Robert Berkman: Another Nail in the Coffin on VAM

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

A few days ago, I published a post about a paper by Kirabo Jackson, explaining that the non-cognitive effects of teachers are often more important than the test scores of their students.

As it happened, mathematician Robert Berkman read the paper and explains here why it is another nail in the coffin of value-added measures, which judge teacher quality by the rise or fall of student test scores.

Berkman writes:

In this post, I’m going to examine one of the studies that no doubt had a profound impact on the members of AMSTAT that led them to this radical (but self-evident) conclusion. In 2012, the researcher C. Kirabo Jackson at Northwestern University published a “working paper” for the National Bureau of Economic Research, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works (I’m quoting here from their website.) The paper, entitled “Non-Cognitive…

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Jack Schneider: Teachers Are Not the Problem

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Jack Schneider, a historian of education at Holy Cross University, deconstructs the claim that the biggest problem in education today is the quality of teachers. The clarion s of the Status Quo never tire of telling us that “great” teachers can turn every student into college-bound scholars. For a time, they said that the teacher was the most important influence on student test scores. Then, as social scientists reminded them, again and again, that the family has far greater influence than the teacher, the Status Quo shifted gears and began saying that teachers were the most important factor inside schools, which is true. Economists say that the family accounts for about 60% of academic outcomes, the teacher about 10-15%. The Status Quo doesn’t like to put those numbers out because it might persuade the public that our society should do more to improve the lives of families, communities, and children…

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Do I Need to Call Your Mommy?

In schools across Texas and the United States there is a standing unwritten policy that requires teachers to contact parents regarding concerns about behavior and grades in their classroom. On the surface this looks like a good philosophy, which it is for elementary and middle school students. But I’m beginning to think that it is not an appropriate policy for high school students.

 When I read “School Mission” and “School Vision” statements from various schools and districts, there is a consistent theme: Students are to be college ready or prepared to enter the workforce when they graduate from high school. I am suggesting that the policy of calling a parent of a sixteen-year old that has a part-time job and other responsibilities is counterproductive.

 If the student has a part-time job, then they must answer to their boss if their behavior or work is unsatisfactory. The boss does not call their mommy to get help with their performance. The boss talks to the worker and it is the worker’s responsibility to improve their performance, not mom or dad’s. If they do not improve, then they will be fired.

 In a lot of high schools, the administration uses the excuse that if a teacher has not called the parent then they will not address a disciplinary issue with the student until the parent is contacted by the teacher. Also teachers are directed to contact parents before they are allowed to let a student’s failing grade stand. Both of these actions are contrary to the expectation of “college ready” and “prepared to enter the workforce”. When a student goes to college, then their parents will not be there to tell them to study or go to class. Just like when they are working, the parents cannot control their behavior and work ethic.  The students will rely on a “crutch” of teachers being required to call their parent as long as they are allowed.

 All parents should be contacted for students in grades PK-9 because of their age and level of maturity. Beginning the second semester of their sophomore year, then the teachers will not be “required” contact parents for every discipline or academic concern. The responsibility will be placed where it needs to be, with the students, to meet the stated goal; college and workforce ready. If the students are held more accountable then most will rise to the challenge and be successful.

 It is time to adopt a new philosophy that is consistent with the mission of our schools, a philosophy that does not require teachers to call parents at every turn. This does not prohibit teachers from calling parents in certain situations, but they are not REQUIRED.

Under the current philosophies, only the teachers are being held accountable, not the students. If the students are held to a higher standard, then the majority will rise up to achieve the higher standard. The students that chose not to rise to the higher standard will be candidates for an alternative school program.

If we start treating them like school is their job, then they will be better prepared to meet the stated goal of education; to be better prepared for college and the workforce.

David R. Taylor

26 Year Teacher, Coach and Principal


NOTE: The state law still requires that parents be contacted in cases of discipline that require the removal of a student from the regular classroom setting; this can be done by an administrator as needed.

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BREAKING NEWS: American Statistical Association Issues Caution on Use of VAM

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

The central feature of the Obama administration’s $5 billion “Race to the Top” program was sharply deconstructed and refuted last week by the American Statistical Association , one of the nation’s leading scholarly organizations. Spurred on by the administration’s combination of federal cash and mandates, most states are now using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers. This method of evaluating teachers by test scores is called value-added measurement, or VAM. Teachers’ compensation, their tenure, bonuses, and other rewards and sanctions are tied directly to the rise or fall of their student test scores, which the Obama administration considers a good measure of teacher quality.

Secretary Arne Duncan believes so strongly in VAM that he has threatened to punish Washington state for refusing to adopt this method of evaluating teachers and principals. In New York, a state court fined New York City $150 million for failing to agree on…

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Talk This Way: unpacking the slang stigma

Originally posted on College In The Cornfield:

Tomorrow I will be beginning my “Grammar and Politics of the English Language ” class which will be:

An examination of the structures and forms which currently govern standard usage of the English language. Encompasses a broad view of grammar as a subject by a wide-ranging investigation of the history and development of the language. Examines the social and political implications of the development of English as a global language.

Surely ebonics/slang will come up in this class, so before I begin taking this course’s info and (re)forming my opinions I thought I’d make this blog post as a sort of “preflection”.

Defining Ebonics/Slang

WEB-SlangFlashcards2My understanding is: ebonics is a form of slang. Slang being “a type of language that consists of words and phrases that are regarded as very informal, are more common in speech than writing, and are typically restricted to a particular context or group of people.” I…

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New Study Finds That Early Childhood Care and Education Has Lasting Effects

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

This article reports on a long-term study of the lasting effects of early childhood education.

The article is misleadingly titled “Project to Improve Poor Children’s Intellect Led to Better Health, Data Shows.”

But the study involved far more than improving young children’s intellect.

In 1972, researchers in North Carolina started following two groups of babies from poor families. In the first group, the children were given full-time day care up to age 5 that included most of their daily meals, talking, games and other stimulating activities. The other group, aside from baby formula, got nothing. The scientists were testing whether the special treatment would lead to better cognitive abilities in the long run.

Forty-two years later, the researchers found something that they had not expected to see: The group that got care was far healthier, with sharply lower rates of high blood pressure and obesity, and higher levels of…

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Linda Darling-Hammond: Why the Status Quo Movement Has Nothing to Do with Civil Rights


She got right to the heart of the issue and turned the focus where it needed to be, on equitable funding. The teacher quality is a secondary issue to child preparedness.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

The corporate style reformers–the cheerleaders for charters, vouchers-and high-stakes testing–like to claim that they are leading the civil rights movement of their day. They imagine themselves locked arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King, Jr., in their efforts to end collective bargaining rights, to eliminate teacher due process rights, and to privatize public education.

I am not sure if they actually believe this or if they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of the media and the public.

In this fascinating interview, Josh Eidelson of Salon puts the question to Linda Darling-Hammond: Would you agree or disagree that the Vergara case–which would end teachers’ job protections–is an extension of the civll rights movement, as its proponents claim?

My guess is that Linda either fell off her chair laughing, or was momentarily dumbstruck by the absurdity of the idea.

She responded:

“I can’t understand why anyone would agree. To…

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