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Notes from the news, July 3

By Anonymous on Jul 3, 2012 08:08 AM

notes from the news imageSRC to borrow $500 million by issuing short-term notes The Inquirer
The School Reform Commission approved the borrowing at a meeting on Monday.

Hite was kept under wraps The Inquirer (opinion)
Keeping the names of candidates secret in the superintendent search process "created a layer of mistrust."

See also: PFT Welcomes New Superintendent PFT blog
Mr. Nice Guy Metropolis
School district receives kudos for Hite hire The Philadelphia Tribune

Impact100 awards grants to afterschool programs The Notebook blog
After School Activities Partnerships and the Village for Arts and Humanities won grants.

Why teachers should put students to work What's Next?
The Sustainability Workshop was featured in a segment on CNN this weekend.

See also: Problems scale, but so do solutions The Sustainability Workshop blog
Oil Pans and Education The Sustainability Workshop blog

What kids can learn from superintendent search Daily News (opinion)
Dom Giordano says the new superintendent's salary negotiations can be a lesson for students.

The Program Metropolis

State redesigns teacher assessment system The Philadelphia Tribune

New Pa. evaluations won't apply to charter school teachers WHYY/NewsWorks

State news roundup Keystone State Education Coalition

Please email us if we missed anything today or if you have any suggestions of publications, email lists, or other places for us to check for news.

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Comments (12)

Submitted by Seth Kulick on July 3, 2012 10:09 am

Re the piece on "New Pa. evaluations won't apply to charter school teachers"

I'm of course disgusted that charters are not included in this evaluation.

But I am wondering about this:
"At least half of a teacher's rating will be based in part on student performance under the new system"

How much of a change is this from the current evaluation? If somebody could give more details on this, or a pointer to such information, that would be great. (I've been away and am trying to catch up on news, so sorry if this was covered on the notebook recently and I missed it.) And does "student performance" mean something besides "test scores"?

I'm a public school parent, not a teacher, but I am opposed to any increased emphasis on testing for teacher evaluation (and would like to see it decreased), both because it is unfair for teachers, and it will naturally corrupt the teaching process to focus more on the test, thus damaging education.

Submitted by Seth Kulick on July 3, 2012 11:49 am

responding to myself, always the sure sign of a crank, but I see that the Tribune piece has some info on this, as well as the PRNewswire piece two days ago - "Pennsylvania will join at least 22 states in using student achievement to evaluate educators." Anyway, interested in other thoughts on this.

Looks like this is it:

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 3, 2012 11:32 am

Like many decisions made by politicians regarding education, the legislation includes a hole called "we shall see..." According to the Keystone blog article, evaluation will be primarily standardized test scores (PSSA / Keystone) and value added. So, it will be students scores / progress from previous year. This may work for 3 - 8th grade as far as finding a score, but it will only affect teachers of language arts (reading/writing), math and science. (What happens to teachers of art, music, PE, etc.? Will social studies formally be out of the curriculum?)

This gets more complicated in high school. I'm still waiting on updates on the Keystone Exams. To date, it will be administered for Algebra 1, English (II? III?), and Biology. Does that mean no other high school teacher will be evaluated based on exams? Will it be school wide scores?

In Philadelphia, who will want to teach in a neighborhood high school when so many students who will score proficient are already creamed off by magnet/special admit and charters? Go to Central, Masterman, SLA, Girls, etc. and the teacher is automatically "proficient" whlie stay at Southern, West, Univ City, Frankford, etc. and automatically be "basic or below basic?" It has nothing to do with the teacher - it is about the tracking of Philadelphia schools.

Your previous point about focusing on tested material seems obvious. Schools with lower SES (Greenfield, Meredith, Penn Alexander, McCall, Baldi, ETC.) will have less pressure on teachers than schools with higher SES. This is already happening but if evaluation is impacted by test scores, there will be more teaching to the test. (It seems hard to imagine there can be more teaching to the test but, as I wrote, I assume this will further limit students' access to non-tested content/experiences.)

Submitted by Seth Kulick on July 3, 2012 11:40 am

Thanks for the info. I know, the point about focusing on tested material is obvious, but I thought as a parent I should say that, since I am tired of the ongoing efforts to pit teachers vs. parents (and vs. unions such as 32BJ trying to have a decent standard of living).

Submitted by Anon, anon, we must go anon.... (not verified) on July 3, 2012 12:31 pm

Schools in well-off neighborhoods (Meredith, etc...) have a HIGHER SES (socio-economic status). Schools in poor neighborhoods have a LOWER SES. You may be confusing SES with SPI (School performance index)--it is better to have a LOWER number there ( a 1 is better than a 5, etc..). All these acronyms can get confusing.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 3, 2012 12:57 pm

Thank you for the correction. I should have written lower percentage of SES and higher percentage of SES.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 3, 2012 11:41 am

Thank you for the link. I quickly read over it and had to laugh. Whoever wrote it and voted for it certainly needs a dose of reality. It opens a Pandora's box of issues of equity, fairness, validity, reliability, credibility, and of course, pragmatism.

The good news is that the evaluation system is not yet determined and the community must be involved with its design. That includes the educational community.

So let the debates begin.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 3, 2012 12:44 pm

As a teacher I want my students to be able to "game" the standardized tests - whether PSSA, Keystone, AP, SAT, etc. - because it is part of the current game. That said, evaluating a student or teacher based on a standardized test should not evaluate their worth. As a parent, I don't want my children to be judged by a test score even though in Philadelphia test scores are the cut off to get into select schools.

While I welcome debate, debate implies winners and losers. The current system already perpetuates an individualistic "winner/loser" system. There are alternatives.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 3, 2012 12:30 pm

You are correct, I apologize for using the word debate. It does perpetuate the current "winners and losers" system that is so destructive of doing things for the best interests of students.

May I change my wording to say, "Let the public conversation begin."

On your point of evaluating a student's or a teacher's worth based on standardized test scores is very poignant, I taught Reading, English and Law in high school for twenty years --

Some of the most intelligent and knowledgeable students I ever taught were dyslexic or speakers of other languages. They could not possibly score well on standardized tests.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on July 3, 2012 12:18 pm

Currently teacher evaluations in PA have two ratings: satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The evaluation is based on observations of teachers by administrators. So, there is quite a bit of variation on what teachers are evaluated on depending on the principal or assistant principal. Principals, of course, may observe teachers informally as many times as they want to, but a formal evaluation usually is done only once or twice a year. No part of the eval so far is based on test scores. Could we be evaluated better with better feedback? Absolutely. Philadelphia is moving towards a different system called the Professional Development System in which teachers are formally observed in certain years (there is a schedule), and in other years they sit down with admins at the beginning of the year to discuss a plan for individual PD. This may take the form of graduate classes, reading groups on a certain topic, pursuing an additional certification, etc. At the end of the year, the parties sit down again to discuss how the plan was completed and what was learned. Again, test scores to not enter into it.
Many teachers (me included) are somewhat leery about including test scores for many reasons. What about Special Education teachers, how will they be evaluated? What about teachers of non-PSSA grades (K-2)? What about High School teachers of non-tested subjects (Social Studies, Sciences, Languages)? In some states those teachers are evaluated using reading and math scores. Really?! What about music and the other arts? As you can see, there are lots of issues. Also, what about teachers who willingly work with "low-achieving" students? I have a colleague who routinely (willingly) teaches the students who are having trouble learning to read--if we go to a test-score based evaluation system, will her evals be lower because she willing teaches struggling students? That hardly seems fair. If I know I am being evaluated on my students' test scores, am I going to be less willing to have ELL or IEP students in my classes? I would be fine with being evaluated on student IMPROVEMENT in my classes, but not just raw "ON-LEVEL" test scores. For example, if I--as an 8th grade reading teacher--have a student come into my class with a 5th grade reading level and manage to work with him/her to raise that reading level to a 7th grade level at the end to the year, would I get "credit" for the improvement, or be told my student is still not on level? None of this addresses your concern about the damage to real learning that too much testing does to kids. That, too, is a concern for teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 3, 2012 7:31 pm

As a special ed teacher, I do my very best for the students that I teach on a daily basis, however, to base my evaluation on whether my students are at grade level is unfair. There are many factors that are involved in why my students aren't on grade level in reading and in math and some of those factors have nothing at all to do with ME or my performance as their teacher. Take for instance a student who is in 4th grade, assigned to a special education class and who when I got them was only on a kindergarten reading and math level? I should not be held accountable for what happened in that students previous educational experience. I have students who are in 3rd grade who have jumped to a second grade level in both reading and in math in one year. I have also had students who were in 4th grade and jumped to a sixth grade level in reading and a 4th grade math level in one year. In both instances, these students have demonstrated growth in a years time, just not on grade level.

As for a teacher not being willing to have a student in their class who have IEP's, I didn't know that teachers had a choice in accepting these students. I agree that your performance evaluation should not be based on whether these children are at grade level or not. What has to happen is that differentiated instruction has to occur, which is time consuming and extra work, has to be done to ensure that the special education students are grasping the material and they should be pulled out to help them when necessary.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 3, 2012 10:12 pm

If my job and pay is going to be based on, 10% or 50%, student performance on standardized tests, I hereby can promise you that each and every one of my students WILL have the grades they need to justify my continued employment. Thank You Governor Corbett and the Republicans in Harrisburg for making grading papers, projects and tests so much easier for me.

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