Florida Judge: Teacher Evaluation Unfair but Not Unconstitutional

Does this make sense to anyone?

“To make matters worse, the Legislature has mandated that teacher ratings be used to make important employment decisions such as pay, promotion, assignment, and retention,” he wrote. “Ratings affect a teacher’s professional reputation as well because they are made public — they have even been printed in the newspaper. Needless to say, this Court would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would find this evaluation system fair to non-FCAT teachers, let alone be willing to submit to a similar evaluation system.

Details below.

Diane Ravitch's blog

A federal judge in Florida dismissed a lawsuit against the state evaluation system, declaring that it was unfair to rate teachers based on the scores of students they never taught but not unconstitutional.

The evaluation system may be stupid; it may be irrational; it may be unfair; but it does not violate the Constitution. So says the judge.

An article in the Florida Education Association newsletter described the ruling:

“The federal lawsuit, known as Cook v. Stewart, was filed last year by the FEA, the National Education Association and seven accomplished teachers and the local education associations in Alachua, Escambia and Hernando counties. The lawsuit challenged the evaluation of teachers based on the standardized test scores of students they do not teach or from subjects they do not teach. They brought suit against the Florida commissioner of education, the State Board of Education and the school boards of those three…

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Diana Ravitch’s Grand Synthesis Explains the Collapse of Test-Driven School Reform

Clear and to the point: “…education reform was never motivated by facts. If reformers respected evidence-based arguments, our appeal to reason would have already worked… One reason why competition-driven reform could not be defeated by documenting its defeats is that the edu-elites were not about to engage with educators in the marketplace of ideas.”


Changing the Game in Education

The Loquacionist posted an inspired essay about changing the fundamental way we “do school.” The suggestion is that we model our system after the German system, where in middle school at some point, the kids could be funneled into vocational (skilled labor) tracks or college prep tracks. The vocational track means apprenticeships and the college track means more classroom schooling (though with PBL instead of what we are doing now). I am WHOLE-HEARTEDLY for this. I’ve been saying it for years. Only, I want to point out some changes in philosophy I’d make to what is proposed in this essay.


The first thing I notice is that it’s not the schools that have it wrong. It’s the legislators and politicians who have it wrong. Were we freed from ignorant standards like common core and the like, we could have more leverage to
engage in apprenticeship programs, perhaps first within the context of a status quo high school and transition toward the German system. Schools get it. Teachers get it a hundred times over. Convincing politicians (all lobbied and “controlled” by Pearson and their ilk — I KNOW Pearson is not alone) who desperately crave data to prove their state’s “progress” and get federal monies will take serious effort by The People.


Finally, our worship of sports would HAVE to be completely revised. We worship sports and athleticism (in the south, particularly football) and high school is for sports. Taking sports out of high school and making them something kids pursue on their own time (weekends and afternoons) could help shorten the hours we are in school making the transition to this system easier. But as long as we crave “tradition” in schools; coddle those mad, egotistical parents who vicariously live through their

children’s athletic experiences; as long as we romanticize this culture,  thinking that cheerleaders, quarterbacks, pep rallies, drill teams, and school spirit are more important than academic achievement, we will never part from the high school system. And let’s stop pretending that sports build character — it merely reveals it.


High school culture of this type is non-existent in other countries. Foreign exchange students marvel at this culture

and are shocked that it is “just like in the movies.” Because no other countries use precious public education funding to fund sports. It’s absurd. (But then again the NFL is non-profit — seems we are easily duped by displays of athleticism.)


I know this means a HUGE reduction in high school teaching jobs. But that can be handled largely through attrition and reassignment. We would continue secondary education with programs like IB and early college. Really great coaches could own and operate their own freelance businesses and private teams (like dance studios do) because I doubt seriously that sports would ever cease to be important to Americans.


Until we begin valuing education over Friday night lights, until we start wanting to invest in our future work force instead of new astro-turf, when we wake up from this stupor and start giving kids a chance at their future (instead of reliving our past), we can begin to make change. We have to stop blaming teachers and schools and start telling the politicians what we want them to do. Until then expect a whole lot more of the same.


Seven Houston Teachers Suing Over Flawed VAM Ratings

I hope they win! “VAM is junk science when used to rate individual teachers. The rating change if a different test is used. VAM says more about the composition of the class than the quality of the teacher.”

Diane Ravitch's blog

Seven teachers in Houston are suing the district over the use of test-score-based evaluations.

Good for them!

As a K-12 graduate of HISD, I am proud of these teachers for standing up for their profession.

I hope they will introduce as evidence the recent statement of the American Statistical Association cautioning about the limitations of VAM, as well as the joint statement of the National Academy of Education and the American Educational Research Association, warning that VAM produces results that are inaccurate and unstable.

Here is a good list of references the plaintiffs can use.

VAM is junk science when used to rate individual teachers. The ratings change if a different test is used. VAM says more about the composition of the class than the quality of the teacher.

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A Hero Superintendent in Oklahoma Defies the State, Exempts Two Students from Tests

Would you have done anything different for these children? I’m tired of children being mere numbers.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Donna Dudley, superintendent of Moyers public schools in Oklahoma, made a conscious decision to defy the state.

It should not have been an extraordinary decision because it was what a decent human being would do.

Two of her students suffered a terrible loss the weekend before the state tests. Their parents were killed in a car crash.

Superintendent Dudley asked the state for permission to exempt them from the state tests.

The bureaucrats at the State Education Department said no.

Superintendent Dudley exempted them anyway.

I honor her here as a hero of public education.

The story broke after Superintendent Dudley wrote about it on Facebook and said she was willing for her school to get an F, if that was the consequence of doing what was right for the students.

Once the situation was publicized, the State Superintendent of Instruction, Janet Barresi, quickly apologized.

Mistakes were made.

When the…

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High-Stakes Testing Leads to High-Stress Lapses in Judgment

This is a handout given to third graders in El Paso, TX. (Check out the story here.)

The “lesson” was designed by a concerned counselor who wanted to diffuse students’ test anxiety and fears. She gathered their fears through some sort of survey and then put them on paper to talk with them about them. The district reports that it was a help to some kids. 

My greatest concern is this: Why are we making educational decisions that generate these kinds of fears among 8 and 9 year olds in the first place? 

Take a brief refresher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

I always point out to my kids that when the needs at the bottom of the pyramid are endangered, people quickly forget about values, morals, and ethics (self-actualization) to secure basic needs. 

This high-stakes testing culture threatens students and teachers and schools by putting their needs in serious jeopardy. 

A student’s esteem is threatened — confidence, achievement, respect by others, and self-esteem.

A teacher’s safety is threatened — security of employment, health, and resources.

When we are allowed to self-actualize, we can be our most moral, ethical selves. We just need to believe we have all the lower levels first. When those lower, most basic levels are threatened, people are pushed into desperation, which produces lapses in good judgment. 

The state’s answer is to threaten teachers and administrators with jail time for testing infractions. Not only will teachers lose their certificates to teach forever (their livelihood) but face PRISON for test security infractions. 

Does this sound like the kind of environment you would want your children to be educated in? Is this the kind of environment you would want to work in? What long-term effects do you suppose this will have on our children? On the profession?



Family, Pet Advocacy

This Is What a Lucky Black Cat Looks Like

Yesterday, a friend at the local humane society (a kill shelter), contacted me about a little 5 month old ball of fur who was sneezing. He needed some TLC for his cold he caught there and the shelter just cannot provide that as a result of the quantity of intakes they have. This particular little guy was brought in by his “owner.”

He is so relaxed and calm and loves to give lingering hugs. Hugs I say. Have you ever been hugged by a black cat? These hugs are warm, furry, and sincere. My friend called him Tulley. He is very lucky to get a shot at finding a loving home. Most pets in shelters never get this chance. (Did you know 800 cats are put to sleep in shelters EVERY HOUR?)

Tulley has to stay in my daughter’s room in a crate. The crate is much larger than the one at the shelter so he feels a great deal freer. But because he is a male (I have inside females not yet fixed) and because he is sick, he is being quarantined. He gets so excited when we come in to get snuggles. He doesn’t like his medicine but decides it’s ok as long as he is able to get hugs.

He will be with us for 2 – 4 weeks as he recovers and finds either an adopter or a rescue to take him. If you’ve never fostered a dog or cat for a rescue, why not try it? You can provide love to an animal they may never have experienced. You can give them another shot at life by offering training and patience. And when they find their forever homes, you can rejoice with them.

If you’ve never saved a life, I highly recommend it.

Family, Parenting, Teaching

My attempt at completing my first grader’s Common Core math homework – and a little historical CCSS context

This article is an in-depth look at Common Core (especially Common Core math) and standardized testing. The pictures of the homework reveal the inanity of the programs used to teach this mandate.

Our first grader is doing this kind of work in her Louisiana classroom. Does anyone have anything at all good to say about the program?


My attempt at completing my first grader’s Common Core math homework – and a little historical CCSS context.


BREAKING NEWS: American Statistical Association Issues Caution on Use of VAM

Diane Ravitch's blog

The central feature of the Obama administration’s $5 billion “Race to the Top” program was sharply deconstructed and refuted last week by the American Statistical Association, one of the nation’s leading scholarly organizations. Spurred on by the administration’s combination of federal cash and mandates, most states are now using student test scores to rank and evaluate teachers. This method of evaluating teachers by test scores is called value-added measurement, or VAM. Teachers’ compensation, their tenure, bonuses, and other rewards and sanctions are tied directly to the rise or fall of their student test scores, which the Obama administration considers a good measure of teacher quality.

Secretary Arne Duncan believes so strongly in VAM that he has threatened to punish Washington state for refusing to adopt this method of evaluating teachers and principals. In New York, a state court fined New York City $150 million for failing to agree on…

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