Can We Effectively Evaluate Teachers?

“Where are we as a nation with teacher evaluations?  Are we evaluating the right things?  What role should student data play in professional development?  What about employment decisions?”
These are the questions that National Journal is asking this week on its Education Experts blog.  Following up on the Chicago Teachers Union Strike, National Journal is touting the latest discussion section under the header, “Teacher Effectiveness ‘Here to Stay.'”
Dear ol’ Eduflack weighs in on this week’s question, touting ConnCAN’s work in the development of its Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: A Look “Under the Hood” of Teacher Evaluation in 10 Sites.  Released in May by ConnCAN, Measuring Teacher Effectiveness offers a detailed look at 10 strong teacher evaluation models.
From my post:

We know there are few factors as important to student success than that of an effective educator. To ensure that every child has that effective educator, we must implement comprehensive evaluation models. Measuring Teacher Effectiveness is an important tool in understanding what teacher evaluation leaders are doing and what components must be factored into a meaningful evaluation model.

Each site we studied is working to continuously improve their evaluation systems with the belief that the challenges they encounter can be overcome. As Measuring Teacher Effectiveness reported, “None of these systems claims to have cracked the code for teacher evaluation. Nonetheless, we consistently heard that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good.”

Happy reading!

“Doing Nothing is Not Going to be Neutral”

“Doing nothing is not going to be neutral.  It’s not going to yield us the status quo.  It will be yielding decline.  Trying to do something and trying to change, and moving the ball forward through trial and error will yield the kind of results you should be proud of.”
– Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaking in Connecticut on the important of education reform, advocating that one needs to be “all in” for change if we are to deliver real results for the kids.

“No Way to Measure the Effectiveness of an Educator”

“There is no way to measure the effectiveness of an educator.  Further, there are too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests, such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger, and other social issues beyond our control.
– Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, after failing to bring forward a vote to end the CTU strike.  Apparently, she hasn’t paid much attention to what her AFT brothers and sisters in New Haven, CT have done, when the established the Teacher Evaluation and Development system in partnership with New Haven Public Schools as part of a collective bargaining agreement.
The New Haven Federation of Teachers seemed to break new ground and establish a fair system for measuring the effectiveness of an educator.  The system has been regularly promoted by national AFT President Randi Weingarten, education leaders across the country, thought leaders and the media.  Guess the news never quite made it to Chicago, though.

Yes Connecticut, We Can

Long-time readers of Eduflack will notice that I have been writing a great deal about Connecticut lately.  In my professional life, I’m fortunate enough to work with a terrific education advocacy group in the Nutmeg State — the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now

ConnCAN’s mission is to fight so that every child — regardless of race, family income, or zip code — has access to great public schools.  By focusing on the achievement gaps and pushing for real solutions, ConnCAN is committed to better schools, better and better supported educators, and better outcomes.
So obviously much of what appears on Eduflack is often seen through the lens of education improvement in Connecticut.  That’s why I am happy to announce I’m now writing a new blog focused on education reform in Connecticut — Yes Conn, We Can.
What’s even more exciting is that Yes Conn, We Can is now part of a family of blogs found at the New Haven Register.  Yes Conn, We Can is one of four community blogs currently included in the Register’s Connecticut Blogs section.  
From time to time, I’ll repost some Yes Conn, We Can posts here on Eduflack, if they are particularly relevant to the national education discussion.  
Happy reading!

Ed Reform Is a Path to Economic Success

While we all know about the importance a strong public education system plays in preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s success, we speak far too infrequently about the specific ties between our nation’s economic success and the educational policies that help us achieve it.

At the Democratic National Convention, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel told a gathering that “there’s no denying connection between economic growth and education.”  Mr. Van Roekel is absolutely correct. 
That growth comes requires the ability to adjust and adapt to the changing conditions of our society.  It requires an ability to reform.  Our economy recognizes that, and has demonstrated it over the history of this great nation.  So why are we so resistant to public education adjusting and adapting to those same conditions and expectations?
Over at the ConnCAN blog, I have a blog post exploring how education reform equals economic growth.  From that post:

But why are we so resistant to similar change in education? With such a strong connection between economic growth and education, we’ve seen our economy transform as we try to teach our kids using the same systems, approaches, and expectations as we did nearly a century ago.

Our consumer-driven economy should yield a consumer-driven educational system. A system where families have a choice in the schools their kids attend. A system where moms and dads are assured their kids have great teachers in the classroom and a great principal leading the school. A system where all students are funded equally, rejecting the establishment of two classes of public school students in the same city.

We cannot and should not continue a public education framework just because it is the way we have always done it. Those who continue to defend a model that has failed so many of Connecticut students for decades must ask what they are defending.


Choosing Reform in CT’s Largest City

Yesterday, the voters of Bridgeport reiterated the need for the continued push for reform in the Bridgeport Public Schools. With Hernan Illingworth, Jacqueline Kelleher, and Kenneth Moales now CONTINUING THEIR SERVICE on the Bridgeport Board of Education and with John Bagley joining the Board, the city can continue to move forward, ensuring that all Bridgeport kids receive a world-class education.

Without question, there has been a great deal of vitriol surrounding the progress made in Bridgeport over the past 10 months. Those seeking to protect a broken system, a system that simply was not serving the families of Bridgeport, have been quick to lob any charges (no matter how baseless) to try and slow or outright derail the improvements recently adopted in Bridgeport.

DURING THE PAST YEAR, we have seen the cost of the Bridgeport Public Schools’ central office greatly reduced, ensuring that the community’s tax dollars are going where they need to – toward the education of kids.

During the past year, we have seen the school district right its financial ship, restoring a trust in the stewardship of Bridgeport schools.

During the past year, we have seen an unprecedented focus on student learning, with educators and advocates, parents and policymakers joining together to improve the quality of local schools.

During the past year, we have seen all corners of Bridgeport join together to help turn around the James J. Curiale School, demonstrating a real community commitment that no child should have to attend a failing school.

During the past year, we have seen the city pledge to ensure that all Bridgeport kids have exemplary teachers lead their classrooms, as the city joins in the state’s groundbreaking student learning-focused teacher evaluation efforts.

And the during the past year, we have seen city residents embrace the possible and the hopeful in Bridgeport Public Schools, trusting in the leadership of Superintendent Paul Vallas and his plans for restoring Bridgeport schools to glory.

Let there be no mistake, change is hard. Change is particularly hard when it means breaking practices and behaviors that have ruled the roost for decades, leading folks to believe that change is impossible. But Mayor Bill Finch has demonstrated that change is possible, is necessary, and is achievable. Superintendent Vallas has PROVIDED THE BLUEPRINT for achieving that change. And now the voters of Bridgeport have reaffirmed the execution of that blueprint.

Every child in Bridgeport, and every child in Connecticut, deserves a world-class public education. Cities like Bridgeport are now working to make that happen, with no excuses.

(The above blog post, authored by Patrick Riccards, was originally posted on the ConnCAN blog — — on September 5, 2012.)

Fun? Striking is Supposed to Be Fun?

“Y’all continue to have fun.”
– Chicago Teachers Union President President Karen Lewis addressing striking teachers in the Windy City.  Approximately 400,000 students are unable to enter the classroom in Chicago, as Lewis encourages those on the picket lines to “have fun” and then complains that having to go back to the negotiating table to reach a deal on salary and benefits for more than 25,000 educators and get those 400,000 kids back to learning is “the silly part of my day.”
A 16-percent raise already secured, day three of a strike that is disrupting the lives and learning of hundreds of thousands of Chicago families, and out-of-work teachers should have “fun” and negotiating a settlement is the “silly part” of all of this?
Priorities, Ms. Lewis, priorities …