Are we basing too much of a teacher’s evaluation on a $12 fill-in-the blank test?

Of the many speakers at Friday’s media forum sponsored by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, was the most provocative, probably because he was the least beholden. The institute is a Washington-based education-policy think tank.

Fordham's Michael Petrilli both spoke and led a panel at a media forum Friday sponsored by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. (GPEE Photo)

Fordham’s Michael Petrilli both spoke and led a panel at a media forum Friday sponsored by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. (GPEE Photo)

Most speakers at the all-day forum for education reporters worked for the state of Georgia or deal with the state so their comments tended to be more circumspect.

A self-described conservative and a noted education reform voice, Petrilli applauded Gov. Nathan Deal’s efforts to create a state school district that will take over failing schools from districts. Georgia voters will decide in November whether to grant the governor the ability to wrest control of schools from districts and place them in an Opportunity School District where they could be remade as charter schools. Deal modeled his proposal after takeover districts in New Orleans and Tennessee.

Petrilli made an interesting point about why yanking a school out of a local district could spur improvement. “My experience has been that the problem isn’t schools are dysfunctional; the system is dysfunctional. If you try to fix the school and the system doesn’t change, the school will go right back to failing,” he said.

By freeing a struggling school from system with a poorly functioning human resources system or inert central office leadership, you could be giving it a “new lease on life so it can turn around and succeed,” he said.

While the governor would have appreciated Petrilli’s support of his state takeover plan, Nathan Deal probably would not have liked his comments about merit pay. Petrilli said Georgia may be the only state using students’ academic performance — how they perform on standardized tests  — for half of a teacher’s evaluation. Other states rely less on test scores to gauge teacher effectiveness, he said.

Basing 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on a student performance on a single test is bound to upset teachers, said Petrilli, especially if the test is questionable.

Petrilli remains disappointed Georgia pulled out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a collection of state education officials designing a new Common Core test. Georgia decided the cost of the PARCC tests was too high so it opted to create its own cheaper version, the Milestones.

When Georgia announced in 2013 it was leaving PARCC and going it alone, Petrilli tweeted, “Shame on Georgia. You really can’t afford to spend 1/3 of 1% of your per pupil funding on tests?”

Petrilli says Georgia ended up with a “$12 fill-in-the blank test.” The test that came out of PARCC — which Petrilli called “dramatically better” — costs about $29.50 per student.

Among other notable comments at the media forum:

State School Superintendent Richard Woods spoke about his first year in office, a year in which he stayed well out of political frays, avoiding stands on Deal’s Opportunity School District or merit pay.

That did not change at Friday’s forum.

After giving us a summary of DOE’s recent teacher survey, which revealed widespread discontent with performance pay, I asked Woods why he wasn’t speaking out against Deal’s merit pay plan. It was clear the dispiriting survey results pained Woods, who appeared to tear up as he explained how unhappy teachers were and how most did not want their children to follow in their footsteps.

Given Woods’ obvious angst over teacher dissatisfaction, why not discourage the governor from pressing for merit pay? (A new AJC poll found only 39 percent of Georgia voters support “merit pay” for teachers.)

Woods responded he was not aware yet of the form Deal’s merit plan would take, telling me, “With respect to the governor, I’ve not seen the final project or what it looks like. I don’t want to overstep my bounds.”

Asked the same question in a slightly different way by another reporter a few minutes later, Woods repeated, “I have not seen what the governor’s full proposal will be… I don’t wish to impose on him in that.”

During a break, my AJC colleague Kyle Wingfield and I agreed Woods’ responses show the estrangement between the governor’s office and the DOE, a chasm that grew to a canyon under former state school chief John Barge.

You would assume a Republican governor would be discussing his plans for merit pay and the Opportunity School District with the Republican state school superintendent, and that Woods would not be waiting to see the final proposal but helping to craft it. Woods made it clear you would be assuming wrong.

There is more from the forum I want to share. I will post later Monday on some other interesting stuff.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
jaggar1
jaggar1

Politics is the total downfall of education across this country. People whom have no knowledge of children and their development are running our education system. The Milestones test had children reading two extremely long passages and comparing them. It took many children 30 minutes to read the two passages and then they had to read confusing questions to answer and answer constructed response. There were two or three sets of these passages. Whoever created this crap needs to get out of the business. Holding teachers accountable for this test is ignorant.


Our country continues to fall behind, because educators are not consulted. They are told what to do and have no say in any area of the classroom, yet the public likes to place blame on the teachers. It is very sad and won't get better until the politicians stay out of education. Governor Deal wants to close down public education and have it for profit. You will no longer need to be certified and can do whatever you want if you own the business. The public need to wake up and blame the politicians not the teachers.


Of course, then you have the issue of parents. Most districts are now majority minority. The illegals don't send their kids to school on a regular basis and don't help them at home. The kids that are Title I have parents who don't care. These kids don't do homework and disrupt the classroom, but the teacher needs to try and deliver the standards around all of the distractions with no support from administration. 


75% of teachers are leaving by the 5th year. We have a shortage of teachers, and college students applying for an education degree has dropped 41%.  Go ahead and continue the low salaries, take away retirement, and increase premiums for insurance, because that will help the situation! Houston-we have a massive problem! 


The lowest paying job, yet it is responsible for creating doctors, lawyers, athletes, etc. Horribly sad!

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@jaggar1 

 "The public need to wake up and blame the politicians not the teachers."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You have stated the educational problem beautifully.  Citizens, wake up and support Georgia's new Democratic Party.  At least, its representatives will give professional educators a voice and not try to make education a for-profit industry for opportunists, as the present Republican Party is doing.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jaggar1 Around here, the Latinos are the BEST about sending their children to school.  Perhaps in some areas the parents are different.


Also,around here (all Title 1 schools) the misbehaving students come from homes all over the financial spectrum. Some of the best-behaved are the poorest (see paragraph above.)

Starik
Starik

@Wascatlady @jaggar1 The quality of schools varies widely by school district...as does the characteristics of the students and teachers.  Wascatlady, aren't you in NW Georgia? 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

Why is it so hard? One diploma......One giant failure! General, College, and Technical would solve many problems.

Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 Yes, it would, but it would be hard to sustain because of the lack of "racial equity"

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Starik @JBBrown1968 I am not so sure anymore. College is almost at of reach for what is left of the middle class. Global economy is a joke and a buzz word like accountability. No one holds our elected officials accountable! 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

When Georgia announced in 2013 it was leaving PARCC and going it alone, Petrilli tweeted, “Shame on Georgia. You really can’t afford to spend 1/3 of 1% of your per pupil funding on tests?”


Pshaw.  Once again, the issue with PARCC was never cost - "cost" was simply the excuse raised to reject the new exams.  The real goal was to have Georgia-specific exams that can't be compared with other states' results.  This way, it's much harder to hold Georgia's education establishment accountable.


MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@AlreadySheared At the time Georgia pulled out of PARCC, it was spending between $10 and $11 per test, which was less than many other states. Most states involved in PARCC were already spending $29 per test, so the PARCC price tag did not faze them as they were already paying that much. 

Georgia said it could not afford to pay for a more complex test -- which is largely due to the much stronger writing component in PARCC and the greater complexity of the questions. 

Here is the problem: When you attach such high-stakes to a test as student promotion and now possibly teacher pay, you have to have a heck of a test.

Michael O'Sullivan, state director of StudentsFirst in Georgia, defended the use of Milestones during a panel Friday, noting the failure rates from the first year better reflected Georgia's NAEP performance. (I asked the panel whether we knew yet after one year of Milestones that the test meant something and that it was a "good" test.)

But are high failure rates -- which tend to come any time states roll out new tests -- an assurance of quality? 


Starik
Starik

@JBBrown1968 @Starik @Wascatlady @AlreadySheared The teachers, most of them chose to go to jail by refusing plea bargains.  If they had accepted the deal, only the leaders would have had any jail time - I don't recall the details.  They would have been excluded from the profession and properly so. 



CSpinks
CSpinks

@AlreadySheared You're a brave person for publicly stating that the imperial GaPubEd educracy is wearing no clothes. 

CSpinks
CSpinks

@AlreadySheared GaPubEd ditched the ITBS almost ten years ago during the funds-paucity following The Great Recession. As one who has followed for years the issue of  GA's use of nationally-normed tests, I appreciated their decision as the GA educracy's effort to keep our state's educational stakeholders in the dark about how poorly prepared too many of our HS grads are.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@MaureenDowney @AlreadySheared To base the totality of student promotion and teacher compensation decisions upon the results of one standardized testing would be folly. To dismiss standardized testing results as one criterion in each of those decisions would also be foolish.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Yeah, you'd think that actual teachers, as well as the state superintendent (who had been in the classroom 20+ years as I recall?), would be consulted.  Or even the policy wonks at UGa--we have several notable ones.


Instead, those who know something (rather than think it,based on their small experiential level) are marginalized, at the expense of the children of Georgia.


I can just see Medicare reimbursement being tied into mortality rates, or hospital readmission rates.  So, doctors, if your patients don't do as well as a know-nothing thinks they "should" (no matter the patient's other personal issues and history), you get half of a small reimbursement.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Wascatlady The implications of your comments in the third-paragraph above are incorrect. Such "big data"-based health care reimbursements are coming.

jezel
jezel

Apparently Woods is part of the problem. No back bone.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Wascatlady @jezel I think Richard Woods is going to have a very pleasant four years in office. And, he is going to win another four if he wants them. And part of that is because he sees his role as administrator rather than leader and that keeps him out of firing range. Avoiding controversy is one way to keep your job in politics. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@jezel He saw what happened to his predecessor. The State Superintendent has virtually no power now.

Charles_Crew
Charles_Crew

@MaureenDowney @Wascatlady @jezel Isn't that sad? Funny how APS teachers caught hell for doing the same during the cheating scandal. Education is so politicized that being quiet and amenable is dang near a requirement to get to retirement.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney 

I still admire Dr. John Barge's moral courage, however.  And, I still think he should be nominated/recommended for a John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MaureenDowney @Wascatlady @jezel What I don't understand of Mr. Woods is how he could even pretend to be surprised about the results of the survey.  How long has he been out of the common classroom, that the results were a revelation?

Legong
Legong

It's shameful that this column continually seeks to undermine testing and accountability.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@Legong Please read Maureen's previous "Get Schooled" entry.

jezel
jezel

@Legong Not as shameful as the attempt to undermine public education by slimy politicians....for personal gain. Does anyone believe that the education reform movement is altruistic ?

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Legong  Where did you read that? Seems they just want a voice in the process, because it's there lively hood. 

CSpinks
CSpinks

Why should we make a student's test performance more important to his teacher than to him/her? Why mandate test results' counting for 20% of a student's grade but for 50% of his/her teacher's?

Ugaboss
Ugaboss

Now that is an excellent question.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I await, with interest, your additional posts on this matter, Maureen Downey.  Thank you.