Facts to Counter Bias Against Teaching Profession

skills-835747_1280Some groups are making teachers into scapegoats to justify opposition to unions, taxes, or facing problems in low income neighborhood schools.   In a 20014 speech, U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan claimed that academically, our teachers were in the bottom third of their college class.  He argues that new teachers are underprepared, and low-income students get short changed.  Somehow better qualified teachers would improve our ranking on international tests.

A New York Times article by Daniel Willingham Teachers Aren’t Dumb takes a different view and gives facts to back it up.

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A + School Grade System Fails: New System Proposed

school report

There is a debate about the validity of school grades.  There are reasons to think twice about releasing the 2015 results.  School grade formulas change regularly, so it is difficult to know whether the grading formula, the characteristics of the student body, and/or statewide test results have the greatest impact on a school grade.  The school grade formula will change again this year.  In addition, the grading system has a new set of challenges.

What will happen with the new school grade system that calculates achievement gains based on scores from two different tests:  FCAT and FSA?  Even if the passing standard is equated to ensure the same percentage of students pass, it does not mean that students are proficient on the new standards.  It means that school grades will move around until the DOE matches the items with the standards as suggested in the FSA validity study.

I looked at Palm Beach’s school grades over the last five years.  Grades in most schools shift from one year to the next.  This cannot be due to changes in instruction!  Then, I looked at how grades were calculated.  Therein ‘lies the rub’.

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Testing, When is Enough, Enough?

dmbtestI wrote this piece as a lead in to the testing forum sponsored by the Gainesville Sun on September 16th.  The issues are there.  So are some ways to think a little differently about current tests and testing alternatives.  The article was published today.  It starts like this:  “Florida has been using tests to drive instruction for years”.  It ends with putting Florida’s legislature to the test.   In between are  some ways to think about improving our schools.  See the article here.

Nathan Crabbe, the Gainesville Sun’s editor, announced a forum on testing to be held on September 16th at 6 p.m. in Pugh Hall on the University of Florida  campus.  He will moderate a panel that includes Superintendent Owen Roberts, Sue Legg (President Alachua County League of Women Voters, Susan Bowles (Teacher of the Year), and Shan Goff, Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Failure Factories: The Children Tell Their Stories

whistle-149678_1280The latest feature on the Pinellas County Schools neglect of low-income minority schools lets the children tell their stories.  Anyone who thinks that these children do not know better and can not do better should listen carefully to what these children say.  Promises for help from the district were not kept.  Teachers gave up.  

What will be done to fix a problem the district helped create.  Charters are not to blame; they are nowhere near.

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Charters Unconstitutional in Washington State

justiceLate yesterday, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that charter schools were unconstitutional.  The lawsuit was brought by the League of Women Voters, the Washington Education Association, and the State District Superintendents.  Charters are new to Washington, only a few opened last year.  More are scheduled to open this year.  There is a twenty day period for response to the ruling.

The basis for the ruling is explained below.

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Florida Test Reform: What Might We Expect from the legislature?

critical-thinking (2)There will be hearings in the legislature about reforms to Florida’s state-wide testing.  The Seminole County school district is leading a movement to replace the FSA at least for high school graduation.  Senators Gaetz and Legg have made public statements about the need for reform.

What can we realistically expect?

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FSA Score Results: What Parent’s Should Know

dmbtestI have reviewed the FSA validity study and the response by the Florida Department of Education.  It boils down to a few key issues:

  1. 1.  Students should be held harmless from promotion, graduation and placement in remediation courses.
  2. 2.  Scores based on FSA standards should be delayed until independent reviews of the alignment of test questions with state standards is completed.
  3. 3.  If close alignment with standards is not meaningful (as with the Utah test questions), then less expensive, nationally normed tests should be considered.
  4.  4.  Performance standards should not be set until the alignment of item complexity with performance standards is resolved.  Questions that are too complex or too simple for a given performance level could skew passing standards and the interpretation of what students should know and be able to do at each level.  School grades and student growth measures used in teacher evaluations could be negatively impacted.  The interpretation of performance levels would change from year to year due to variations in questions in different test forms in the same year and across years.

Pam Stewart Moves Ahead on FSA Scores

standardized_testCommissioner of Education Pam Stewart makes no mention of the FSA validity study qualifications regarding the validity of the FSA for different uses.  She summarizes the study in three bullets.  Then, she states that the FSA is an accurate way to measure student’s mastery of the standards.  She announces that group level scores will be used to calculate teacher evaluations and student level cut scores.

The report says much more. The devil is in the details.  Important details.  This post compares the FSA report finding to the Commissioner’s statement.  There are recommendations in the report that are not referenced in the statement.  These could make a difference in what scores mean.

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FSA Validity Study Released

image001When we ask if a test is valid, it is critical to ask:  valid for what purpose?  The  report on the validity of the Florida FSA test was released today.  There were findings from six studies conducted by Alpine Testing Solutions and EdCount LLC.

Given that there were six sets of results and conclusions, the researchers did not state that the test as whole was valid.  Let’s look at each study’s conclusions.  Even more interesting are the results of the analyses taken together and called Cross Study Conclusions.

The study found reasons to be cautious about some of the uses of the scores.  The researchers reported that the Florida DOE did not intend to report scale scores or performance standards this first year.  Students would receive a percentile ranking, the number of points earned out of the number possible, and the average number of points statewide by category.  Interim cut scores for ELA grade 3 and Algebra I would be set by percentile equating based on the FCAT cut scores.

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A.I.E. Latest Report on Charters: Advocacy or Research?

sherlock-holmes-462978_1280Sorting out hype vs. evidence can be a challenge.  The latest American Enterprise Institute report: Measuring Diversity in Charter School Offerings claims that charters should be expanded.  In fact, deregulation of charters increases diversity in charter offerings.  See what you think after you read the review from N.E.P.C.

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