POV: Those Who Can…

Points_viewThis Point of View was submitted by Shaker Junior High School principal Dr. Russell Moore of the North Colonie Central School District. Dr. Moore is currently in his 27th year as a principal. You can read more from him at his blog “Moore Perspective.”

I was just enrolled in my MEd. program at St. Lawrence and was sitting in my first class.  This program would not only result in a Master’s degree in Educational Administration, it would also serve as the basis for my NYS certification as a building and/or district administrator.  And like teaching, you need the certification to get an administrative job!  The professor seemed to be a really nice guy, but like most college professors he had no practical experience as a building principal.  I cannot be positive of that fact, but I’m pretty sure it’s accurate.

I don’t remember specifically what we were talking about but Dr. Williams (the name has been changed to protect the guilty) uttered the age old cliché in response to a colleague’s comments.  He stated, “Well you know what they say.  Those who can do, those who can’t teach.”  And, of course, he snickered about it.

Well, me being me, I said, “You should finish the saying.”

He looked at me quizzically and asked what I was referring to.  So, I said, “The full saying is those who can do, those who can’t teach, and those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”

I’m not really sure what he thought, the rest of the class loved it, and everybody had greater insight into who I was.

Needless to say I find the quote insulting and as far from the truth as most such sayings are.

I’ve worked with a multitude of professional educators over the course of 38 years in my career.  For a good number of them education was a second career; they had started down a different career path and found that it wasn’t really what they wanted to do.  The majority of educators I have known and interacted with knew from the beginning that they wanted to teach.  They have committed themselves to educating children, a conscious decision on their part based on their thoughts, beliefs, dedication to learning, desire to influence children’s development, or any of a wide range of reasons.  I can honestly say, believe it or not, I have not met any educator who went into education for the summers off.  I realize that’s a common belief of the non-education populace, but it has not been my experience at all.

And, I have worked with many educators who could have pursued whatever career path was desired and done well.  They had the abilities and personal characteristics that would have served them well in any line of work.  Many easily could have gone on to own their own businesses, or rise to lofty positions in big industries, or developed products that became everyday items.  The talents I have seen in people are as wide spread and as impressive as those you would observe in any field, any career path, any business.

And those people chose to teach.  They didn’t move to education when the college science or math courses got too difficult.  They didn’t suddenly realize that pursuing a career in business would be a long road, and ultimately one they didn’t want to spend time following.  They didn’t pass on law or medical careers because there are no jobs in those fields.  They wanted to teach.

It doesn’t matter what school you consider, the teaching staff is made up of very talented individuals, people who are committed to applying their thinking, creating, doing to educating kids.  Indeed, those who can, teach.

And that’s my perspective.

High-achieving teacher suing state over ‘ineffective’ label on evaluation

Sheri Lederman, Ed.D., a top-performing fourth grade teacher in the Great Neck Public School District is suing the State Education Department to invalidate a rating of “ineffective” on her evaluation.

The lawsuit states that Dr. Lederman’s students have consistently and substantially outperformed state averages in English Language Arts exams and 4th grade math exams over the course of her 17-year career at Great Neck. Over the last two years, approximately 68 percent of Dr. Lederman’s students have met or exceeded state standards, while the state average has been about 31 percent. Dr. Lederman’s superintendent, Thomas Dolan, signed an affidavit saying “her record is flawless” and that “she is highly regarded as an educator.”

Yet, when Lederman received her 2013-14 evaluation, based in part on student standardized test scores, she was rated “ineffective.”

According to the Washington Post:

The convoluted statistical model that the state uses to evaluate how much a teacher “contributed” to students’ test scores awarded her only one out of 20 possible points. These ratings affect a teacher’s reputation and at some point are supposed to be used to determine a teacher’s pay and even job status.

The evaluation method, known as value-added modeling, or VAM, purports to be able to predict through a complicated computer model how students with similar characteristics are supposed to perform on the exams — and how much growth they are supposed to show over time — and then rate teachers on how much their students compare to the theoretical students. New York is just one of the many states where VAM is one of the chief components used to evaluate teachers.

The lawsuit claims that Value Added Model as presently implemented by the state, actually punishes excellence in education through a statistical black box which no educator could see as fair or accurate. This past April, the American Statistical Association issued a report that called into question the use of VAM for teacher evaluation.

In the past, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the teacher evaluation system needed to be revised because not enough teachers were being labeled as “developing” or “ineffective.” Just last week, Cuomo vowed that if re-elected, he would push for a plan on evaluations that includes more incentives and sanctions that “make it a more rigorous evaluation system.”

The concept of evaluations are not new to New York. Teachers and principals have always been evaluated and held to standards, but under the current APPR, district evaluation plans must adhere to rigid rules set by the state and a portion of the evaluations is directly tied to student performance on state exams or other state-approved learning measures. The goal of APPR is to provide standardized, objective evaluation results.

This lawsuit filed by Dr. Lederman is interesting in that it goes after VAM as a measure to evaluate a teacher. Should VAM fall, it could significantly change the evaluation process in New York and around the country.

NY Board of Regents approves new graduation standards to better prepare students for the future

Earlier today, the New York State Board of Regents approved new options for students to meet the State’s high school graduation requirements. The new regulations establish multiple, comparably rigorous pathways to graduation, including pathways in Career and Technical Education (CTE); Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); the Arts; Biliteracy (languages other than English); and the Humanities. The new regulations also establish a two-year Global History and Geography course requirement and modify the design of the Global History and Geography Regents Exam.  

Check out NYSED’s video explaining the changes.

News and reactions from around NY: (we’ll be updating as coverage continues)

 

NYSUT: State Ed ban on discussing tests violates free speech

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has filed suit in federal court against the State Education Department, arguing that the state is infringing on teachers’ First Amendment right to free speech by restricting them from discussing their concerns about specific questions on standardized tests.

“How can you learn from a test that you can’t talk about?” asked NYSUT officials. Under state law and policy, discussing the material on the exams is actually a punishable offense. You can read NYSUT’s press release on the lawsuit here.

News coverage

Changes in the pathway to graduation could be on horizon

State officials are considering alternative ways for students to get a high school diploma, such as getting an industry certification.

New York is one of 24 states that utilizes “exit exams” by requiring students to be proficient on specific standardized tests in order to graduate from high school. To earn a Regents diploma, students need to score 65 or higher on the five core-subject exams (English, math, global history, U.S. History and science). The Board of Regents has been developing a plan that would allow NY’s students to substitute one of the social studies Regents with a “Pathway” program and exam in arts, career and technical education, the humanities or STEM (science, technology and engineering and math.)

Why are the Regents considering the switch? To quote Cosimo Tangorra, NY’s deputy commissioner for P-12 education, “The path to college isn’t the only path that’s going to lead to happiness.”

Read the article here.

What do you think about the possible new pathways option?

Friday Rundown 9.12.14

A good Friday morning to you!

Cuomo defeats Teachout, liberal rival, in the Democratic primary (NY Times)

Tenure war on teachers rages (Albany Times Union)

Why do New York’s poor schools have lower-rated teachers? (Capital New York)

Common Core 2.0: Common Core by another name (Washington Post)

Common Core: What’s True, False and Fuzzy (Washington Post’s Answer Sheet Blog)

Making sense of Common Core resistance (Ed Week)

America’s Top High Schools for 2014 (Newsweek)

Will America’s Education System Endanger its Prosperity? (Wall Street Journal)

And lastly, these literary-themed school supplies put a smile on our face. Have a great weekend!

POV: Poverty and achievement are inextricably linked

Points_view

This Point of View was submitted by Shaker Junior High School principal Dr. Russell Moore of the North Colonie Central School District. Dr. Moore is currently in his 27th year as a principal. You can read more from him at his blog “Moore Perspective.”

The NYS Commissioner of Education, John B.King, Jr., recently posted a letter on a NY public access web site regarding the 2014 NYS assessment results, released in late August.  Included in his letter are two scatterplots of all the New York State results by school, one graph for ELA and the other for math.  Each school is displayed based on their 2014 percent proficient and their reported percentage of economically disadvantaged students.  In other words, the scatterplots (which can be viewed along with King’s entire letter at engageny.org and are reproduced below) show the relationship between academic achievement, as measured by the NYS assessments, and poverty:

math scatterplot

The relationship is fairly clear to see in both scatterplots; as schools’ poverty levels increase their achievement results decrease.  This is not a universal surety, as there are always exceptions to any rule, but the trend is obvious.   And this trend is not shocking or contrary to historical data.  Indeed, there is a clear correlation heavily supported by research between poverty and achievement.  Students of poverty perform worse, in general, on all measures of academic achievement.  I want to stress that there are exceptions to what research clearly indicates.  There are, of course, economically disadvantaged students who do very well academically, in fact, some who do as well as typical wealthier students.

Commissioner King writes, however,

“These results make clear that those who claim that demography is destiny and that we cannot improve teaching and learning until we have first fixed poverty are simply mistaken.  In New York, there are many examples of higher poverty/higher performance schools…this is not to imply that poverty is an unimportant factor – it is extremely important, for all of us.  But the idea that poverty or family circumstances outside of school are insurmountable obstacles for teaching and learning is a fallacy.”

When considered only on the surface, his statement is meant to empower, to reinforce that poverty does not mandate poor performance for every student but instead that any student has the capability to rise above his/her poverty and succeed.  Indeed, while accurate, his statement tends to remove poverty from the equation, which is misleading and even disingenuous.  I encourage Commissioner King to read Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, in which the plight of East St. Louis schools is detailed.  Kozol would agree that even in the poorest of schools there are individual students who rise above their poverty and succeed academically, but he would stress the obvious:  that doing so is highly improbable.

And that’s where King’s message is misleading.  Academic achievement is strongest where opportunities are richest.  Where do opportunities abound?  Not in poor districts, but in the wealthier ones.  Money is needed to provide opportunities for students, to provide facilities that put students in a proper environment, to provide top quality teachers, to provide programs that allow students to stretch, to provide, well, to provide all that the students in wealthy districts have.   You cannot provide equal opportunities for students until you address the inequity of wealth between districts.  Until you do that, students in poverty will not have anywhere the same opportunities and the trends seen in the scatterplots above will continue, if not worsen.

Commissioner King, let’s be honest.  Your pep talk is empty until there is equitable funding for schools.  You can attempt to encourage all you want but there will only continue to be the exceptions you mention in your letter.  You cannot will away the link between poverty and achievement.

And that is my perspective.

Math scores up, ELA remains flat, on 3-8 assessments

New York students showed progress in Common Core-based math exams in 2014, but scores on English Language Arts assessments remained largely stagnant.

On Thursday, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) released district and school results for the English and math assessments that students in grades three through eight took in the spring of 2014. This is the second year the exams have been aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards.

According to NYSED, students statewide made “significant” progress in math, increasing from 31.2 a year ago to 35.8 across all grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose in math, from 66.9 to 69.6 percent.

Students made slight progress in ELA, – 31.3 percent in 2013 to 31.4 percent in 2014 – though progress varied across the need/resource categories.

Both Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King described the Common Core implementation as a “transition period,” but both praised the progress made.

“The test scores show that students from all economic, race, ethnicity and geographic backgrounds can and are making progress,” Tisch said. “This is still a transition period. It will take time before the changes taking place in our classrooms are fully reflected in the test scores. But the growth we see is directly attributable to the dedication and determination of so many classroom teachers and school leaders across the state.”

Last year, the scores provided a new baseline for student performance based upon the changes taking place in classrooms across the state and the country. 2014 is the first year a “matched students” approach is being taken, measuring student learning growth and providing more applicable data that compares the performance of one year’s students at a particular grade level against the next year’s cohort at the same grade level.

State assessments do not factor into a student’s grades. State test scores are used to help determine which students may need extra help and the best ways to provide extra academic support.

Regional Summary of 3-8 Exam Results:

Mathematics

Students statewide are doing better in math. The percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) increased from 31.2 to 35.8 across all grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose, from 66.9 percent to 69.6 percent.

A smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) in the Big 4 city school districts than statewide. However, year-to-year performance increased in each Big 5 city school district, and New York City performance approached statewide levels.

  • Buffalo: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 11.4 in 2013 to 13.1 in 2014.
  • New York City: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 30.1 in 2013 to 34.5 in 2014.
  • Syracuse: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 7.2 in 2013 to 7.6 in 2014.
  • Rochester: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 4.8 in 2013 to 6.8 in 2014.
  • Yonkers: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 16.1 in 2013 to 21.1 in 2014.

Although the achievement gap remains statewide, an increased percentage of students across all race/ethnicity groups met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4).

  • Black students: the statewide percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 16.1 in 2013 to 19.3 in 2014.
  • Hispanic students: the statewide percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 18.9 in 2013 to 23.1 in 2014.

ELA

Students statewide are doing slightly better in ELA. The percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) increased from 31.3 to 31.4 across grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose, from 69.0 percent to 70.0 percent.

A smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) in the Big 4 city school districts than statewide. Year-to-year performance increases were largest in New York City and Yonkers, and New York City’s performance approached statewide levels.

  • Buffalo: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 12.1 in 2013 to 12.2 in 2014.
  • New York City: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 27.4 in 2013 to 29.4 in 2014.
  • Syracuse: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above stayed the same, at 8.5, from 2013 to 2014.
  • Rochester: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 5.6 in 2013 to 5.7 in 2014.
  • Yonkers: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 16.9 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2014.

In New York City, an increased percentage of students in all race/ethnicity groups met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4). For example:

  • Black students: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 17.2 in 2013 to 18.6 in 2014.
  • Hispanic students: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 17.2 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2014.

Measuring Student Progress in Grades 3-8 English Language Arts and Mathematics [PDF]

 

Friday Rundown 8.1.14

The first round of test scores since Common Core’s implementation have been released.  This prompted the State’s release of a parent “bill of rights” to clarify how the data could be used and privacy requirements pertaining to the results. Now, people are wondering how schools are going to utilize the new feedback and whether students and teachers can rise to the curriculum. The challenges that districts face, such as integrating the standards into Special Education and the new TASC exam requiring high school equivalency students to meet the standards, are also making headlines this week.

The lawsuit against teacher tenure was filed Monday and has the potential to bring about big changes in the New York State education system.

School is getting more expensive and so are school supplies. As back to school season approaches are you ready to spend a little extra? If not, maybe your community is doing something to help families out like the communities in the news this week:

Other news:

Officials look to educate local teens for future nano jobs (Utica Observer Dispatch)

A teacher asks Arne Duncan a gutsy question. Here’s the answer. (Washington Post)

Utica’s King school benefiting from extended days (Utica Observer Dispatch)

More Schools Open Their Doors to the Whole Community (Wall Street Journal)

Friday Rundown 7.25.14

Schools are thinking outside of the box to try to offer the best to their students. Districts have been faced with funding challenges and state and national mandates that have made it difficult to provide things such as learning technology, healthy foods that students want to eat and alternative programming for non-traditional students. Districts and students have been forced to be creative to find solutions.

The usual topics of Common Core, tenure, state aid, and national and international student competitiveness have not gone away. Here’s some other interesting news from the week.

The problem with how we talk about poverty and kids (The Washington Post)

State awards $11M in after-school grants (Capital New York)

Setting the record straight on tenure (New York Daily News)

Investing in early learning (Buffalo News)

Middle school principals discuss Common Core, technology and promoting identity formation (Albany Business Review)

US teens are flunking financial literacy test (Middletown Times Herald Record)

New York schools have lower dropout rates than national average (Watertown Daily Times)