Intercepts

A listening post monitoring public education and teachers’ unions.

What Can Happen When You Use Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 21•14

Nothing.

Dateline – Delaware:

Zero percent of Delaware teachers were rated ineffective and only 1 percent were rated “needs improvement” during the last school year, leaving more than half of teachers to be rated effective and almost half to be rated highly effective.

The new evaluation system stirred controversy when the state announced it would be factoring in standardized test scores. Some educators argued test scores don’t necessarily measure good teaching and don’t account for outside factors like parent involvement. And they worried their evaluations, and job situations, could suffer for circumstances beyond their control.

But in both years when test scores were considered, 99 percent of teachers received passing grades.

…Before a school board can fire a teacher based on evaluations, that teacher must have two straight years rated ineffective or three years of ineffective and needs improvement.

…Another reason Component V did not cause many teachers to earn low rankings is because administrators are still overwhelmingly choosing to bump teachers up to satisfactory instead of ineffective when they have the option.

…In almost 85 percent of cases where teachers earned an unsatisfactory in one part of Component V and a satisfactory on the other, administrators chose to give them an overall satisfactory rating.

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Opt-Out: Great Success or Great Failure?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 20•14

Chalkbeat reports that 1,925 New York City students opted out of the state’s standardized tests in protest. That’s a 450% increase from last year.

On the other hand, 410,000 city students took the tests, which means the opt-out students constitute less than one-half of one percent of the total.

I hope they realize this, but we won’t know for sure because they didn’t take the math test.

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Deo et Patriae

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 19•14

The Wall Street Journal featured a story about my alma mater this morning on its 100th anniversary, Regis High School in New York City.

Founded in 1914 by an anonymous benefactor and supported by the generosity of her family, its alumni and friends, Regis High School offers a tuition free Jesuit college preparatory education to Roman Catholic young men from the New York metropolitan area who demonstrate superior intellectual and leadership potential. In the admissions process, special consideration is given to those who cannot otherwise afford a Catholic education.

Well, I don’t know how much leadership potential I demonstrated but I couldn’t otherwise afford a Catholic education, so I was fortunate to be accepted. Regis can be considered the very first voucher school, albeit privately funded.

The occasion for the article is the school’s REACH program, which recruits fifth-graders from racial and ethnic minorities and prepares them for Regis’ demanding academics.

Every year, Regis High School picks about 40 fifth-grade Catholic boys with promise for an intensive boot camp that includes four years of summer school, plus Saturday classes every fall and spring. At the end, usually about a third of them have the grades, test scores and commitment to get seats at Regis.

The curriculum is still difficult, though it doesn’t surprise me that students are no longer required to take three years of either Latin or Ancient Greek (both are still available as electives). Alas, these young lads need not experience entire weekends spent trying to determine whether particular lines in The Odyssey contain a genitive absolute or an aorist infinitive. Instead, I hope, they spend their free time on a subject we had difficulty mastering when I went there: how to talk to girls.

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What Happened to Eddie Tech?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 18•14

Click here to read.

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First Responder

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 18•14

When United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew decided his union would co-sponsor Al Sharpton’s March for Justice for Victims of Police Brutality, he probably wasn’t expecting a lot of blowback. But he failed to recognize that the president of the police officers’ union could be just as bombastic as he.

 “It is absolutely ridiculous that [Mulgrew] . . . would waste his members’ dues to get involved with a march that has nothing to do with teachers or his union,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Pat Lynch told the New York Post.

“Mulgrew knows that the UFT is under siege from all sides, and this is purely an attempt to distract attention from that mounting criticism,” Lynch added, and asked, “How would he like it if police officers lined up with the activists who oppose his efforts to shield bad teachers and undermine effective charter schools?”

A number of UFT members are upset enough with Mulgrew to call for his resignation, though that effort will go nowhere.

On its Facebook page the union noted its “long history of activism” and stated “UFT members who choose to take part in Saturday’s march will be continuing that history. We support the right to due process for all people, especially police officers, who often do difficult jobs under trying circumstances.”

The UFT social media writer probably received a commendation for working “due process” into that paragraph.

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Is It Dark Money If We All Know Where It Came From?

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 15•14

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is upset that the Kansas Values Institute ran ads against his education record. The organization is not required to reveal its donors, leading opponents to refer to the funds spent on these ads as “dark money.”

But if an organization in a red state like Kansas is attacking a Republican governor’s education record, the ultimate source of the money is hardly in doubt. A minimum amount of research revealed the Kansas Values Institute received $120,000 from the Kansas NEA political action committee, and it has received cash from NEA national headquarters in the past.

This shouldn’t be a mystery. You can refer to Utah in 2007, or South Dakota in 2008, or Idaho in 2012 (not to mention Alabama this year).

There is plenty of grassroots activism in this country, but not a lot of grassroots cash. It’s good to know who’s bankrolling whom, but at the same time it’s safe to assume it’s the other side’s rich bad guys.

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NYSUT Doesn’t Endorse Cuomo

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Aug• 14•14

New York State United Teachers decided not to endorse Andrew Cuomo for reelection as governor. This isn’t much of a surprise considering that most members despise him. NYSUT didn’t endorse him in 2010 either.

NYSUT’s officers might think this is the only practical course to take, but as I mentioned last week, there is no upside to remaining neutral. A minority faction wanted opposition to Cuomo, regardless of what form it might take. They have a point.

NYSUT didn’t want to endorse a third-party candidate with virtually no chance of winning, but in the end it endorsed no one. Whatever happens in November, someone will win. That puts the union on the losing side. Stand by for four more years of complaining.

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