Posts Tagged ‘teacher evaluation’

Educators oppose test score-based teacher evaluation

Monday, September 17th, 2012


Media Release:
For Immediate Distribution

Contact information:
Isabel Nunez, Professor, Concordia University Chicago,, 708-209-3518
Erica Meiners, Professor, Northeastern Illinois University,, 773-816-6561

Chicago, IL.  As the Chicago Teachers Union begins the second week of
their strike, some political leaders and media commentators are quick to
blame teachers for resisting a system for evaluating teachers that other
states and school districts across the country have already adopted.

But the research is clear: student test scores and “value added measures”
are neither valid nor reliable for evaluating teachers.  Half a year ago, a
network of 88 education professors from 16 universities in the Chicago
area, called CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for
Transformative Education), issued (an) open letter, explaining
why this evaluation system is neither research-based nor beneficial to our
city’s children.  CReATE is re-releasing this open letter, and urges
public debate, policy decisions, and contract negotiations to draw on
such research expertise.

Lots of upcoming events in real school reform

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 5 to 7 pm @ Luther Memorial Church, 2500 W. Wilson.

PURE’s Wanda Hopkins will be featured on a panel, “Critically Thinking about Chicago Public Schools.” Also featured, members of the CTU, City Council, Raise Your Hand, Albany Park Neighborhood Council, and VOYCE; CPS Board members are also invited.

“The notion of education reform is not a contentious issue for the vast majority of Chicago voters, as 82% consider reform either extremely or very important. However, not all reform is viewed the same. What shape does that reform take? Hear from members of the community involved in reshaping education so it benefits all stakeholders.”

Wednesday, May 23, 3 pm @ the Auditorium Theater, 50 W Congress

“Parents 4 Teachers is organizing a parent rally to coincide with the CTU rally on May 23. We’re meeting at 3 p.m. outside the Auditorium Theater, 50 E. Congress. We want parents there when the teachers come in to the theater to show we are behind them. The union is expecting an overflow crowd and will be conducting an outdoor rally (at 4:30 pm) as well, which we’ll be participating in as well.”

Tuesday, May 29, 6:30 – 8:30 pm @ Talcott School, 1840 W. Ohio

I’ll be bringing home the Chicago connection to the great short documentary “The Inconvenient Truth behind Waiting for Superman” (here’s the flyer in English and Spanish). The program will offer Spanish translation; a Spanish-language transcript of the film will also be available. The event is co-sponsored by Parents 4 Teachers and Talcott School PTO.

Wednesday, May 30, 6 – 8 pm @ DePaul College of Education, 254 SAC (Schmitt Academic Center), 2320 N. Kenmore

“CReATE, along with the Chicago Teachers Union and the DePaul College of Education, is sponsoring an important program:  EVALUATING TEACHER EVALUATION with Dr. Jesse Rothstein from the University of California at Berkeley. CPS will be including Value Added Metrics (VAM) as part of teacher evaluation. VAM shows serious inconsistencies and inaccuracies when used for teacher evaluation. Learn more about VAM and its flaws from a nationally-recognized expert.

“This program is a follow-up to our press conference and the release of (CReATE’s) open letter on teacher evaluation. The letter can be downloaded here.

“Dr. Rothstein is a nationally known researcher and critic of the use of Value Added Metrics for teacher evaluation. The Chicago Public Schools will be using these metrics as part of the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system.

“Isabel Nuñez, a CReATE member from Concordia University, will discuss the letter as well as the CReATE testing brief.

Saturday, June 2, 10 am – 12:30 pm, UIC, Jane Addams College of Social Work, 1040 W. Harrison, 4th floor, room 4013

“Chicago activists, educators, students, academics and parents are coming together June 2 to talk about how we can use Free Minds, Free People, the powerful national gathering on education justice, to support the development of a national education movement. Be part of this critical discussion about how to connect the burgeoning, city-wide education movement in Chicago to education for liberation work across the country.

“Chicago is the birthplace of Free Minds, Free People, and one of the most important sites in the fight for education justice in this country. We expect Chicago to have a powerful voice in shaping the direction of this critical national gathering. Please join us! Please pre-register here.

“Breakfast and childcare will be provided. You must register your child in advance.
(Donations for food are appreciated)”

What’s next? Evaluating pediatricians based on patient “growth”?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Judging pediatricians on the changes in the height and weight of their young patients as measured at their annual physicals from one year to the next makes just as much sense as using student “growth” on annual standardized reading and math tests to evaluate teachers.

But that’s just what the Chicago Public Schools will be doing beginning this fall, despite warnings from some 100 local education experts, who spoke out last week about the dangers of this evaluation model. Chicago Public Schools is rushing into a system in which test scores will soon account for up to 40% of a teacher’s job evaluation.

Here’s how that would look if we did it to doctors. You would bring your child in for her annual physical where she is measured and weighed. If she has grown faster than average, you’d pay the doctor more. If she is “behind schedule” or “below average,” you’d pay the doctor less, or perhaps you’d even “fire” your doctor.

The fact that “average weight” standards place half of all children below average wouldn’t matter.

The fact that your child’s size is more dependent on her genes wouldn’t matter.

The fact that your child’s rate of growth is also related to what you as parents are feeding her and how you are caring for her wouldn’t matter.

The fact that you might be jobless and dependent on aid to feed your child, and couldn’t always afford the most nutritious meals, or that you have been homeless and live in your car and can’t keep her warm enough so she always has a cold and loses her appetite, wouldn’t matter.

The fact that when you bring your child to the new doctor and he weighs and measures your child, she had a growth spurt and is now above average height and weight will not undo the firing of your previous doctor.

And the fact is, as every parent knows, your child’s height and weight tell you very little about the quality of medical care she is receiving.

Here’s how you tell if your child has a good pediatrician.

First, he is qualified, certified and licensed to practice.

Second, he is professional, runs an organized practice and takes adequate time with you and your child when you come in.

Third, he gathers a great deal of information about your child – not just height and weight. He watches your child walk to evaluate her bones and strength. He looks into your child’s eyes and ears to see what’s going on in there. He checks reflexes, asks you questions about your child’s habits, and, if there are any concerns, orders more tests to get more and better information as needed.

If wealthy “health reformers” and politicians successfully demanded that pediatricians be evaluated and paid based on a formula where a child’s growth in height and weight counted for up to 40%, we would probably find ourselves without a medical profession.

Besides, the whole thing sounds really stupid, doesn’t it?

Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council wrote in a 2009 report to Education Secretary Arne Duncan about value-added measures (VAM):

VAM estimates of teacher effectiveness that are based on data for a single class of students should not used to make operational decisions because such
estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable.

So why have we allowed people like Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee, astroturf groups like Stand for Children, and our state legislators to force such a stupid and potentially destructive system down the throats of one of our greatest national treasures, our teaching force?



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.

# # #

PSAT for 12-6-11: School principals, unite!

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Last night we watched a charming movie, “Amreeka,” about a Palestinian mom and her son who emigrate to Illinois the same week the US invaded Iraq. Not surprisingly, they encounter some challenges. Somewhat surprisingly, one of the film’s heroes is the mild-mannered principal of the local high school.

School principals are popularly portrayed as creeps, crooks, or idiots (anyone besides me remember Osgood Conklyn in Our Miss Brooks? OK, how about Glee’s Principal Figgins?).

My own experience of principals in the Chicago system has been similarly mixed. As a Local School Council (LSC) member, one of my first successful fights was getting rid of a do-nothing principal. The LSC’s choice appeared to be a dynamo at first but she quickly turned paranoid and never became effective. Over the years, we have found the same pattern with promising new principals. Our theory is that they are getting incredibly bad advice from somewhere at the central office. It got so bad that the CPS Law Department started to run workshops a few years ago on how new principals can avoid becoming one-term wonders.

Fortunately, I’ve also encountered a lot of terrific and often courageous principals, from Chicago Principals’ and Administrators’ Assoc. president Clarice Berry to some original and long-time PURE members.

Principals in Chicago are under enormous pressure. They must work well with parents and LSC members while also operating under the heavy thumb of the central office. Retaliation is second nature in this corrupt City Hall-dominated system. Speaking out usually seems too dangerous, at least until your school goes on the closure list. Even then some principals will take a pass, hoping to be offered a quiet place to land.

But things have gotten so bad – at least in New York State – that more than 750 school principals have signed onto a public letter expressing their opposition to a new state law requiring the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluation.

The same kind of law that was recently passed here in Illinois.

For Public Schools Action Tuesday today, why not share this article with your school principal and ask him/her about starting a similar petition here in Illinois? Or, if you are a principal, why not start it yourself, or simply sign on to the NY principals’ letter?

I just sent this letter to CPAA President Berry:

Dear Clarice:

I am writing to urge you and the CPAA to follow the lead of principals in New York State and take a united public stand against the new Illinois state-mandated principal and teacher performance rules developed under the new Performance Evaluation Reform Act.

In a recently posted letter and petition, the New York State principals make the following points, among others, which also apply to the Illinois law:

  • Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher evaluation approaches like New York Stateʼs APPR legislation, and the proposed PERA assessments.
  • Value-added models (VAM) of teacher effectiveness, which are being heavily promoted by the Obama administration, do not produce stable ratings of teachers. Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test.
  • There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. Student test scores have not been found to be a strong predictor of the quality of teaching as measured by other instruments or approaches.
  • Like the Illinois state test, the New York State standardized tests are designed to evaluate student learning, not teacher effectiveness, nor student learning growth. Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations.
  • The new law is likely to increase narrowing of the curriculum as teachers focus more on test preparation and skill and drill teaching.
  • Scarce tax dollars are being redirected from schools to testing companies, trainers and outside vendors.

Most importantly, according to a nine-year study by the National Research Council, the past decadeʼs emphasis on testing has yielded little learning progress, especially considering the cost to our taxpayers.

The New York letter also includes solid recommendations for alternative evaluation methods.

I hope you will consider spearheading a similar protest here in Illinois. PURE will proudly support your efforts.

Best wishes,

Julie Woestehoff

“Tough Questions” – NY Times on last week’s teacher evaluation hearing

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

The New York Times reports this morning on some of the many challenges raised in last week’s state board of Education hearing on the proposed new teacher evaluation system, including one from me –

The test given at the elementary level, the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, has been criticized as too easy and would be miscast as a tool for evaluating teachers, according to teachers and parents who came to the forum, when the test was designed exclusively for gauging knowledge in particular subject areas. “The ISAT was not designed for teacher evaluations, and it shouldn’t be used that way,” said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education.

More on the hearing and the problems raised there tomorrow.

School rankings -> data manipulation

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Some call it accountability.

But public ranking of schools based on specific data points will always result in some lying, cheating and manipulation, especially if there’s a monetary incentive.

The latest scandal is that of the now former dean of admissions the University of Illinois law school, Paul Pless, who attempted to scam the U. S. News and World Report annual law school rankings by including a group of early-admissions students without using their LSAT (law school entrance exam) scores in the report.

As the Chicago Tribune reports,

By admitting high-achieving students in their junior years, without a law school entrance exam, the students’ high GPAs would be included in the class profile but no test scores could potentially drag down the class.”That way, I can trap about 20 of the little bastards with high GPA’s that count and no LSAT score to count against my median. It is quite ingenious,” Pless boasted in a 2008 e-mail exchange…

The college’s strategic plans and annual reports focused on that ranking. Pless’ salary increases were tied to it.

We have just gone through the annual school report card media orgy. Who’s on first? What’s the worst? Yet these media rankings are based on state standardized tests, the ISATs, which have long been exposed as “dumbed-down.” The state designed these tests to yield falsely inflated results to meet the demands of the No Child Left Behind Act’s ridiculous adequate yearly progress targets.

Recently, Illinois identified 33 schools where there was significant test cheating.

So, why is it that so many civic and political leaders are so determined to make public school student data central to teacher and principal job evaluation?


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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.