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CA Teachers Union Calls for Newspaper Boycott as NYC Parents Demand Answers

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By Linda Dobson

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Later this month, The Times will publish a database of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers ranked by their ability to improve students' scores on standardized tests, marking the first time such information had been released publicly.

After the Los Angeles Times ran an article they termed an “analysis of teacher effectiveness,” David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, said, “Publishing the database … is irresponsible and disrespectful to the hard-working teachers of Los Angeles.” He has called for teachers to boycott the newspaper.

Diane Ravitch, as well as countless teachers who commented on the article, agree. However:

California Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss also weighed in Monday, saying that the state will encourage districts to develop and release value-added scores for teachers.

“Publishing this data is not about demonizing teachers,” Reiss said. “It’s going to create a more market-driven approach to results.”

Reiss said the data would give administrators a better idea of which instructors need professional development. It’s unclear how quickly a statewide value-added system could be built, but Reiss said districts, especially the larger ones, should be able to move quickly.

“The data is there,” Reiss said.

U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asked, “What is there to hide?” and added, “”In education, we’ve been scared to talk about success.” (Really? Don’t we have a problem in NYC because touted “successes” were anything but?)

And the Times isn’t done; they’re planning on publishing more data.

Later this month, The Times will publish a database of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers ranked by their ability to improve students’ scores on standardized tests, marking the first time such information had been released publicly. Already, roughly 700 teachers have requested and received their scores, enabling them to comment before publication.

Not be left out of the fray, outspoken Michelle Rhee, Washington, D. C. school chancellor, was contacted for a statement.

…she would also consider making value-added scores available publicly. The district has adopted an evaluation plan that uses value-added scores as one element of performance reviews. Rhee recently fired 26 teachers based largely on their poor value-added scores — but has not given parents access to the data.

“It would have to be managed in the right way and … given the right context,” she said.

Rhee said releasing the statistics could confuse parents and pose logistical problems for administrators who could be besieged with demands from parents for high-scoring teachers.

But Rhee also said the scores could empower the public to demand change.

“Even though it would certainly cause potential challenges for the district, it’s the right sort of pressure we want to see to reform the system,” Rhee said.

We also hear from Houston.

Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, has used value-added analysis during previous posts in San Diego, North Carolina and Tennessee. He said that as part of an employee’s confidential evaluation, value-added scores are protected under state privacy laws.

But in Los Angeles and other districts that don’t use value-added as a part of teachers’ evaluations, it could be released and might inspire parents to demand better schools.

“What’s more chaotic — a failing high school or releasing scores?” he asked.

And finally, Rick Hess, a blogger with Education Week, offered up a compromise that he wishes the Times might have considered.

Would it have really been such a compromise to have kept teacher names anonymous and to have reported scores by school, or community, or in terms of citywide distribution?

Woman Using MegaphoneNow off to New York City, where  “Protesting Parents Bring School Board Meeting to a Halt,” according to an article at the website, Gotham Schools. You may recall that after the testing monster raised the yardstick, teachers, parents and even the mayor were suprised to find out the kids weren’t learning as much as they thought they were. (For the sake of hearing the rest of the story, you just have to let this one go, I’m afraid.)

“You dumbed down the tests and the fact is, our kids are not being prepared for college and the world of work,” Ocynthia Williams, one of the coalition’s parent leaders, said into a bull horn.

The protest reach its peak when a child climbed onto the stage and was escorted off by a security guard, angering an already-emotional crowd. While parents yelled at the guard, the child burst into tears.

An hour after the meeting officially began, panel members called it off. By then the protestors had begun marching around the auditorium’s perimeter and calling for the panel members to reappear.

City officials blamed the coalition for disrupting the meeting.

The New York Times report on this story included the following:

The upheaval began after Mr. Klein, among others on the stage, said that despite the drop in this year’s scores after the state recalibrated its standardized exams, students citywide were still making substantial progress, based on graduation rates and other data.

In response, a panelist, Patrick Sullivan, moved to open the floor to public comments about test scores. Though a second panelist, Anna Santos, seconded the motion, it was denied by the chairman, David C. Chang, who pointed out that time for comments had been allotted after scheduled business.

With that, the crowd erupted into boos and chants of “Let the parents speak.”

“Where is the accountability?” asked Evelyn Feliciano of West Tremont, in the Bronx, who said her son’s scores had dropped drastically.

The testing changes, which were designed to make them more rigorous, caused fewer students to pass and made gaps in achievement among racial and ethnic groups more pronounced. More than half of all students failed English, and only 54 percent passed math.

While similar results were seen statewide, it was a particular disappointment to city officials, who had cited the success in raising test scores since 2002.

“It’s extremely unfortunate that parents who came to voice their opinions before the panel could not be heard tonight because a small, unruly group refused to respect the process and wait for the public comment period to begin,” Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in a statement.

The aforementioned Patrick Sullivan explains at the NYC Public School Parents blog what happened at the meeting to help rile parents who were already upset.

The public agenda issued prior to the meeting contained no indication that the Panel would consider the enormous controversy surrounding the state testing debacle, yet a fifteen minute session was added for a DOE staffer to present a defense of the administration’s record in student achievement.

At the conclusion of the session, I made a motion to add a public comment session to the agenda to allow the audience to comment on the presentation. It is common for public comment sessions to be placed on the agenda following important presentations. It was clear the purpose of the presentation was to deflect the intense criticism of the DOE’s educational record and would not address the concerns of the many parents who, after years of being told their children were doing better, are now being told their children are not proficient. I felt it essential that the parents in the audience have an opportunity to comment and share their perspective with the Panel. My motion was seconded by Bronx Representative Anna Santos.

Rather than hold the vote on the motion, Chairman David Chang said he would disregard the motion based on his authority over “procedural matters”. Chang’s action was a clear violation of Article 2 of the Panel’s bylaws that require a vote of the Panel when a member seeks to add an item:

If a member of the Panel for Educational Policy requests that an item be placed on the calendar at a calendar meeting, the Chairperson shall take a vote of the Panel members regarding whether such item shall be added to the calendar. An item may be added to the calendar at the meeting by majority vote of those present. (Article 2, Section 2.4)
The audience was outraged and began to demand a voice. After several admonishments and instructions to “behave”, Chairman Chang adjourned the meeting.

Additional coverage at Education Notes Online states that the parents held a meeting after the panel walked off.

Parents are beginning to see, at long last, that the education emperor has no clothes, and coupled with budget cuts, this is all going to get worse over the next few years before (if ever) it gets better. Given the situation, if your children are of school age, this is an excellent time to consider letting them skip the wars and their fall-out, and bring them home.

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4 Responses to “CA Teachers Union Calls for Newspaper Boycott as NYC Parents Demand Answers”

  1. SoCalLynn says:

    I found this statement by the president of the Unified Teachers of Los Angeles union,in his rebuttal to the first article, to be quite laughable and ironic. Quote

    "You're leading people in a dangerous direction, making it seem like you can judge the quality of a teacher by … a test," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has more than 40,000 members."

    Isn't that what they do to the students every year, judge the quality of their learning based on "a test?"

    I'm so glad we homeschool!

    Lynn

  2. Exactly, Lynn, it's incredible! And I'm glad you homeschool, too. [bwg]

  3. Diane Brown says:

    Have you considered all the factors beyond the teacher's control that affect test results? Nutrition, lack of early training, disengaged parents, violence in the home, undiagnosed leaning disabilities, etc.

  4. grandma_linda says:

    Diane,
    The factors you mention have always been with us through the years. What's wrong is not the fault of teachers, parents or students. It's the system that doesn't work, and now it's grown so large it's financially unsustainable. The system has to change or it's going to disappear (this year's school closings are a good indicator of that).
    Thanks for being here, reading, and commenting.

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