Thursday, June 19, 2014

TNTP Evaluates NCTQ

It's a rare day when one titan reformsylvania decides to critique another's work, but that's what we have over at the TNTP blog, where Karolyn Belcher suggests that the NCTQ evaluation of teacher programs could use some tweaks.

Mind you, they think that NCTQ is doing God's work, and doing it well. Their ratings will stir up controversy and "it's the right conversation to have on a critical issue." TNTP is also excited " to see NCTQ begin to put alternative programs on equal footing with traditional programs, and welcome the outside scrutiny." And they did okay, ratings-wise ("solid Bs").

So, really, they don't want to complain. But they have some suggestions, some things deserving of tweakery (aka some ways they would look better). Do tell! Let's see the list!

A more focused approach to evaluating teacher support.

NCTQ dinged TNTP for not providing a co-teaching period for their recruits. "That’s fine in principle, but there is little or no evidence connecting it to improved practice or student learning. Other approaches, such as focused coaching (even in virtual environments), have a broader research base."

I left the links in that quote so you could see TNTP's support. The first unfortunately leads to a log-in page. Next we get a study of literacy coaches in a Florida middle school, a coaching "experiment run in the NOLA RSD, and a study of coaching in choice schools. You can wade through them, or you can take my word for it that they are not exactly a mountain of compelling evidence.

A more nuanced view of content preparation.

TNTP agrees that teachers should know what the hell their talking about in their content area (I'm paraphrasing) but takes umbrage that NCTQ suggests more coursework and tests than the state requires, because the research doesn't support it.And by research, once again, we mean "proof that it raises test scores." Keep that in mind because number three is--

A stronger push for evidence of effectiveness.

We know that NCTQ shares our belief that the best measure of a program’s effectiveness isn’t what programs put into their candidates, but whether the teachers it prepares advance student learning. NCTQ rightfully incorporated value-added data in its assessments of programs where available. 

VAM is like the flippin' educational bureaucrat zombie. Kill it over and over again and it just keeps coming back. Take mountains of evidence of VAM's uselessness as a measure of teacher effective, and pile that mountain on top of VAM and it just claws its way out and stumbles onward.

But as bizarre as it is that anyone would think you could go a step further and evaluate the program that created a teacher based on the standardized test score of that teacher's students, it is even more bizarre that TNTP would insist on being judged by it, that they would stand there, in the middle of the street screaming, "Come here, zombie VAM! Come and eat OUR brains!!"

It's like insisting on playing Russian Roulette because you are certain you have a method to beat the game. It is at times like this that I suspect TNTP leadership does not have a brain in its collective head. Maybe they are Wile E. Coyote smart; perhaps they feel that public schools will take more damage than they will with this bogus instrument, or that their superior marketing will withstand it (after all, their titular launcher is a woman who still carries weight in the education world despite never having succeeded at anything in education except making money).

The article wraps up with general glad-handing. Glad to work with NCTQ. Everybody should do it (but bring your shiny evidence-like research). And in the meantime, don't forget that NCTQ is giving pretty much everybody a bad grade.

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