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Breakfast links: Not entirely effective

Photo by Chicago 2016 Photos on Flickr.
'Effective' DC teachers not effectively distributed: Results of the new DCPS IMPACT evaluation system show that "Highly Effective" teachers are most frequently found in schools in more affluent parts of the city, particularly Ward 3. (Post)

Metro escalator model problematic: Many of Metro's more than 500 escalators are a particular model that was discontinued 30 years ago and has caused problems for other transit agencies in the past. (Post)

Embassy wants parking to buy more cars: The Chinese Embassy wants neighbors to support a request for more parking (huge PDF) at their 2300 Connecticut Avenue site. It turns out the Chinese allow their diplomats to buy cars in the US, then send them back to China duty-free. (Dupont Current, Geoff H.)

LA TV has windshield perspective too: Full Disclosure (an Emmy award winning local LA political show) has protest video against LA's parking meters. While a county planner inadvertently proves that the pay-and-display machines are indeed confusing, disgruntled residents maintain paying for parking at all is "theft." (Parking Today, Michael Perkins)

Street crossers like lemmings?: A new report shows that pedestrians are more likely to cross a street if a person next to them moves into the street first, and that this trend was much stronger in men than women. In reporting, WTOP calls it all "jaywalking" even though the word never appears in the report abstract. (WTOP)

ICC part 1 opening soon: The first part of the Intercounty Connector could open next month. David explains the induced demand drawbacks and refutes AAA's assertion it will improve safety. (Patch)

NYC gets camera-enforced bus lanes: Cameras will now adorn New York City's Select Bus Service buses to catch cars illegally using the bus lanes. What would it take to do the same for the 70s buses on 7th Street in Chinatown? (Streetsblog, Eric Fidler)

Suburban poor struggle in recession: As more poor families are living outside of city centers, they take on new struggles, particularly transportation. Tobytown, a poor enclave in otherwise affluent Potomac, Maryland, is experiencing this first hand. (Post)

And...: After months of wrangling with neighbors and the ANC, Eckington Bloomingdale mainstay Big Bear Cafe will get a liquor license. (Housing Complex) ... When it came time for a family in Davis, California to move, they skipped the U-haul and hauled their belongings by bike. (Streetsblog) ... When it was overwhelmed by riders attending the Giants World Series Champion Parade, San Francisco's BART simply opened the fare gates to improve traffic flow. (Times)

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Erik Weber has been living car-free in the District since 2009. Hailing from the home of the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary, Erik has been interested in transit since spending summers in Germany as a kid where he rode as many buses, trains and streetcars as he could find. Views expressed here are Erik's alone. 


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ABRA did the right thing in overruling the ANC's protest. Isn't it rare for ABRA to go against an ANC's opinion on a liquor license?

(By the way, Big Bear is squarely in Bloomingdale, not Eckington.)

by Eric Fidler on Nov 15, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

To be fair to the parking protesters, that pay and display meter looks terrible. But the city spokesperson should have explained that parking at that park could not be free because then you wouldn't be able to find a space there.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 15, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

That is totally true about the lemmings. I frequently notice that when I decide to jaywalk (after making sure the coast is clear) other people start walking without looking. Sometimes if they're walking from the other side, the coast isn't really clear for them. I guess that's another argument against jaywalking.

by TM on Nov 15, 2010 9:35 am • linkreport


I am not sure the argument they present about the ICC being less safe is valid. The claim that people will now drive faster on the back roads works in theory, but these are single lane roads with quite a few lights that have a huge amount of traffic on them at the moment. Even if the ICC cut their traffic by 50 to 75% that would still leave a lot of cars left on the back roads. Also those individuals who tend to speed are more likely to take the ICC because it will save them time whereas those that tend to drive the speed limit are not going to care as much.
It also only a handful of drivers travel the speed limit then that would be enough to keep the speed down, as all the fast drivers would end up stuck behind them.

by Matt R on Nov 15, 2010 9:44 am • linkreport

Many of Metro's more than 500 escalators are a particular model that was discontinued 30 years ago and has caused problems for other transit agencies in the past.

I don't care. Fix or replace them. I paid my fare and my taxes, now keepget the system working.

by Jasper on Nov 15, 2010 10:07 am • linkreport

The escalator involved is a Westinghouse Modular 100, one of 489 spread throughout the rail system, making up 83 percent of Metro's 588 escalators.

This confuses me, because Metro has only been around for 34 years. The system wasn't even close to being 83% complete in 1980 when that model was allegedly discontinued, and I seem to remember reading here that a large number of escalators were also replaced in the 1990s.

(And, also, we need to work on finding solutions to this problem, rather than bitching about it, and insisting that the entire system be scrapped and replaced. Do the escalators need to be retrofitted? Replaced? Simply maintained better? Metro needs to come up with some firm solutions, and figure out what resources that will be necessary to make the fix.)

by andrew on Nov 15, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

@ andrew: we need to work on finding solutions to this problem, rather than bitching about it

We? Hell no. I am a metro rider. Not a tech. There is no need for debate on this issue, certainly no public input. It is a technical problem that should have been fixed years ago.

Metro needs to should have come up with some firm solutions years ago, and figure out what resources that will be necessary to make the fix.

by Jasper on Nov 15, 2010 10:26 am • linkreport

@andrew: That's a very good point. Maybe Metro had already ordered or installed them when they were discontinued, so even though productions stopped in 1980, installation continued.

by Tim on Nov 15, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

From the Post:

"The District's most affluent ward has more than four times as many "highly effective" public schoolteachers as its poorest, underscoring a problem endemic to urban school systems: Their best educators often do not serve the children who need them most."

Even as Rhee is packing her bags, the Post still doesn't get it.

Even the simplest person should be able to understand that there's a much more likely explanation: IMPACT measures students much more than teachers.

Guess what else is in the wealthier parts of the city? Wealthy families. Lower poverty rates. Kids whose parents give a crap. Kids who get three squares a day and can see a future beyond life on the street.

This is not about bad teachers, this is about the incredibly difficult problem of teaching kids who don't care about being taught. This result just shows the obvious: it's much harder to do well when one in four of your kids skipped school 20 times or more in a year. That's the DCPS average, of course, meaning it's certainly far worse in Ward 8 and far better in Ward 3.

by Jamie on Nov 15, 2010 11:06 am • linkreport

It is a technical problem that should have been fixed years ago.

If the maintenance schedule isn't being followed, then, no, it's not a technical problem. (And from what I can tell in the report, WMATA's maintenance management system is continuing to suffer from non-compliance, which is almost certainly contributing to this problem, even if it's not at the root of it.)

I don't necessarily care *what* the solution is. What I do care about is that WMATA is able to draft up a proposed set of solutions to the board, outlining "We are at X. Here is why X is unsatisfactory. Here are a set of options for getting us to Y, Y+1, and Y+2."

Metro knew that its trains would last ~50 years with one mid-life rehab. Why was a similar maintenance/depreciation schedule never devised for their other mechanical assets? This stinks of a management problem, rather than a technical one, even if Metro's escalators are a chronically-unreliable model (which is something that the agency itself should have been able to deduce by itself years ago, and drafted a strategy to address the issue).

by andrew on Nov 15, 2010 11:24 am • linkreport

Jamie, that is a good point, but couldn't it also be the case that there is more competition to get a teaching job at a Ward Three school and in turn that means they can hire more effective teachers. I assume for this that each school dies their own hiring. If that's not the case, it could still be the case that even if you distributed effective teachers more evenly at the point of hire, they are more likely to stick around longer in the Ward Three schools, thus increasing their numbers. Not sure what can be done about that. If schools do their own hiring, you're always going to have better teachers applying to better schools. If you centralize it, on top of it probably creating a bureaucratic nightmare, you're still going to have more effective teachers leaving less effective schools at a higher rate. Unless we make compensation inversely tied to school performance (which would create terrible incentives once they're hired) I don't see how we attract more effective teachers. Some will do it as a mission or a calling, and that's great but it's not enough.

by TM on Nov 15, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

Ok, I should have read the article first. Apparently teacher hiring is centralized, but the problem does seem to stem from what I mentioned above. One element I didn't mention is the role of seniority and the suspicion of favoritism. Again though, I'm at a loss to think of what can be done to keep effective teachers in bad schools, particularly after they've put their time in and can transfer to a better school.

by TM on Nov 15, 2010 11:48 am • linkreport

@ Jamie Mathematica claims that the value-added model controls for those factors by using the student's previous-year performance as a baseline. Do you have reason to believe there's a problem with their regression model?

by jcm on Nov 15, 2010 12:00 pm • linkreport

Jamie and TM, you might be interested in a study I'm working on that offers $20,000 incentives for high performing teachers to transfer to low-performing schools, a program called the Talent Transfer Initiative. The goal of the study is estimate the impact that teachers identified as high performing in one setting have in their new settings after they transfer.

The study is a randomized experiment whereby "receiving schools" (equivalent to Ward 7 and 8 schools in DC, although DC is not in the study) are assigned by lottery to either a program group that has the opportunity to hire these incentivized teachers or a control group that must fill their vacancy the way they normally would.

by Steven Glazerman on Nov 15, 2010 12:12 pm • linkreport

It's not so much being a lemming as it is the knowledge that a car is much less likely to plow into >1 pedestrians than they are to hit a singleton.

by Juanita de Talmas on Nov 15, 2010 12:25 pm • linkreport

@ Steven Glazerman Your study sounds similar to the way DCPS implemented performance pay. They have higher bonuses and base increases for teachers in schools with greater than 60% free and reduced-price lunch, according to this press release..

by jcm on Nov 15, 2010 12:42 pm • linkreport

@Jamie. I think the Post does get at what you are saying, as it indicated:
"And critics say IMPACT disadvantages teachers in schools where challenging conditions make learning difficult. They say that the system does not assess the value or effectiveness of teachers who must contend with large numbers of children from broken or dysfunctional homes and dangerous neighborhoods"

@TM - I'd think that the $25K bonus system could keep effective teachers in low-performing schools (though if no teachers are waiving certain job protections to qualify for the bonuses, it may not).

@jcm - I think it would be interesting to see if 'highly qualified' 4th-8th grade reading&math teachers are more evenly distributed across the city, if so, the adjustments for special ed and free lunch students were making IMPACT a more fair assessment tool. However the other teachers wouldn't be affected by the student test score improvement criteria.

by DCster on Nov 15, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport

Cameras on the buses would be an excellent idea... However, seeing as how that particular stretch of 7th has had little to no effect on drivers' behavior (i.e. - still driving in the bus/bike lane, still making turns despite the signs) due to MPD's apathy - I'd be surprised if the city even *cared* enough to remedy the problem in the first place.

by Josh C. on Nov 15, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport

I assume the notation of what BART did on the day of the World Series parade was made to praise them. And I do agree that it was the right thing to do and reflects a flexible and compassionate management at BART. WMATA could perhaps emulate this decision when faced with overwhelming and unexpected crowds in the future. On the other hand, BART faced perhaps more pressure at the one station than you might find in a similar downtown event here. The Civic Center station on BART is the only station in the area. At least here, there are multiple stations that are relatively close together downtown. Riders that know what they are doing have an option to take advantage of that fact.

by Josh S on Nov 15, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

@jcm: Mathematica claims that the value-added model controls for those factors by using the student's previous-year performance as a baseline. Do you have reason to believe there's a problem with their regression model?

A report (warning: PDF) from the Economic Policy Institute gives good reason to distrust "Value-Added Modeling" (VAM), such as IMPACT. From the executive summary:

A study designed to test this question used VAM methods to assign effects to teachers after controlling for other factors, but applied the model backwards to see if credible results were obtained. Surprisingly, it found that studentsÂ’ fifth grade teachers were good predictors of their fourth grade test scores. Inasmuch as a studentÂ’s later fifth grade teacher cannot possibly have influenced that studentÂ’s fourth grade performance, this curious result can only mean that VAM results are based on factors other than teachersÂ’ actual effectiveness.
That finding alone tells me that VAM practitioners aren't really doing what they say they're doing. GIGO and all that.

by thm on Nov 15, 2010 1:02 pm • linkreport

The timing on the escalators story is a bit off.

That being said, from the Post article, I have to wonder if the problem is that the problem escalators have motors in several places, rather than just at the top or bottom. Long escalators might require that. And perhaps the problem isn't that the escalators are unreliable - it it by virtue of that design they are hard to service.

Rather like a Ferrari - not likes that engine needs so much special attention -- it is just for simple things like belt changes or spark plugs are are looking at an engine-out procedure. That changes the bill from $50 to $6000 really quickly...

by charlie on Nov 15, 2010 1:04 pm • linkreport

@steve glaz -I understand its a study and to get participants you need to offer an incentive. However, where does that leave high performing teachers in low performing schools who stay at those schools?

by Tina on Nov 15, 2010 1:20 pm • linkreport

@Tina good question. Those teachers are offered a stipend also.

by Steven Glazerman on Nov 15, 2010 2:43 pm • linkreport

"Mathematica claims that the value-added model controls for those factors by using the student's previous-year performance as a baseline. Do you have reason to believe there's a problem with their regression model?"

No more than I have any reason to believe that there aren't problems. Is it explained in some detail somewhere? It sure isn't in the IMPACT handbook, which is itself a problem - if you don't even really know how 50% of your evaluation is calculated.

Seems like you are implying that if a bunch of minimally-achieving students remain minimally-achieving, then that teacher is going to have the exact same IVA that contributes half of their score, as a teacher at a much higher-achieving upper northwest school, whose students remain at the same level of much higher achievement?

The IMPACT guidebook doesn't really explain this too well:

"No. Adequate Yearly Progress is an “attainment” measure,
meaning that it is an absolute target that is required of all students, regardless of their current skill level. IVA, on the other hand, is a “growth” measure. It is based on the gains that your students make."

What does that mean? Honestly I'm not sure, but it sounds like if your students are crappy, and they remain crappy, you should get the same IMPACT score as someone whose students were great last year, and remain great. Same "growth" right?

Is that the reality? Somehow I doubt it. If that were, actually, true, then it would be impossible for anyone teaching at a high-achieving school to get a good IVA. If you're already great, how much improvement in CAS scores would you expect each year?

Likewise, it should be very easy for someone in a crappy school to game the system: just pick out a few kids who don't totally suck and mentor them, ignore the rest. Their scores ought to bring your average way up.

Somehow I don't think the IVA works that way.

I don't have any idea how Matehmatica's formula works, but clearly it is not based on gains alone, or it would penalize those already at the top of the pack.

by Jamie on Nov 15, 2010 3:13 pm • linkreport

Street crossers like lemmings?

i agree with this statement, and previous commenter, 'yes - we are lemmings.' i almost got a guy killed once, so I became much more careful about crossing/jaywalking/etc. that was a few years ago too, before iphones, etc.

by Peter Smith on Nov 15, 2010 4:36 pm • linkreport

@ Jamie It works the way you described. Students improve each year. if they improve more than they usually do, you get a high IVA. If they improve less than they usually do, you get a low IVA. A fifth grader who goes from reading at a third grade level to a 4.5 grade level has grown by 1.5 grade levels. a fifth grader who goes from reading at a 4.5 grade level to a fifth grade level has grown by .5 grade levels. The first student's teacher will have a high IVA, the second a low IVA. I don;t know why you think this system would penalize teachers of high achieving students. They either continue to be high achieving, or they fall back towards the pack.

@ thm I don't think anyone believes that VAM is perfect. Obviously, it has the potential for errors. There's several reasons to not take that study and completely dismiss VAM as one tool in evaluating teachers, though. For one thing, the cited study wasn't looking at DCPS's implementation. For another, VAM isn't the only way teachers are evaluated. Finally, that study doesn't even say VAM shouldn't be used. They just think 50% is too high.

by jcm on Nov 16, 2010 9:40 am • linkreport

@jcm: I thought the purpose was to account for previous performance, and the fact that at worse schools, students are much less likely to improve at par compared to other schools.

The way you describe says, basically, that a student at the best school in DC is expected to learn just as much as a student at the worst school. It sounds like the expectation is that every school be excellent in one year!

The goal is for every student to progress at one grade level per year. The reality is that in places where many students skip school all the time, classes are frequently disrupted, parents are uninvolved, and students just don't care, that is not possible, no matter how good a teacher you are.

That is my point. If the system grades teachers on the same measure, improving one grade level per year, then it's unfair. Teachers cannot make students show up to class. They can't make them do their homework. They can't make the parents come to meetings.

Yet, in some schools, most students do those things already, whereas in others, most do not, yet you believe that an evaluation system that uses those things as 50% of a teacher's grade is fair?

It's like if me an a coworker get evaluated on what we produce, yet my coworker has a support staff that gets stuff done well and on time, and I have a support staff that calls in sick two days a week, and generally doesn't produce anything. Of course in my case, I might be able to fire/rehire my support staff, or work long hours to make up for their failures. It's still not fair, but my situation would be a heck of a lot better because at least I have the option to change out the support staff or do their work for them. Not so for teachers.

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 9:49 am • linkreport

@ Jamie I think I'm not explaining it very well. The system does not expect all students to improve one grade level. It looks at the past history of the student. The goal is to show better than average growth for that particular student. So if a student has been gaining half a grade level per year, and then gains .75 grade levels, that's a good value add, even though the student didn't gain a full grade level. The student's previous trajectory is the baseline, not an arbitrary number.

It's also worth noting that only 20% of DCPS teachers have value added as a component of their review. The rest either teach untested subjects, or teach grades that are untested.

by jcm on Nov 16, 2010 10:39 am • linkreport

jcm, but that gets to the problem I was trying to explain before. If what you are saying is true, then a teacher at a high-achieving school, whose students already progress at one grade level per year, would have to have them do better than that - 1.1 grade levels, then 1.2 grade levels, and so on.

Is that reasonable? Do we expect that in order for our teachers to all be "high achieving" each year the kids have to progress more than the year before? Until when, they graduate in a year? Six months? That doesn't make sense. If their students progress every year at one grade per year, isn't that excellent?

I don't think that is the intent. So which way is it? Do you have to improve every year? Or do you have to meet a baseline for performance?

Either way is unreasonable for someone, and depends on the quality of the students heavily.

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 11:03 am • linkreport

@ Jamie Yes, for a teacher to demonstrate better than average value added, her students have to improve more under her tutelage than they have in the past under other teachers. This seems self evident to me.

And I don't understand why you keep insisting it depends on the quality of the students. Whether or not a student has been progressing at at rate of .5 grade levels per year or 1 grade level per year doesn't change the fact that this year they will have to do better than they have in the past for a teacher to have a good value added. If they do worse than they have in the past the teacher will have a bad value added. If they do the same, the teacher will have an average value added.

You seem to be implying that it's harder to improve the performance of a good student than a bad student, but I don't know of any research that has demonstrated that.

by jcm on Nov 16, 2010 11:32 am • linkreport

"You seem to be implying that it's harder to improve the performance of a good student than a bad student"

Yes, isn't that obvious? It's not like each year our students are more genetically advanced than the year before. Such a system would result in the very best schools in the country getting the very worst evaluations, since it's hard to improve on perfection.

So basically, you think that a teacher who currently has excellent students, who are just as excellent next year as they are this year, should receive a low rating because they didn't become 110% students... then 120% students...

That makes absolutely no sense to me. As the performance of your students gets better, there is less and less room for improvement. That is obvious. That is why I said this would be unfair to teachers at high-performing schools.

It seems extremely unlikely to me that the system works this way. This seems evident by the simple fact that began this discussion: there are far more teachers at the better schools who get good evaluations. Did we suddenly find that the IMPACT system turned our teachers into miracle workers, but only at the better schools? Or, do you think, just maybe, that teachers with students who are already high performers (or are in gentrifying areas where the balance of better-off kids is shifting in their favor) fare better on the evaluation?

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 11:56 am • linkreport

I think I agree with what Jamie is getting at. Say you have a 6th grader who reads at an 11th grade level. This is due to a variety of factors including a great 5th grade teacher and great home life from birth. How much better can that kid get on the reading eval test? Not much. This is a true story.

by Tina on Nov 16, 2010 12:11 pm • linkreport

You should also read this, which is directly relevant.

At the end of the day, you can either measure student improvement, or measure student performance. The former benefits those with worse students, and those whose student body is shifting demographically, which is not at all uncommon in DC. The latter benefits those with better students. Both suffer the serious problem of weighing heavily on the results of a standardized test, which would naturally result in causing teachers to "teach the test" which I really doubt anyone wants.

Though I don't have a magic bullet, it should be clear that this method of evaluation, generally, is seriously flawed, but not only that, can result in damaging consequences in terms of the future of those schools with the biggest problems.

By forcing turnover based on evaluations that speak much more to the quality of students than the quality of teachers, and do not account for the dramatically different challenges faced by teachers in each situation, you create a strong disincentive for people to teach in the most difficult situations. This means that the likelihood of our teachers getting better where they are needed most is very low indeed.

Why would anyone choose to teach difficult students, where changes may take years and involve factors over which the teacher has limited control, when the only possible outcome is failure based on this system?

I don't think there should be no evaluation of teachers, but performance of students cannot be evaluated with a one-size-fits-all measure and be such a primary factor in a teacher's competency rating.

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

o basically, you think that a teacher who currently has excellent students, who are just as excellent next year as they are this year, should receive a low rating because they didn't become 110% students... then 120% students...

No, I think that teacher should receive an average value added score. Average isn't bad, or low. It's just average.

It seems extremely unlikely to me that the system works this way. This seems evident by the simple fact that began this discussion: there are far more teachers at the better schools who get good evaluations. Did we suddenly find that the IMPACT system turned our teachers into miracle workers, but only at the better schools? Or, do you think, just maybe, that teachers with students who are already high performers (or are in gentrifying areas where the balance of better-off kids is shifting in their favor) fare better on the evaluation?

This is a completely circular argument. You're using your original assertion that IMPACT doesn't really measure teacher performance as proof that VAM must not work the way it does, because that would penalize teachers of high achieving students, but we've already seen that more of those teachers do well. You're also ignoring the fact that only 20% of all teachers have VAM as part of their IMPACT score.

I think the DCPS personnel system encourages the best teachers to go to high performing schools. It's all right there in the original article:

The imbalance is the product of longtime personnel practices in the District and other big public school systems, where traditional lock-step salary schedules provide no financial incentive for teachers to accept jobs in low-performing schools. Seniority rules often allow seasoned educators to transfer to less-challenging posts, leaving behind a higher proportion of younger, greener instructors.

"Good teachers have always transferred over time to easier schools, because there are so few other ways to reward yourself,"said Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that promotes wider educational opportunities for minority and low-income students.

Veteran teachers say spots at schools with high rates of poverty and discipline issues have sometimes been used as punishment, while assignment to a more successful school might be doled out as a reward.

by jcm on Nov 16, 2010 12:21 pm • linkreport

@Tina: So that 6th grader's teacher focuses on the student's other subjects, or helps that student self-study while focusing more on other kids in the class.

Being that far ahead of the rest of the class in all subjects without being a candidate for acceleration is a pretty unreasonable assumption.

by Michael Perkins on Nov 16, 2010 12:26 pm • linkreport

Ah. So people prefer to work at "less challenging" posts, where they can teach kids who actually want to learn. Shocker.

How, again, is IMPACT going to change that reality in any way whatsoever?

If you think the solution is not letting people transfer from one school to another, what possible effect would this have other than good teachers leaving the school system altogether?

How about an alternative approach, which accepts the simple reality that teachers are not, in fact, the only reason, or even the most important reason, why so many of our kids are failing?

You still haven't explained to me why we should expect the job of Teacher A to be a security guard, discplinarian, counselor, therapist, and big brother to all his kids, and expect teacher B to only be a teacher, yet evaluate their success the same way.

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

@ Tina The performance of a single exceptional student (good or bad) won't have a large effect on a teacher's VAM score.

@ Jamie When did I say IMPACT would change that reality? You are the person who brought up IMPACT scores.

DCPS is trying to change that reality by offering additional bonuses and increased base pay to highly effective teachers who teach in schools with a high number of low income students. I have no idea whether or not it will be successful.

Re: the USAFA study, I think the person who linked to it either didn't read it or didn't understand it, because it doesn't say what he claims it says. It's using VAM to determine whether or not student evaluations are an effective metric of college professors' effectiveness.

by jcm on Nov 16, 2010 12:52 pm • linkreport

You're getting afield from my point. I am not complaining about offering more money to people who teach in difficult schools. That sounds wonderful. We should have incentives for people to do awful jobs. Making it very likely that they will be fired is not an incentive, though. I'm talking about the validity of the way we evaluate people. I am sure those bonuses are directly tied to CAS scores.

On that link, you missed the point. It's about value-added measures and it speaks to "teaching the test" generally. There are not standardized tests in secondary education. Read the report linked from the commenter above too:

"A review of the technical evidence leads us to conclude
that, although standardized test scores of students are one
piece of information for school leaders to use to make judgments about teacher effectiveness, such scores should be only a part of an overall comprehensive evaluation. Some
states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation
decisions to scores on existing tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence, we consider this unwise.

Any sound evaluation will necessarily involve a balancing of many factors that provide a more accurate view of what
teachers in fact do in the classroom and how that contributes to student learning."

But anyway I am sure Michelle Rhee and her year in Baltimore knows better than some silly "evidence" and "researchers." Not to mention common sense.

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 1:06 pm • linkreport

@ MP - ...teacher focuses on the student's other subjects... Agreed! My point was that if the teacher is getting evaluated on, among the other subjects how much the kid improves reading skills there isn't much improvment left on the k-12 scale.

Skipping ahead of one's cohort isn't always in the best interest of the child even if the child is doing all subjects "ahead of schedule". School is a social forum afterall. Its not just a maze like for lab rats to perfect. A 12 year old may not be ready for classmates who are 14-15.

but thats not the discussion. Its evaluating teachers.

I know a teacher at a historically underperforming DCPS school in a "tough" neighborhood who is great. This friend tells me that the admin plan for students who are not going to improve on test scores is to forget about them and focus on the ones who will show score improvements. I don't mean kids who are already so high performing they can't improve more. No, kids who are neediest are getting overlooked, shunted, ignored by encouragement of admin b/c the focus is on improving overall test scores. Friend is very frustrated by this but doesn't want to lose job or get a bad evaluation that will be on permanent record forever.

by Tina on Nov 16, 2010 1:08 pm • linkreport

@Tina's points are excellent. On teaching to kids who are already doing well, what incentive would a teacher have to get them into more advanced stuff? It won't have any impact on their CAS score. No incentive. Yet we should want our teacher who have good students to do this.

Likewise, in the opposite situation, what incentive does the teacher have to worry about most of the kids who they think are lost causes? None at all. They can bring their average way up by ensuring that the new white kid gets a perfect score on the CAS.

Teaching is hard and every classroom is different. I know an elementary school teacher in Columbia (MD) whose classroom is a lot less difficult than I imagine most classrooms in DC are. She has some troubled kids and they take a lot of her time. But if half of her evaluation was test scores, why would she bother with the problem kids? They will be lucky to have marginal improvement no matter what she does. She does her best to deal with behavior problems and spending extra time with the kids who need it, but still has to teach everyone else.

An evaluation system that relies heavily on average performance scores absolutely dictates what at teacher must do in order to keep their job and get good evaluations and pay raises. And that is absolutely not going to be the same as what's the best for the 20 students (or 45, if you're in some DC schools, but hey, tough luck for them! same evaluation system) she has in her classroom on any day.

The system assumes that the best possible outcome of a classroom is that the average CAS score be higher. But there are any number of ways you can make that happen, and few of them align with teaching the most kids the best way you can. Even worse, it assumes that every classroom has the potential for some predefined level of improvement, and it should be astoundingly obvious that the potential has far more to do with the students than it does with the teacher.

by Jamie on Nov 16, 2010 1:28 pm • linkreport

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