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GREAT NECK, N.Y. — On Sept. 2, the day her principal shared each teacher’s annual evaluation, Sheri Lederman came home from work and announced to her husband that she was ready to quit.

In the span of one year, Lederman’s score dropped 13 percentage points, suddenly demoting her from an effective teacher to an ineffective one. It was enough to make her head spin.

This marks Lederman’s 18th year in the classroom. She teaches fourth grade at the Elizabeth M. Baker Elementary School in Great Neck, a middle-class suburb about 20 miles from New York City.

teacher evaluation based on student test scores
Fourth grade math teacher Adelia Weatherspoon teaches her class Common Core math at Higgins Middle School in McComb, Miss.

Following a statewide ranking system put into place in 2012, for the first time 20 percent of her evaluation score was tied to local tests and 20 percent was based on whether students progressed on state tests administered every spring. The rest of the rating was based on classroom evaluations. Depending on the final percentage, teachers in New York receive ratings of highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Teachers who receive ineffective ratings for two consecutive years may face an expedited dismissal process.

The same year the new test-based evaluations went into effect, New York State launched the Common Core State Standards, which aim to deepen critical thinking and enhance problem-solving skills. And along with the new standards came much more difficult tests, which sent student test scores plummeting.

This was a problem for teachers now dependent on good scores to achieve a rating that didn’t also put their job in jeopardy.

Lederman was an early believer in the Common Core. With a doctorate in human development and educational psychology, she was drawn to the idea that students in different states would possess a similar knowledge base and skill set across an array of different subject areas. But the concurrent rollout of new standards on top of harder tests, not to mention the addition of a high-stakes teacher evaluation system, has more than soured her on the new standards.

Among educators, Lederman is hardly alone in her belief that that the one-two punch of Common Core and new test-based accountability systems is too much to handle and leaves teachers — and students — overwhelmed.

“There weren’t a lot of conversations happening between people working on teacher evaluations and the Common Core.” — Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform

At first Lederman was fine. Nearly 70 percent of Lederman’s fourth-grade students met or exceeded reading and math standards on the new Common Core tests, far above the state average. With a perfect score on her classroom observations and local district tests, she easily achieved an effective rating.

But this year, the state awarded her only 1 out of 20 possible points on the state test ranking, because a new class of students didn’t do significantly better than her group from the year before. Instead, they dropped two percentage points in reading and increased slightly in math. Her 18 students far surpassed state averages in both subjects (often by more than double), and she once again did well on the district scores, but not well enough to overcome the low score on the state portion of the evaluation.

So, Lederman did what any frustrated educator, armed with a litigator spouse, would do. In late October, she filed a lawsuit against the New York State Education Department. The lawsuit alleges that such metrics punish rather than reward excellence, with educators whose students outperform state averages unable to show sufficient progress from year to year. A hearing is scheduled for March 20.

Related: Debate over value-added rankings hits New York City

Lederman’s lawsuit is one part of a major backlash that’s erupted in the last year against both teacher evaluations and the Common Core. The backlash has become mainstream, no longer relegated to teachers and administrators, and has fueled legislation and multiple lawsuits aimed at dialing back the new policies.


The Common Core was introduced in 2010, and more than 40 states had adopted it by the following year. At the same time, nearly 40 states have adopted laws linking teacher evaluations to student performance on standardized tests over the past four years. Essentially, two separate groups of reformers were plugging away at ideas to transform education — and they came barreling down the track at exactly the same time. Though New York was one of the earliest adopters of teacher evaluations tied to student test scores, other states are now launching new evaluation systems while also implementing new, harder state tests tied to the Common Core. Ultimately, the aim is to use performance reviews to decide tenure, promotion or termination.

In New York and elsewhere, many educators cite a deeply flawed rollout of the two policies, with each inadvertently undermining the other. Now, even die-hard enthusiasts for the new reforms are wondering whether the clash of high-stakes evaluations tied to new, more difficult standards will ultimately derail both ideas.

Sandi Jacobs, the vice president and managing director of state policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit that advocates tougher teacher standards, described it as the accidental convergence of efforts to solve “two really big issues in education” — standards woefully lacking in rigor along with a broken teacher evaluation system.

“How didn’t we see this coming and the problems it was going to cause with the federal government prioritizing these two issues all at once?” asked Jacobs. “There wasn’t enough concern about how these things were running down the path together until the tests became an issue.”

Two Separate Conversations

Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, an advocacy group that supports test-based evaluations and changes to current tenure laws, agrees that the concurrent rollout in New York has been nothing if not clunky.

He describes different factions of the reform world seizing upon opportunities that occurred at the same time, and ignoring what their counterparts were doing.

“There weren’t a lot of conversations happening between people working on teacher evaluations and the Common Core,” said Williams. “There were two separate conversations happening. One hand didn’t necessarily always know what the other hand was doing.”

Some supporters of the new standards have blamed the Obama administration for its ambitious and controversial initiatives to overhaul American public education. The administration’s competitive Race to the Top grants, part of the 2009 stimulus package, made billions of dollars available to states if they agreed to attempt multiple reforms at once, including creating test-based teacher evaluations and adopting “college-and-career ready” standards, which most states interpreted as the Common Core. The U.S. Department of Education followed up on Race to the Top with waivers it granted from No Child Left Behind regulations, which set similar guidelines for states to receive federal dollars.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which counts more than 800,000 teachers as active members, blames Race to the Top, and its “fixation on data and testing,” for squelching the enthusiasm that initially accompanied a new, more rigorous set of common standards. New York’s rollout was particularly egregious, Weingarten said, describing the rushed implementation as “profoundly disappointing,”   breeding distrust among teachers, parents and students.

“This does not create confidence in public education and a lot of people are saying let’s just throw the whole thing out,” said Weingarten, referring to the Common Core. “For those of us who believed in the potential of the standards, we’ve also lost a lot of credibility.”

Jacobs described new, harder tests connected to the standards as the “lightening rod,” which, when paired with the simultaneous rollout of test-based consequences for teachers, has incited not only inflammatory rhetoric, but subsequent pushback — with some states seeming to delay accountability efforts indefinitely.

“Not that I could have written the master road map to avoid it, but I do worry. We all should have been more thoughtful about the timing of these transitions,” said Jacobs. “Looking back, we could see that we were creating new tests at the same time we were beginning new evaluation systems.”

Phil Daro and Susan Pimentel both worked on the standards’ side of things. Daro co-authored the Common Core math standards. Pimentel was one of three writers of the Common Core literacy standards.

Related: The ELA standards: Content and controversy

Daro sees too many changes coming all at once — with testing playing too dominant a role. “Right now, everything is being blamed on the Common Core,” said Daro. “There’s an ‘everything at once’ mentality, as if slowing down is bogging down.”

Pimentel, meanwhile, has been working to align materials and tests to new standards, while helping teachers make huge shifts. From Pimentel’s perspective, tying new assessments to teacher evaluations too soon risks alienating teachers from the standards themselves.

“We need to unhook assessments from teacher evaluations for a while. Teachers need time and support to acquaint themselves with the new standards before high-stakes consequences are applied,” said Pimentel. “Once assessments are fair, transparent and trusted, our advice would be to then begin to tie student assessments to teacher evaluations. Accountability for student results is a critical component of a high-functioning system of education.”

In late October, she met with assessment and curriculum representatives from 18 different states. Taken together, Pimentel observed widespread experimentation, with most states tweaking how much the assessment counts in a teacher’s annual evaluation, while others have delayed accountability measures for the foreseeable future. “The bottom line is that states are trying all kinds of different approaches — and some are simply waiting.”

Even those at the forefront of the push for the new teacher ratings and the Common Core have advocated a more gradual approach.

Earlier this summer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called for a two-year moratorium on states or districts basing personnel decisions on Common Core-aligned tests. And in August, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged states to delay using test results for an additional year when tabulating teacher ratings.

Despite a temporary reprieve, a recent study jointly commissioned by Scholastic, the education publisher, and the Gates foundation shows that, among teachers, support for the Common Core has started to wane. Among 1,600 teachers polled from around the country, the percentage of teachers who are enthusiastic about the Common Core has dropped — from 73 to 68 percent in the last year alone.

Junk Science

Adam Urbanski doesn’t mince words. “I do not have confidence this can be fixed,” said Urbanski, now in his 34th year as the president of the Rochester Teachers Association in upstate New York. He sees the simultaneous rollout of new standards and test-based teacher evaluations as “poisoning the well.”

Last year, labeling the rankings “junk science,” the Rochester Teachers Association filed a lawsuit against the state, citing a discrepancy in how urban teachers were ranked versus their suburban counterparts. During the 2012-13 school year, only 2 percent of Rochester’s 3,400 teachers received highly effective ratings. One year later, that figure suddenly jumped to 46 percent. The lawsuit is now wending its way through the state court system.

“Unless you believe in miracles, I predict that next year, we’ll see another incredible swing,” said Urbanski. Now a retired teacher, he previously taught high school social studies. “Huge variations are part and parcel of unreliable systems. If it weren’t so sad, it would be laughable.”

Urbanski says the new metrics unfairly penalize teachers of disadvantaged students. Since the new evaluation system went into place two years ago, he’s witnessed an unprecedented number of voluntary resignations and early retirements. More concerning, he sees tenured teachers unwilling to work with student teachers for fear of disrupting their students’ test scores and Rochester-based private and charter schools using their exemption from the Common Core to recruit faculty and lure students.

When advising colleagues around the country, Urbanski describes New York as “an extreme example of how not to do it.” Though an early proponent of a common set of national standards, he has since reversed his position. “Sometimes it’s cheaper to just buy a new car than to fix a damaged one,” he said. “The Common Core should be scrapped. As soon as you fix one thing, something else pops up elsewhere that’s equally problematic.”

Joe Williams, however, cautions against reverting back to the old evaluation system. In New York, teachers previously received two ratings: satisfactory or unsatisfactory. “It wasn’t fair to teachers, especially to the really good teachers,” said Williams. “Less than 3 percent were ranked unsatisfactory.”

Though proficiency rates in reading and math have hovered around 30 percent, large swaths of teachers haven’t exactly received negative ratings since beginning the new evaluation system. Earlier this fall, 94 percent of teachers across New York State received highly effective or effective ratings. Meanwhile, in some districts, not a single teacher received an ineffective rating.

While some states have taken a more gradual approach, Lauren D’Amico, an elementary-school teacher in Arizona, has experienced the sudden jolt of the new system. Arizona adopted College and Career Ready Standards, a set of state-specific standards aligned to the Common Core in 2010, though local schools didn’t begin implementing them until the 2012-13 school year.

Related: Lack of time and money as educators launch new evaluation systems

Two years ago, her district launched test-based evaluations. During the first year of implementation, test scores accounted for 25 percent. Last year, classroom observations comprised 50 percent of her annual evaluation, with 40 percent tied to state and local tests. An additional 10 percent relates to grade-level and school-wide growth as measured by similar tests.

For the 2012-13 school year, D’Amico was labeled developing. This past September, her score suddenly shot up two levels — to highly effective. Much like New York, Arizona rates its teachers using four categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

“I’m scratching my head and wondering what kind of teacher I’m going to be this year,” said D’Amico, who is now in her eighth year in the classroom. “If I went from developing to highly effective, what could this year have in store for me? It’s a bogus system.” Besides test-based evaluations, her district has further ratcheted up the stakes by implementing a merit pay system. Final ratings now determine annual bonuses, which range between $1,000 and $5,000.

Meanwhile, following Arizona’s abrupt withdrawal in May from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of two state-led groups that develop tests aligned to the Common Core, her students now face a brand-new end-of-year test — with half of her annual evaluation hinging on their performance. Four months into the school year, the Arizona Department of Education announced AzMERIT, a state-issued Common Core-aligned reading and math test, which it plans to unveil later this spring.

Following classroom observations, D’Amico used to come away with detailed feedback from her principal. Now, she receives a number from zero to five on a 26-point rubric. Among her colleagues, she can sense a precipitous drop in morale once observations begin.

“When you have everybody reduced to numbers, it doesn’t create a good atmosphere. It doesn’t help teachers teach and it doesn’t help children learn,” said D’Amico, who initially supported the Common Core. The concurrent launch of other reforms has since made it far less palatable. “Launching everything all at once, it just takes the wind out of everyone’s sails.”

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Letters to the Editor

29 Letters

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  1. When will people realize that students are not parts on an assembly line? You can’t just invoke “rigor” or “powerful learning” (or whatever the latest fad buzz-word may be) and expect every student to gain equivalent knowledge.

    Fact: some students don’t want to learn. You can’t force knowledge into a closed mind. Remember that students did not volunteer to attend school; they are required to attend.

    Fact: some students have life situations which directly affect their ability to learn or take tests. “Jeremy” had to take a standardized test the day after his mother escaped with him from her abusive husband. “Elizabeth” babysat her two year old sister in the evenings while her single mother worked night shift at a bar. “Elizabeth” had no time for study or homework.

    Fact: there’s only so much time available for each class, which usually contains average students, G/T students, English language learners, and special ed students. One size teaching does not fit all. How do you choose who’s going to get the least attention?

    Question: “Melanie” transferred out of and into my school district three times during one year. Standardized testing is not set up to evaluate only the material that she learned while in my class. I would be “evaluated” by how her other teachers taught her while not in my class.

    Question: “Melanie” took social studies under me in the sixth grade, but in Texas, social studies is not tested until the eighth grade. That means her eighth grade teacher would be evaluated by what she was taught in the sixth and seventh grade as well. Standardized testing does not label questions according to the grade level in which they were covered. Would that be an efficient method of evaluation?

    Question: some topics, such as math, are cumulative. New skills are built upon existing skills. I had freshmen in my algebra class who could not perform basic operations with fractions. Would it be legitimate to evaluate me based on what their previous teacher should have taught? (Why those students were allowed to progress to ninth grade without mastering that skill is another topic entirely. The pass/fail system needs to be repaired.)

    If you want to improve the educational system, then shove the politicians and businessmen aside and let those in the trenches make the necessary decisions.

  2. The Common Core and high stakes testing had two underlying purposes. One, use education as a deep pocket for Microsoft, GE,Pearson and other “suppliers” to the new curriculum. The second, and most harmful, was to lay blame at the feet of American teachers for a failures of society including the breakdown of the nuclear family household. State legislatures needed a scapegoat for their economic policy failures and the teachers were a visible and rather easy mark. High stakes testing can be analyzed by zip codes free and reduced lunch stats.
    Regardless of all the university research and new “waves” of panaceas -the bell curve still rules the outcomes.

  3. It seems unfair to evaluate teachers based on something that is completely out of their control: how students perform on tests. We can teach using every method we are taught (and we’ve been taught many different methods over the years) and do everything we can, but we are not the ones taking the tests. We cannot overcome learning disabilities, temperament types, family culture, or a host of other factors that prevent students from doing well on tests. And students know how important these tests are; there’s nothing we can do if a child decides to deliberately do poorly on a test.

  4. Right on Rich!

    I keep posting and will continue to post it. If you want parents and children to be held accountable, charge the parents. There is WAY more to it that what I can post here, but this is a screen shot/example.

    Charge parents $20/kid/year or term (3 kids = $60)
    Parents can get ALL of that $ back if THEIR child succeeds in the classroom and on the tests. It could go something like this:
    All A’s = Full refund
    B’s = 80% refund
    C’s = 70% refund
    D’s = 60% refund
    F’s = NO $$$$ (you failed your child)

    Again, there is WAY more to this plan and always will be Devils Advocates, but you get the idea.

  5. What never makes sense to me, no matter what the curriculum or testing procedure, is to compare this year’s 4th graders to last year’s 4th graders. In order to track student (and teacher) performance and improvement, shouldn’t we be comparing the scores/portfolios/abilities of this year’s 4th graders to THEIR OWN scores/portfolios/abilities from last year?

  6. Results in standardized test should not be the basis if you are effective or not as a teacher. Some students knowing that these tests do not affect their grades will not do good on these tests. These lawmakers do not know the struggles the teachers are facing in their classroom. They should go out and see what teachers are going through having 40 students in the classroom with different behavioral problems brought about by socio-economic status, dysfunctional family, and others. Lawmakers based their judgments only to the confined affluent neighborhood where they came from.

  7. My students’ scores were above the school district’s for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, A-NET tests; nevertheless, I was terminated in 6 months (8/7/13 – 2/6/14 because of the new first year principal’s classroom evaluation. Ironically, from 1/13 – 5/13, I was rated emerging effective and received a bonus of $769. 00 net with the same school district under an experienced principal. I was only with the class the second half of the session. The assistant principal did not agree with the first year principal’s termination. The teachers who remained in the red were rated effective and remained at the school. Currently, I am earning $10.00 an hour in a position outside my profession. My unemployment funds were exhausted. My life has dramatically changed.

  8. I find it interesting that the leaders of the groups behind the reforms admit that they did not see this coming. If they couldn’t see something so obvious, they should not be in leadership/decision-making positions.

  9. So if you teach in an impoverished area and don’t suck up to the administration you’re a bad teacher? Remember that teacher tenure was never intended to keep bad teachers around but rather to enable them to their jobs without political consequences.

  10. That graph is supposed to show how silly it is to call a teacher whose students do better than state averages ineffective. But it doesn’t do that at all. It doesn’t actually show much at all about the effectiveness of the teacher. What it reflects is the socio-economic status of the students.

    The beginning of the story notes that the school is in a middle class suburb. Well, of course the students do (and should do) better than average.

    So yes, it’s true. The way test scores are used doesn’t make sense. By either side.

    The implementation along with Common Core was obviously flawed, but another key point is made later in the story: the “new metrics unfairly penalize teachers of disadvantaged students.”

  11. 70% is a C. Almost 70% is a D. While I would say that this teacher is above average that is mostly because the school system is failing over all. There are many, many reasons that the school system is failing and much of it doesn’t have to do with this teacher but, when it comes to our kids, is a “D” education really acceptable?

  12. Evaluation on student performance makes sense if you could compare the same children’s second grade test scores with their third grade scores.

    Comparing one group of scores with a different groups scores isn’t a valid test of the teacher’s performance.

  13. Sue Pimental suggests that scores should be decoupled “for a while”? And then we wonder why no one trusts the Common Core? No Sue, scores should not be used to evaluate teachers period. It is bogus as the two anecdotes clearly show.
    Mr Williams, I assure you that “excellent teachers” never felt the former system to be unfair. The suggestion that it was a satisfactory/unsatisfactory system may have been true of some places, but certainly not all. We in the field who actually do the work of educating students are quite tired of all the meddling. Sheri, who I know, deserves much better.

  14. Everyone here still misses the point, standardize tests and our methods of teaching are outdated. When you test a child, you test only his memory and not his ability. Here is an idea, make all class room tests open book, before you say I am nuts, hear me out. Education is the conditioning of the brain by repetition. give an open book test where the student must read, say, a paragraph too find an answer, this will force the child too read. Next, math is full of formulars so give the student the answer and have him find the correct formular by doing this he will become comfortable using the formular and at the same time program his memory by using formulars.

  15. It’s too bad the article didn’t also mention that both the American Statistical Association, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals have advised against using standardized tests to determine teacher effectiveness. These scores are neither a valid or reliable way to measure a teacher’s performance.

    In spite of this, Arne Duncan is proposing to also evaluate teacher colleges based on their graduates’ students’ scores. Yes, you read that right. Comments are open until Feb 2:

  16. Why does the whole country believe it is important to grade teachers? Do we grade policemen, firemen, civil servants, college professors, politicians, public defenders, judges…? Are the personnel evaluations of any other civil service sector ever public discussion?

    Why does national discussion on education and teacher evaluation begin with the belief that both are broken??? Who decided they were broke and what data or research was that decision based on? If it were possible to trace the assumptions back to their origins what would we find, an altruistic wish to improve the nation and do what’s best for children or a grasp for power and money?

    Rich Allen is right. “The Common Core and high stakes testing had two underlying purposes. One, use education as a deep pocket for Microsoft, GE, Pearson and other “suppliers” to the new curriculum” (and don’t forget Wall Street and charter schools.) …State legislatures needed a scapegoat for their economic policy failures and the teachers were a visible and rather easy mark.” I’d like to add that the “deep pockets” have not only purchased their political backing, but they’ve spun their propaganda so thoroughly they’ve bamboozled the nation.

  17. Ysbeth, your comment is laughable. By your logic, a doctor who is able to cure 50% of cancer cases that have been deemed “terminal” by medical science should be considered a failure. Away with your foolishness.

  18. Evaluating teachers according to student scores is like evaluating a dentist/hygienist based on the number of cavities his/her patients have. Despite the excellent information shared with the patient regarding proper brushing and flossing techniques, it’s ultimately up to the patient to follow the instruction they received. You wouldn’t rate a dentist/hygienist this way – why do people insist on doing something equally as crazy to evaluate teachers?

  19. Richard wrote:

    “Evaluation on student performance makes sense if you could compare the same children’s second grade test scores with their third grade scores.

    Comparing one group of scores with a different groups scores isn’t a valid test of the teacher’s performance.”

    That’s where I’m confused. Either the writer has it wrong, or the elementary schools/Great Neck districts employ a different and extremely flawed practice. I don’t teach in Great Neck (I’m in NYC) but as for state test rankings, the students are measured against how they performed in the previous year. They are not compared to a separate crop of students. For instance, if my child got a 3.15 in 2013, he is compared, in 2014, to all students who received the same score. So not only is it year to year, but the student growth is only compared to that of students who performed equally.

    I’m not in favor of the CC and the evaluation process but it is REALLY difficult to score an ineffective.

  20. Evaluating teachers based upon test is like evaluating people by how well their neighbor’s children do in school. While you might have some influence over the children, you have very little control over their study habits, parents, attendance, homework schedule, etc. Yet, we expect teachers to outperform other teachers to be called effective.

  21. ALL standardized testing shows is ‘what kind of day’ student was having at the time the test was administered’. Add that to the fact that a goodly number of questions and problems posed on such standardized tests have no relevance in the real world. An example of such a question posed on a recent 8th grade standardized test asked: ‘Who opened the first soup kitchen in America?’ The current ‘Drop 7’ method of teaching long division in elementary Common Core math is unnecessarily wasteful in its use of time and paper.

  22. “…because a new class of students didn’t do significantly better than her group from the year before…”

    That’s not how it works.

    Seriously, if the teachers don’t understand it, and the reporters don’t either, that’s a problem.

  23. You want to know how to get children to succeed? Look into Dr. Carol Dweck’s research. Her book is “Mindset.” People who believe that effort and hardwork can increase their intelligence (also called a “growth mindset”) do much better than people who believe that their intelligence is fixed from birth (also called a “fixed mindset”). Teaching children this has gone a long way to helping children even from very disadvantaged backgrounds. Extensive testing undermines a growth mindset. Testing should be limited as much as possible.

    It seems that this extensive testing is tied to getting money from major corporations. perhaps part of the fix is to educate them. Dweck’s research is well documented and persuasive. We can also learn a lot from KIPP.

  24. re: Mike Decaprio’s comment: ” … that’s not how it works…” regarding comparing this year’s students to last year’s students – that is EXACTLY how it works. Teachers get info comparing current class student scores to last years class student scores.

  25. Another angle never mentioned in this discussion is that some teachers are tasked to teach certain programs. Common Core is a set of standards, but districts themselves may adopt certain curriculum for teaching math or literacy in order to meet whichever standards. But it’s not always a teacher’s choice whether or not to use that curriculum or program. Not all programs may meet the new standards very well (regardless of the marketing PR) and we won’t know that until they’ve beed tried. So when students fail the tests – is that because of the program the district chose, or the teachers implementing it? Why should individual teachers be held accountable for teaching methods and programs they may not have chosen in the first place?

    It’s insubordination if a teacher refuses to use the adopted curriculum, but then firing if the students don’t pass. What’s a rational, intelligent, creative person to do in this situation other than leave the profession or refuse to enter it?

  26. Lillian and Darell: A teacher’s growth score, when generated by the state, is not a look at how this year’s group did as compared to last year’s group. Rather it is a compilation of how all of a teacher’s students did (individually) this year in comparison to how students similar to each did this year using last year as a starting point.

    Let’s say last year a student named Ann scored a 250, has a disability and gets free lunch. Also imagine there are thousands of similar students like Mary. This year Mary is my student and she scores a 225 this year. That’s not automatically a negative for me the teacher. When I take Mary’s 225 and compare it to that group of similar students from last year, if Mary’s 225 was better than other similar students it translates to a positive for me.

    Now lets take Bill. Last year Bill scored 175, no disability,etc. After a year with me Bill’s score jumps to a 275. Wow! Look at that growth! But if we rank Bill’s performance against those other students across the state similar to him, we find he actually didn’t grow as much as his peers. Negative for me.

    That’s been really hard for educators to grasp. The state growth score is not connected to student achievements. I could have a room full of students who all score low, low, low. But if they grew more than similar students I can end up with a high growth score. And vice versa. I can have a room of super great students. But if they don’t grow like their peers across the state, I can end up with a low score. This is the growth part of a teacher’s score, not student achievement (which Mrs. Lederman scored perfectly on).

    There are 15-20 criteria to define “similar students,” and each student is pulled and compared to similar students. The state growth score has nothing to do with this group of students doing better than las year’s group of students. It’s how did each student grow on my watch in comparison to other similar students over the same time period with the same starting point.

    Please don’t read this as a defense of the system. Simply I think if we want to have a reasoned conversation about the topic (I do!), we should have the basics down pat, even if it means getting in the weeds. I’d also say if you going to publish (or sue) you’d want the same.

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