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‘Creative … Motivating’ and Fired

March 12, 2012

‘Creative … motivating’ and fired

Wow, when you read this story in the Washington Post about a promising second year teacher who was fired because of Value-Added teacher measurements it makes the point hit home that something is really rotten here.  Luckily for this woman she was rehired by another school, but the fact remains that she was fired.

This ties in with my previous articles having to do with teacher satisfaction rates and how they are dropping across America.  What we do as teachers is hard work.  By the time Friday rolls around and I make it home I am physically and mentally spent, as are the majority of the teachers I work with.  When you work as hard as we do and then feel like you have no job security as many teachers are finding out is the case because of value-added, it just leads to even more dissatisfaction.

By the end of her second year at MacFarland Middle School, fifth-grade teacher Sarah Wysocki was coming into her own.

“It is a pleasure to visit a classroom in which the elements of sound teaching, motivated students and a positive learning environment are so effectively combined,” Assistant Principal Kennard Branch wrote in her May 2011 evaluation.

He urged Wysocki to share her methods with colleagues at the D.C. public school. Other observations of her classroom that year yielded good ratings.

Two months later, she was fired.

Wysocki, 31, was let go because the reading and math scores of her students didn’t grow as predicted. Her undoing was “value-added,” a complex statistical tool used to measure a teacher’s direct contribution to test results. The District and at least 25 states, under prodding from the Obama administration, have adopted or are developing value-added systems to assess teachers.

When her students fell short, the low value-added trumped her positives in the classroom. Under the D.C. teacher evaluation system, called IMPACT , the measurement counted for 50 percent of her annual appraisal. Classroom observations, such as the one Branch conducted, represented 35 percent, and collaboration with the school community and schoolwide testing trends made up the remaining 15 percent.

You can thank Michelle Rhee for the IMPACT system!  Rhee has done more harm to teachers than most people know.  In time this damage will come out, but for now we have situations like what this article is talking about.

Her story opens a rare window into the revolution in how teachers across the country are increasingly appraised — a mix of human observation and remorseless algorithm that is supposed to yield an authentic assessment of effectiveness. In the view of school officials, Wysocki, one of 206 D.C. teachers fired for poor performance in 2011, was appropriately judged by the same standards as her peers. Colleagues and friends say she was swept aside by a system that doesn’t always capture a teacher’s true value.

Proponents of value-added contend that it is a more meaningful yardstick of teacher effectiveness — growth over time — than a single year’s test scores. They also contend that classroom observations by school administrators can easily be colored by personal sentiments or grudges. Researchers for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation reported in 2010 that a teacher’s value-added track record is among the strongest predictors of student achievement gains.

Which is why D.C. school officials have made it the largest component of their evaluation system for teachers in grades with standardized tests. The District aims to expand testing so that 75 percent of classroom teachers can be rated using value-added data. Now, only about 12 percent are eligible.

“We put a lot of stock in it,” said Jason Kamras, chief of human capital for D.C. schools.

Yet even researchers and educators who support value-added caution that it can, in essence, be overvalued. Test results are too vulnerable to conditions outside a teacher’s control, some experts say, to count so heavily in a high-stakes evaluation. Poverty, learning disabilities and random testing day incidents such as illness, crime or a family emergency can skew scores.

There are 4 pages to this article, I highly suggest to my readers that you click through and read what is happening to teachers in this country…yes, with full knowledge and support of the Obama administration.

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