Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought (by Wendy Lecker)

When you take a break from digging out from the “Great Blizzard of 2013,” I strongly urge you to take a moment today to read Heart Newspaper columnist and fellow blogger, Wendy Lecker’s, latest commentary piece entitled “Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought.”

Wendy’s article is the clearest description to date of the dishonest, disastrous and counter-productive evaluation system that Governor Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his State Board of Education are trying to foist upon the teachers, administrators, students and parents who are part of Connecticut’s public education system.

The waste of time, energy and money associated with this abomination is staggering.

Even in a time of unlimited public resources, the program the Malloy and his Department of Education is pushing would be inappropriate, but now, as Connecticut continues to struggle through the greatest economic troubles of our times; their plan is nothing short of a criminal waste of taxpayer funds.

As Wendy Lecker writes;

“It turns out state’s proposed teacher evaluation program is far worse than I originally believed it to be.

Connecticut’s plan involves using “indicators of student growth” to form 22.5 percent of an evaluation. For grades and subjects covered by the CMTs or CAPTs, teachers must use those scores as a basis for their evaluation.

In my previous columns, I wrongly assumed that Connecticut would use the unreliable “value-added” model (VAM) as the foundation of this 22.5 percent. However, it has come to light that Connecticut’s model is much worse.

The value-added model would be bad enough. VAM is a flawed attempt to isolate the teacher effect on a student’s test scores. We have all heard that a teacher is “the most important in-school influence on students.”

There is no denying that teachers have a profound influence on students’ ways of thinking, their emotional development and other crucial aspects of children’s intellectual growth that cannot be measured on standardized tests. However, those who trumpet this claim refer to a teacher’s influence on a student’s test scores.

But decades of evidence prove that out-of-school factors account for the vast majority of a student’s test scores. Even those claiming teachers’ outsize influence on test scores only attribute 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent of a test score to variation in teacher quality.

Therefore, VAM’s goal is to tease out that 8.5 percent. As I have previously shown, a large and growing body of evidence proves that VAM fails at this task. VAM ratings based on test scores have a 50 percent misclassification rating, with a variance based on the test, the year, the class and even the statistical model used. It is dangerous to use this measure for even 22.5 percent of a rating because it is so unstable. Because it varies so wildly, the test-score-based rating will become the tipping point in most evaluations, despite its small percentage. Moreover, being a so-called hard number, it will inevitably be the main focus of evaluations.

Apparently, in thinking that state education officials would use VAM, I was giving them too much credit.

Connecticut is not using VAM. Instead, Connecticut is using something much worse: a “student growth” model.

Here is how it works. At the beginning of the year, a teacher in a subject covered by the CMTs or CAPTs chooses a goal. It can be that X percent of the class will move from proficiency to goal. Or, it can be that the average vertical-scale score of the class will increase by X percent. (Recall from an earlier column that vertical-scale scores basically only measure whether a child is a good test-taker.) Testing experts use statistical models to predict test-score increases. Teachers, I guess, are supposed to use their intuition — about children they have just met. Then, the teacher will be evaluated on whether she meets that goal.

Let us put aside the lunacy of having a teacher predict score increases and focus on Connecticut’s model. Unlike VAM, which tries and fails to isolate teacher effect, “student growth models” do not even attempt to isolate that 8 percent. There is no mechanism in Connecticut’s system that even tries to distinguish between all the factors affecting student test scores and the one factor upon which a teacher’s job will depend.

Lecker provides even more details in her latest commentary piece.

In the coming weeks we’ll dig even deeper into this absurd plan, but if you want to get a basic primary on how the education reformers are wasting our tax dollars, undermining the teaching professional and destroying our public schools, I urge you to start by reading – and then re-reading Wendy Lecker’s great piece.

Wendy Lecker: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan – even worse than we thought

Find it at:

  • Keep in mind that the state requires 22.5%, the district dictates 22ish%(?) and of course that wil be test scores…so really almost 505 will be based on test scores. Keep in mind that if you teach social studies you could be evaluated on an essay your kids write that is about “Your favorite food is about to be discontinued, write to the manufacturer telling them why they should not stop making it.” Can’t make this stuff up…

  • Linda174

    For those of you who didn’t see this farcical chart, see the first link below.

    Now there are alternatives to the secondary pilot roll out after the original pilot..check out the verbiage:

    Existing assumption, preferred alternative, additional alternative, other locally determined options, etc.

    Really….only one third of the staff, only classroom teachers, lambs to the slaughter, how do we choose, which schools, which teachers, define classroom teacher..teacher with a classroom…what if you move period to period? Are you still a classroom teacher? Everyone else is off the hook?

    From this article:

  • Apartheid First

    I’m sorry, this whole concept of teacher evaluations is a farce. Thanks to Wendy Lecker for presenting the argument in a logical manner, not that logic is valued these days.
    Most of the districts forced to pilot these teacher evals are the so-called alliance districts. The “Alliance” is the brainchild of Stefan Pryor, a never-certified, never-licensed non-teacher who is bent on privatizing the 41% of schools he calls failing (that’s a lot of $$$ to toss to his favorite corporations, consultants, and functionaries like Steven Adamowski).
    These alliance districts, subject to so many experiments that would never be allowed on suburban children (nor should they be) are also forced to accept TFA instead of actual teachers. No one ever mentions how evals will work for TFAers, but since revolving-door turnover is built into their very model, it wouldn’t matter if they all failed in the evals. They’re out the door and off to law school, the Harvard School of Management, Goldman Sachs, or the Broad Foundation after two years among the poor and low-achieving.

  • R.L.

    Supposedly, begining next year, student evaluations of teachers will be included in the overall teacher evaluation. I guess that’s another way to get the graduation rate up. No teacher will dare to give an “F” to a student who will then be evaluating the teacher. You can’t make this sh*t up.

    • Apartheid First

      Or we could just use the High School equivalent of “My professor” and whoever gets the most “5s”–even if these exceed the numbers of students in the class–will get to keep their job. We all know how reliable anonymous evaluations are.
      Will the student evaluations/surveys be anonymous, I wonder? At universities, although they do student evaluations and make quite a fuss about how much they desire a student’s opinion, because it will supposedly help the teacher improve her performance, these evaluations cannot be used in tenure or promotion decisions–because they are anonymous. It is a well-established fact in a democracy that a person can neither be accused nor lauded based on anonymous denunciations or praise.
      Let Stefan Pryor put that in his pipe and smoke it.

      • Apartheid first

        Note: I was not trying to link anything in the above post, which is why I separated the my prof… etc. but it looks like there is a link to some site I have never gone to! sorry, I am sure it is undesirable.

    • R.L.

      Also, “our” union is complicit in all of this nonsense! They’ve been awfully quiet throught all of this rigmarole. According to the State of the Union flier they put out, one of the union’s 2013 legislative agendas is to “remove barriers to organizing charter schools.” I wonder who they represent these days. It certainly is not the teachers who pay dues to them.

      • Apartheid First

        Keep us informed of this! Some people maintain that the original charter school idea was supposedly very union-friendly, but I am sceptical.
        Why don’t we just do what works (look at Finland if you need ideas!)–but above all, don’t do it on the cheap–that doesn’t work.
        Meanwhile, challenge that union agenda.

    • Guest

      If that is true and students will be a part of evaluating their teachers I think its about time our children had a voice..were heard and taken seriously.

  • Magister

    This is becoming just too ridiculous. And the parochial schools are mimicking reforminess because they think it keeps them current and cutting edge.

    Gawd, sometimes I wish I could figure out something else to do for a living…

    • R.L.

      I’ve been thinking about that an awful lot myself. Want to open a resturant? I’m still hopeful that if I can get out of Hartford, there are still functional districts I can work in.

  • begtodiffer

    There has to be someone on the hill that hasn’t sold their soul to the devil….

  • George P

    It’s time for some good old-fashioned civil disobedience. If the unions in this state were to follow the lead of Garfield High in Seattle and the numerous student, parent and teacher groups from around the country in refusing to administer the faulty tests and defy the powers that are shoving these ruinous policies down our throats, maybe we can turn this mess around. But I’m not holding my breath…

    • R.L.

      Yes! Some of us formed a group and we’ve tried to make a few waves. We seem to be sputtering out though.

      • Linda174

        Not all of us actually.

  • Lisa M

    If students evaluate teachers and teachers evaluate their principal will administrators get to evaluate superintendents and will anyone get to evaluate Pryor? I will certainly evaluate Malloy and Finch with my vote against them…that’s a guarantee!

    • Linda174

      Both non-educators should be required to take the CAPT or the new SBAC 11th grade version and publicly post their scores…no readers, no time extensions, no practice.

      Accountability and transparency for ALL boys!