Posts Tagged ‘merit pay’

88 local academics oppose CPS teacher evaluation tied to test scores

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

UPDATE: CReATE press release:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                              Contact:  Kevin Kumashiro
March 27, 2012                                                                                                                                          312-996-8530


“The proposed changes not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances have already proven to be harmful,” concluded CReATE, a volunteer group of local education professors and researchers, about a new system the City plans to implement this fall to evaluate teachers and principals in at least half its 600 schools.

In January 2010, the Illinois Legislature approved inclusion by 2016 of “student growth” as a significant portion of teacher and principal evaluation.  CPS successfully lobbied for permission to begin four years earlier than most other districts in the state.

“Over a year ago, we began issuing reports to contrast CPS’s approaches to school reform with the research,” noted Kevin Kumashiro at a recent news conference on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, where he is a professor.  “These messages similarly frame our open letter about teacher evaluation,” signed by 88 faculty members from 15 area universities and delivered to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and the Chicago School Board.

CReATE called upon school authorities to first pilot the new system – as New Jersey did for several years with ultimate success. Tennessee did not, with disastrous results.  Assured Kumashiro, “There’s no need to rush.”

Several speakers referred to “large-scale educational testing” as a relic of the industrial revolution.  “In today’s globalized, information-based economy, ‘student growth’ must be more meaningfully defined and assessed,” stated Isabel Nunez, associate professor at Concordia University Chicago.

Nunez considers “frightening” the current misapplication of assessment instruments and criticized the new CPS evaluation system for “breaking some of the most fundamental principles of measurement.”

Active in several local and national parent groups focused on education, Julie Woestehoff reported grassroots support for resisting the federally funded push to tie teacher jobs and compensation to test scores.

“Teacher evaluation is not just a contractual issue,” Woestehoff reminds. “It is an issue of educational quality that will have just as much impact on our children as it will on their teachers.  The experts are warning us today that CPS is moving in the wrong direction.”

For more information, visit

I will be speaking  Monday at the CReATE press conference:


March 23, 2012





CReATE, a volunteer group of local education professors and researchers, will detail their concerns about a planned Chicago Public Schools evaluation system at an 11:00 a.m. news conference Monday, March 26, at the Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted St.

They will present a letter, signed by nearly 100 academics from 15 area universities, delivered to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and the Chicago School Board.  It calls the evaluation system scheduled to begin in the 2012-2013 school year flawed and in need of piloting.

The Illinois State Legislature approved In January 2010 an amendment to the Illinois School Code, known as the Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), which requires districts to include “student growth” as a significant portion of teacher and principal evaluation.  While most of the state does not have to implement a new evaluation plan for teachers until 2016, CPS successfully lobbied for the law to permit an earlier September 2012 date for at least 300 of its schools.

“The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children,” the educators say.  “We believe it is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances have already proven to be harmful.”

CReATE conducts, reviews, and distributes studies to address the needs of students, parents and schools, as well as promotes citywide learning and dialogue about educational issues through free public events.  Members have previously expressed concerns about CPS choosing directions with little to no evidence of effectiveness.

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Slow down the “hilarity” in Illinois – hearing today

Monday, November 7th, 2011

“This would all be hilarious except that it can cost people their jobs.”

Michael Winerip in yesterday’s New York Times

Today is the local Chicago hearing on a proposed new teacher and principal evaluation plan. The meeting begins at 5 pm at Lane Tech (details here).

To help you get a feeling for what’s at stake, read this NYT article by Michael Winerip about the mess in Tennessee, a Race to the Top “winner” which has already implemented its new system. Like the system Illinois is proposing, Tennessee school principals must use student test scores to judge teachers:

(T)he state is requiring teachers without test results to be evaluated based on the scores of teachers at their school with test results. So Emily Mitchell, a first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary, will be evaluated using the school’s fifth-grade writing scores.

“How stupid is that?” said Michelle Pheneger, who teaches ACT math prep at Blackman High and is also being evaluated in part based on writing scores. “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”

Several teachers without scores at Oakland Middle School conferred. “The P. E. teacher got information that the writing score was the best to pick,” said Jeff Jennings, the art teacher. “He informed the home ec teacher, who passed it on to me, and I told the career development teacher”…

It’s a bit like Vegas, and if you pick the wrong academic subject, you lose and get a bad evaluation. While this may have nothing to do with academic performance, it does measure a teacher’s ability to play the odds. There’s also the question of how a principal can do a classroom observation of someone who doesn’t teach a classroom subject….

This would all be hilarious except that it can cost people their jobs.

Not to mention what it does to the quality of education.

Here’s a summary of the Illinois proposal from the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council, which is holding tonight’s meeting.

PURE/PAA presentation at USDE assessment hearing

Friday, June 10th, 2011

The June 10 USDE “Automated Scoring of Summative Assessments” public meeting in Chicago was eerily like a Pentagon briefing for vendors on the latest weapons technology.

USDE’s Ann Whelan, who chaired the meeting, actually wrapped up the day by saying, “We need to be bold and move the industry forward.” I wondered if we should all salute as she walked out.

The meeting was about creating computer-based and computer-scored assessments, a topic that seemed to be over the heads of many attendees (including me) but most seemed ready and willing (though not exactly able) to do whatever it takes to maintain their lucrative testing contracts.

The questions about using artificial intelligence to score tests raised many questions and evoked several assertions that multiple choice tests have “gotten a bad rap” and are still a “very good way” to test a lot of things: “Nothing is as valid or reliable as multiple choice.” And I’ll bet multiple choice will look even better to these guys as soon as we see a few examples of AI scores on student essays.

The most cogent comment,in my opinion, came from my son’s former kindergarten teacher, who happened to be there, much to my delight, and who said during public comment that she and other teachers considered  summative tests to be DOA – dead on arrival. They don’t help the student, they don’t help the teacher. She urged the USDE to focus on formative tests and forget about summative tests. Amen!

The testimony I prepared for this meeting is here. However, I was only given three minutes to present my comments, even though there were only four members of the public signed up, so I just ran over the main concerns that PURE and Parents Across America have about Obama and Duncan’s “better tests.”

I addressed the misuse and overuse of standardized tests, the false promise of better tests, how standardized tests narrow the curriculum, the way CPS and others only pretend to use multiple measures, bias in standardized tests, the failure of merit pay and other schemes to link teacher work to student scores, and the likelihood that the new national tests will be hugely expensive.

Prior to the public comment period, we were told that they would not respond or answer questions, but I asked anyway:

How will they prevent districts like Chicago from misusing tests for high-stakes purposes?

How much money will all this cost – do they have any projections?

Ann gave me a thin smile and repeated that they will not answer questions, but that I could e-mail the questions to them. I have since tried all versions of the e-mail address she mentioned, none working. Am still working on that.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.