Sunday, February 06, 2011

Value-added madness, return of school vouchers, investing in young children, and a teaching parable from the football world

Education deform roundup for February 6

1) Value-added madness. More on the Gates' foundation's $45 million study into evaluating teachers by their students' scores. From the summary of  Review of Learning About Teaching by Jesse Rothstein:
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Measures of Effective Teaching” (MET) Project seeks to validate the use of a teacher’s estimated “value-added”—computed from the year-on-year test score gains of her students—as a measure of teaching effectiveness...

...value-added for state assessments is correlated 0.5 or less with that for the alternative assessments, meaning that many teachers whose value-added for one test is low are in fact quite effective when judged by the other. As there is every reason to think that the problems with value-added measures apparent in the MET data would be worse in a high-stakes environment, the MET results are sobering about the value of student achievement data as a significant component of teacher evaluations.
The report concludes, albeit in more restrained language, that the MET study is full of more crap than a christmas goose:
"the report’s key conclusions prejudge the results of the unfinished components of the MET study. This limits the report’s value and undermines the MET Project’s credibility."
An earlier EPI briefing paper concluded that "value-added measures" were extremely unstable with relation to invidivual teachers over two or more years:
One study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20% of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40%. Another found that teachers' effectiveness ratings in one year could only predict from 4% to 16% of the variation in such ratings in the following year. Thus, a teacher who appears to be very ineffective in one year might have a dramatically different result the following year. The same dramatic fluctuations were found for teachers ranked at the bottom in the first year of analysis. This runs counter to most people's notions that the true quality of a teacher is likely to change very little over time and raises questions about whether what is measured is largely a "teacher effect" or the effect of a wide variety of other factors.
2)  Dana Goldstein reports on the The Revival of the Private School Voucher Movement. As Republicans and Tea Party types take over state legislatures and governorships across the country, "... vouchers are back, and in a very big way."

3) Meanwhile, USA Today reports on a National Institutes of Health study led by a University of Minnesota researcher into "Early childhood education" that finds that for every dollar invested  $4 - $11 is returned. I put "Early childhood education" into quotes because we're really not talking about education, but social interventions into childrens lives beginning at age three, including "meals, health services and home visiting" :
"... children finished high school or college, earning more than their peers, and also because participants were less likely to be held back, arrested, depressed, involved with drugs or sick, the study says."
 The one caveat is that parents had to choose to become involved in the program, so the participants are in some degree self-selected. Since the study doesn't bash teachers or schools, don't look for Star Tribune coverage, even though it was led by a researcher from our own University of Minnesota.

4) From Alabama, a county executive compares the methods of the national champion Auburn football coach's approach to developing talent to that of Teach for America:
In just two years, coach Gene Chizik took Auburn from a losing record to being the best team in the country—not so much by bringing in new players—but by changing how the players he inherited were coached...

...when the new coaching staff assembled at Auburn two years ago, they didn’t throw up their hands and say, “We don’t have talent.” Instead, they determined they needed to roll up their sleeves and make the players they had better.

...have Birmingham’s education leaders looked at a study by Stanford University, conducted over six years and including more than 4,400 teachers and 132,000 students, that concluded that “TFA recruits do not educate students as well as teachers who have received rigorous methodological instruction and practice?"
My description and quotes from this story don't really do it justice - so read the whole thing.

5) Make plans now to attend the Save Our Schools: March and National Call to Action, July 28-31 in Washington DC.

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