Time For Quantitative Measures To Die

According to Wikipedia, the repository of all current earthly knowledge, the winning joke from the 2002 “World’s Funniest Joke” contest was the following:

“Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?”. The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”

This is precisely what I wish would happen to the ridiculous quantitative portion of the state’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness (TLE) Evaluation System.

Whatever else happens during this legislative session, we need to make sure these failed, inaccurate, and time-consuming quantitative measures are killed DEAD!

The good news is we may finally have a piece of legislation which can serve as an effective vehicle to do just that.

House Bill 2957, authored by Representative Michael Rogers (R-Tulsa), would return teacher and school leader evaluations back to Oklahoma school districts—where they belong.

Rep. Rogers has purposefully worked with Oklahoma teachers and school leaders to develop this common sense legislation. A committee substitute recently passed out of the House Education Committee by a strong vote of 14 to 1.

If you recall, the original TLE legislation (Senate Bill2033) was passed in 2010 along with a slate of other reforms in our state’s attempt to secure a Federal Race to the Top (RttT) grant. Despite the fact that Oklahoma was not selected in either round of RttT grants, we still have TLE.

This is because Arne Duncan and his US Education Department resorted to the use of ESEA waivers to coerce states to stay in line, or else be subject to the full fury of sanctions associated with NCLB.

Not enough acronyms yet? Here’s a few more that drifted to shore with the flotsam that is TLE, in particular the quantitative portion.

Since TLE was signed into law, we have endured wave after wave of absurd attempts to “quantify” quality teaching.

Do you remember Other Academic Measures (OAMs)?

OAMs were items teachers selected from a menu of options developed by the TLE Commission. OAMs were supposed to make up 15% of teacher and leader evaluations. After wasting untold thousands of hours developing and tracking these measures, the entire OAM experiment was thrown in the trash last spring with the passage of Senator Ford’s SB 706.

The other 35% of the original TLE model was the Student Academic Growth (SAG) measure. Teachers of Tested Grades and Subjects  (TOTGS) were supposed to get their quantitative score from a Value Added Model (VAM) after entering annual Roster Verification (RV) data in the Battelle For Kids (BFK) database.

If that’s not basic enough, the state would then use a simple formula like the one from Florida below to calculate how much value each teacher added to their students’ performance on standardized tests.

However, numerous research organizations now report that VAMs are highly inaccurate, unreliable measures which should not be used to make high stakes decisions regarding teacher effectiveness. As a result, VAMs have been the subject of dozens of lawsuits in states across America. Despite this reality, Value Added Models still exist in our current TLE model. They need to die.

While TOTGS were having fun verifying their rosters, teachers and leaders of non-tested grades and subjects (NTGS) were working to create their growth measures by developing high-quality, rigorous Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) or Student Outcome Objectives (SOOs).

To assist local districts in developing high-quality, rigorous SLOs and SOOs, the OSDE developed an extensive guidebook containing recommendations for each component of the SLO/SOO process that aligned with the requirements detailed in OSDE rules.

The whole business is nothing but junk science–rife with invalid assumptions, easily manipulated measures, and false correlations.

In the past few months, the TLE commission has continued to work on developing more meaningful quantitative measures to replace OAMs, SLOs and SOOs. The latest ideas include student surveys, teacher portfolios (because teachers have so much extra time), district Pre/Post assessments, and other existing assessments.

Aren’t we all growing a weary of watching this ill-fated process spin on year after year?

We have dumped six years of time and resources into this failed experiment. It is time to try something new.

Here is what I like about House Bill 2957 (please take a few minutes to read it yourself):

  • It would return flexibility to local school districts concerning their teacher and administrator evaluations.
  • It would keep qualitative measures in place, while giving districts flexibility to continue quantitative measures if they choose at their own expense.
  • It would require an annual professional development plan for every teacher and administrator. Research proves that professional development is the best proven strategy school systems have to strengthen educators’ performance levels and raise student achievement.
  • This shift returns the focus to inputs of quality teaching rather than just outputs.
  • Professional development also encourages systemic improvement across the entire state instead of the current focus on those who only score below effective.
  • By using an individualized professional development goal, we can tailor goals towards educators’ varying levels of motivation, interest, knowledge, and skill. We could also address the different contexts and very real challenges teachers face in their schools and classrooms instead of relying on a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
  • HB2957 makes clear that the purpose of professional development is to increase learning of both educators and their students. With giving the needed freedom back to the school districts to design their evaluations and corresponding professional development for teachers and administrators, local school district boards will hold educators accountable.
  • This bill could save the OSDE $2.5 million from its FY2017 budget request to support implementation of quantitative measures. It would also save districts tens of thousands in additional training costs and mandates associated with TLE.

It is time we get this right.

If our state is serious about implementing an evaluation model that has a stronger chance of resulting in higher student achievement and teacher excellence, House Bill 2957 is a step in the right direction.

As State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said a few months ago, “We need to have a system of teacher effectiveness and an evaluative tool for principals and teachers, but it needs to be focused more on self-reflection, continuous improvement, and professional growth.”

HB 2957 does exactly that. It maintains teacher and leader accountability but returns the focus to local measures of effectiveness. HB 2957 demonstrates that Oklahoma is serious about educators performing at higher levels, saving costs, and giving flexibility back to the school districts.

Please join me in contacting legislators to tell them we support the common sense changes to the Oklahoma TLE Model contained in HB2957.

We are tired of being used as targets in their misguided education reforms.

Let’s make sure we kill quantitative measures this year.

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