soon to be former DCPS parent, real good friend of child's principal and Rhee defender), axolotl(?), Title1soccermom( DCPS parent), teacher6402(DCPS employee big fan of Rhee), Linda/Retiredteacher(self explanatory and a parent of 2+)

@teacher6402:@ed harris- you obviously don't understand's not I who believes that one sibling can't learn while the other can...
I see you "read" my response but did not get its sarcasm.

Stiil something we should all be looking for:
breakdown of who the Highly Effective teachers are.

Posted by: edlharris | November 1, 2010 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Reading this article and being a future educator myself, the same topics come about in the classroom between other future educators and the current system trying to become more efficient. Today teachers are rated on a variety of subjects to define if he or she is an effective teacher. Scores have taken over to push children through the system and to make teachers ride on thin ice. But, scores do not always define what kind of a teacher he or she is. I do believe in helping the future of America and educating the younger generation because not does our future rely upon it but also our country and how it's ran. An effective teacher can be determined by not just the rigged system it has but also the way he or she builds relationships with students. There are many factors that do divide each student and his or her struggles, but a teacher can bring content to them that they would be able to relate to.The essentialism idea we have today does not do that.Teachers should be scared of their job security and what the future holds for them because it is sad to say that there are many bad teachers out there that do give a bad name for the good ones that are there. It is vital that we as nation and people with kids strive for the best teachers to teach just as we want the best doctors to care for us. Teaching is a profession, not just a job. The educators that are squeeking by the system are not just hurting the children but putting the future of our country at risk too. You never know whether little Susie or Johnny that sits in their classroom is the next Pulitzer Prize winner or the one who finds a cure for a deadly disease. So, don't you think that educating thses children is pretty important when the next fourty years goes by and the one you are relying on is taking care of you but yet didn't get the proper education he or she deserved.

Posted by: simond1 | November 1, 2010 10:24 PM | Report abuse

"Scores have taken over to push children through the system and to make teachers ride on thin ice."

How true, how true!

Posted by: jlp19 | November 1, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I have pointed out in other discussions that value-added methods (VAM) is a random-number-driven fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) attack machine. Its aim is to destroy publuc schools, not to improve them. Apart from its undeniable value as a FUD weapon, why would public school administrators pursue something which has no value in actual educational practice, and has also been demonstrated to be actively destructive of education?

The range of circumstances faced by low-wealth children is so great that no hand of 25 kids dealt to a classroom teacher in a given year is likely to be equivalent to another hand or another year. That's what Mathematica Institutes previous report was saying, when it calculated VAM has a p value of .38 (p=.05 or less is considered the threshold for statistical significance).

The Washington Post and its for-profit subsidiaries have deliberately and consciously engaged in FUD. Here is Bloomberg's expose of a recruiter manual of the Post's for-profit subsidiary, Kaplan Learning, explicitly instructing employees in the strategy:

Kaplan K12 Learning Services also feeds its profits on public money for DC elementary and high school students, when they are displaced by the scorched-earth policies (like VAM) which this newspaper promotes to destroy its competitor, the city's public schools.

Posted by: mport84 | November 2, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

I think that this article is very insightful to future educators like myself. I think that it is becoming "real" that teachers will be terminated due to whether or not they are effective teachers. Then the question arises, "who are effective teachers and what makes them effective?" I think that this question is too hard to answer because test scores, to me, cannot determine whether or not the teacher is effective. I know that we have to have some way to measure a teachers performance, but what if the teacher has made a change in the students life or done something drastic to change who that kid will be in the future? Test results do not show this and I think we need to think about this as well.

Posted by: degarom1 | November 2, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I think the same forces that push these evaluations also want to discourage people like you who plan to become career educators.

It's better for their purposes to have disposable, short-term teachers, who never get paid very much and never become knowledgeable enough to effectively challenge them.

Posted by: efavorite | November 2, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, teachers are bearing the brunt of the new "Educational Reformists",whom have no educational traning and consider themsleves experts. Did the Mayor and the Council not know about The New Teacher Project's (M. Rhees's company) Anti-Union/Labor philosophies, or that they utilize non-universty standard criteria to create teacher certification standards to justify replacing highy qualifed teachers with "their own" non-certified teachers?
How about the perks these new teachers recieve for working in these environments?
Why was this not seen as a conflict of interest?
How about the fact that the research utilized as a foundation for the program does not have any input from "all" educational age groups.
Maybe there is a reason why only "urban districts" are selected as target grougs.
Has anyone seen the post data which evaluates the program and its' success rate?
Did anyone look into "which" schools and areas receive the most services for the money?

Unfortunately, this well planned scenario has fulfilled it's mission and as usual, the children suffer the most. Michelle Rhee has successfully succedded in making a name for herself; as well as increasing her companies wealth at the same time. Is anyone ready for real reform, not rheteric?

Posted by: Justthefacts15 | November 2, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse


Re-think becoming a teacher. The media, Arne Duncan and Barack Obama would love to see you get fired - no matter how hard you work.

Protect yourself and look around for another career. Don't sacrifice yourself to the teacher haters.

Posted by: jlp19 | November 2, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Pallas,

This is a very important article. The problem is - is the public doesn't understand the issue. How I wish your message could get out to the public.

Posted by: jlp19 | November 2, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

After reading this article and a few of the posts. Here is how I stand as a future educator. Do I think the IMPACT system is a good idea? YES! Do I think it is a fair measurement of a teacher? NO! I do think it is a great idea. There are to many teachers out there who are not effectively teaching their students! Should teachers basis all of their assessments for students on test scores? NO! Why is it that teachers don't assess strictly based on tests? Well each student learns differently! Some students no matter how hard they try they do not test well! They may be able to tell you face to face what you want to know but they may not be able to write it on a test! Yes, as teachers we should be able to helps students achieve this goal. But there is not enough time in a school day! Teachers have now begun to teach testing, with this evaluation system this teaching method will continue! Why because their jobs are on the line if their students don't pass standardized tests! What has this taught our students? How to take a test? How are they going to use that once they are finished with their education? Standardized testing is only used during school! Also there are some issues with home life but teachers should do what they can to help their students achieve! This could mean asking a student to stay after school to help them learn something they just didn't catch onto as fast as the rest of the class. Even offering a homework lab might help these students who might not be able to complete homework at home. There are ways to help students with homelife that some may see as not a perfect life. As a teacher you should understand your student's background and help them to learn to the best of their ability despite that back ground!

Posted by: craink | November 5, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

There are good teachers and there are bad teachers...this is a fact that I believe is not up for debate; how we differentiate between and address the two, is. I look at Michelle Rhee as a pioneer. I can not say that she was 100% right or wrong, but either way she challenged a system that consistently fails year after year! As a nation, we can continue to go back and forth about how to evaluate teachers or how to save educators' jobs, but what we can not continue to be indecisive about is the future that we owe to our children. Teacher unions are concerned with creating competition among educators, because it harbors ill feelings and an unlevel playing field. I disagree. The idea of competition and striving to be the best teacher because it will save your job will undoubtedly result in superior schools and increased effort by teachers in all schools. If the teacher across the hall is finding that niche in which she can successfully teach all the kids in her classroom, you better do the same...the day of creeping by under the protection of tenure and subtle failure are gone.

Posted by: cooperle | November 7, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree that something needs to be done in the education system and many schools are considering longer days which wouldnt be a problem for me as a teacher but i dont think kids need to be in school 8-5 everyday. thats too much. they dont have any time to be a kid because they get off the bus have to eat supper, do homework, and wash up, by that time its probably time for bed and they have to repeat the cycle again the next day. I loved sports as a kid and hanging out with friends and i would want that for my kids also. A week or two of summer school i think would be acceptable because it does take too long to reteach what the students learned the year before.

Posted by: weinela2 | November 7, 2010 10:26 PM | Report abuse

pay no attention to weinela2's comment.. totally wrong article!! sorry!

Posted by: weinela2 | November 7, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

I agree with cooperle. Rhee was definately just trying to find a different way to help the hurting system but with that said i dont like the IMPACT system. I think its unfair to some teachers because it sets them up for failure.It does though create competition between the teachers which i also think is good. A good teacher will keep the not so good teachers on their toes and make them learn things faster becasue they want to keep their jobs.

Posted by: weinela2 | November 8, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Texas students oppose tuition break for illegal immigrants.

I normally have mixed feeling on issues with illegal immigrants. Simply because we, as a country, know that they are here, but as long as it benefits us with cheap labor or whatever else, we act as if no problem exists. I don't know why this is an issue. Should they be allowed to attend a public college or university or should should all states fall in line with Georgia and Louisiana and forbid attendance.

I simply have a problem with the fact that if they are illegal immigrants, then they are likely not paying taxes that support these schools.

Posted by: dedarnix37 | November 8, 2010 11:52 PM | Report abuse


I appreciate what our military is doing for our country. I truly believe that our veterans are often treated unfairly when they return home. I agree that there should be some thing in place to help them to transition back into civilian life. However, I don't agree that they should be given special accommodations for completing college sooner. As an older adult student who has worked for many years before returning to college, I would love to get some credit for life experience. However, that is not the case. I think it would be unfair to me and many others who have to take the time to complete our education. We all chose other paths in life and this is a result of not going to college right after high school.

I do agree with alternate housing. No adult should be subjected to living with 18 year old students....and vice versa.

Posted by: dedarnix37 | November 8, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse

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