Saturday, May 2, 2015

NY: Eval Overhaul In Scary Hands

The expert names for the New York teacher evaluation high speed overhaul panel are in, and it is, at best, a mixed bag.

* Thomas Kane, an economist from Harvard. Kane thinks that evaluation should be directly linked to the Common Core via high stakes testing; he likes to compare this to using a bathroom scale when dieting. He thinks too few NY teachers were evaluated as sucky last year, and he imagines that maybe video-based observation would be swell. And he was an expert witness for the Vergara trial (can you guess on which side?) He headed up the Gates Measures of Effective Teaching study, and he thinks Cuomo is pretty much on the right track.

* Catherine Brown, vice-president of the Center for American Progress, a thinky tank invariably billed as "left-leaning" despite their general on-boardedness with assaults on the teaching profession. CAP has issued any number of sloppy and ill-supported attempts to push Common Core and VAM.

* Sandi Jacobs, vice-president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a group that has taken the position that US teachers are low-quality hacks. These are the guys who help US News and World rate college teacher programs (including programs that don't actually exist) and who cobbled together a report on the rigor of college teacher prep programs by sitting in their offices and looking through a stack of commencement programs.

* Leslie Guggenheim of TNTP (The New Teacher Project), a group that really wants to see more personnel decisions, including pay, based on test results. They'd kind of like to get rid of tenure, too. Their big claim to fame is a paper called "The Widget Effect," that argues that teachers are not interchangeable widgets, but are in fact interchangeable widgets of varying degrees of quality.

I will go out on a limb and predict right now, today, that these four will declare that Cuomo's evaluation plan is okee dokee. But in the interests of not-entirely-kangaroo courtage (and perhaps additional entertainment value), the group also includes:

* Jesse Rothstein is a professor at Berkeley who has spent some time shooting holes in the research of both Kane and Raj Chetty. Starting with the same data, he found far less to love about VAM.

* Stephen Caldas is a professor at Manhattanville College who tagged the NY evaluation system with the delightful term "psychometrically indefensible."

* Aaron Pallas of Teachers College. He's been busily pointing out the problems with VAMmy systems for a few years now.

Those of you who have scored proficient in counting will notice that the majority of the committee seats are occupied by fans of reformy nonsense. But wait-- there's more.

Cuomo's insanely accelerated timeline (why get things right when you can get them done quickly) means that the usual 45-day post-draft comment period on proposed regulations is being waived because, well, if you had it, people might comment. Hey, it's not like anything else about supposed ed reform has suffered from being rammed through too quickly.

So NYSUT (which you may or may not love-- honestly, you New Yorkers and your intra-union alliances and battles) is on point when they say that everybody had better start making comments and making them now. President Karen MaGee says that folks need to speak up.

"NYSUT is well aware of the unrealistic deadlines contained in the governor's convoluted and unworkable plan, and the pressure that puts on the Regents and SED to try and mitigate the worst of it. Still, those deadlines do not absolve them of their responsibility to listen carefully to parents and practitioners and make any necessary adjustments to the draft regulations they wind up writing," Magee said. "One month is plenty of time for SED and the Regents to hold public hearings and still meet their deadlines."

So if you're a New York teacher or parent, it's time (right now-- the committee meets May 7) to get word to a Regent or the State Education Department. Tell them you want hearings on the draft. Tell them what you want in the evaluation system. Tell them why the stuff the committee is about to okay is a bunch of hooey (I'd suggest a more professional word than "hooey")

You can find a guide to individual Board of Regents members right here, complete with email links. You can find some NYSED phone numbers here and a whole department index starting with the A's right here. The clock is ticking. Time to make some noise. You might want to let the non-junk-science portion of the group know you support them-- they may be feeling a bit lonely soon. Heck-- you can even send word to Andrew Cuomo himself. It looks like this whole mess isn't going to be pretty-- but it doesn't have to be ugly and quiet both.

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