Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tests, teachers and zombies

The N.C. Board of Education is trying again to turn student test scores into a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness.  At today's meeting in Raleigh,  members will talk about using the new tests that debut this spring to calculate ratings for teacher and principal job evaluations.

According to the online presentation,  this year's teacher evaluations included a rating that combined  the progress their own students made on 2012 tests and the school's overall growth.  That approach was supposed to encourage teamwork and provide ratings for teachers whose students don't take state exams.  But in reality,  the school numbers pulled down about 2,850 effective teachers and bumped up about 2,650 teachers whose individual ratings were low,  the presentation says.

"The inclusion of school-wide growth hurt high-performing teachers working in low-performing schools and discourages high-performing teachers from working in the schools where they are needed most,"  the report says.  For 2013,  the Department of Public Instruction is urging the board to base teacher ratings only on student scores they're directly responsible for.

Value-added ratings created a backlash when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools tried them three years ago.  This time around,  they'll be based on new, more complicated exams.  And the teacher value is being calculated through a system known as EVAAS,  a proprietary private formula  that can't be double-checked by teachers or districts.  That's raising concerns among local educators,  including Superintendent Heath Morrison.

Meanwhile,  some of the folks who fought the CMS testing are reviving the effort.  Mecklenburg ACTS has launched a "No Testing Zombies" campaign,  with a rally planned before Tuesday's school board meeting. The slogan:  "How are standardized tests like zombies? They're mindless and they just keep coming."  Laurie Smithwick,  a Chantilly Montessori mom who runs a design firm,  created the logo of zombies in a school-crossing sign.  As of Wednesday evening, the group had 579 signatures on its electronic petition urging state officials to put the teacher-rating effort on hold.

There's been some back-and-forth on this blog and in the Observer's editorial section about the number of new tests being rolled out this year,  based partly on whether you define a new version of a previously-tested subject as "new."  I hope to get a more detailed breakdown on Morrison's 177-test tally next week.  In the meantime, MeckACTS has revised its petition to refer to  "more than 100"  new tests.


Pamela Grundy said...

Come and join at our End Testing Madness rally before the school board meeting on April 9. Stop by between 4 and 6, then join us at the meeting. Zombie makeup will be provided for those who wish it.

Regarding the numbers, after controversy over the exact number of new tests, and after looking at the numbers in more depth, we decided the most practical way to deal with the situation was to change the petition language. 177 tests? More than 100 tests? Dozens of tests? Any way you count it, schools are looking at far too many new high-stakes tests. Folks need to be focused on the damage that these tests are doing to our children's education.

To be fair to our signers, we informed them all about the change and offered them the opportunity to remove their signatures if they wished.

Of course, everyone still has the opportunity to sign the petition for the first time. Fight the madness!

Anonymous said...

I'll sign a petition that requires only FLR students to take 100 extra tests.

Wiley Coyote said...

....if the makeup fits....

Ettolrahc said...

Are you going to recruit the living dead teachers I have mentioned on this site for quite some time?

As I always say, I do not not know what bit them, the system or some other support and advocacy group, but they wander the buildings everyday infecting your children with the I do not not care virus everyday.

Ann and Pamela put out a call for them and take notes.

Anonymous said...

I think it was the economy - the 5 year pay freeze that they have been under. The state has infected the teachers by showing they do not care, and unfortunately that is continuing to trickle to the students.

Ettolrahc said...

Five years you say.

I hope the dismal results of our CMS schools over these last twenty some years, were not the result of happy well paid teachers, as that would be even worse than giving it up to those walking dead as being the culprit.

Anonymous said...

I for one am glad that Dr. Morrison is concerned about the impact this could have on CMS and its teachers. Why would anyone want to go to a high-poverty school where the behavior is far worse, parental involvement/support is far lower, and the pressure is much worse?

Yes, a bonus could be offered but it won't keep people there once the contract has been fulfilled. And where will the money come from to pay for it?

Title 1 schools get far more money and resources than the school I am now teaching at. But, for all of that money spent, what are the results? Do the kids care any more? Are the parents any more involved? Or, does this just foster an entitlement mentality? Let me answer my own question with an analogy: if you keep adding combustibles to a fire, the fire gets bigger. A fire is NEVER satisfied with what it has and it always wants more.

The solution? In this teacher's humble opinion I think that CMS should no longer exist. Let each school be run independently, with its own school board made up of members of its local community. It will have the power to hire and dismiss the principal as well as resolve grievances.

Or, if the majority of Mecklenburg taxpayers vote in a referendum to make every school a charter school, so be it.

Or, have a state-wide referendum on education. Voters will choose a) traditional public education; b) making all schools charter; c) vouchers; d) the charter option for each school.

Let CMS make the case for its continued existence and for how wonderful it is. Let the laughs begin.

Ettolrahc said...

Hey we tried to get CMS deconsolidated Imagine manageable learning units focused on the needs of those regional students who need it the most.

And keep in mind how much tax money comes from that wonderful, golden, center city, so those urban schools would get a lot more than the suburban school, you know like the urban schools do now no one seems upset about it.

Oh I forgot to say, how from the reaction and the stories about us in the media, you would have thought we were asking for the end to free stuff in this county.

For some reason folks like an excuse factory, or really a drop out factory working hard for them every day.

But we should make CPCC a learning annex as our CMS graduates on average number about 95 percent who need remedial course just to get those CMS graduates up to speed to take courses at CPCC.

Anonymous said...

Thats great that folks want to fight the mandated testing with CMS. Its a Raleigh issue with the leader Mccrory no back ground in education and no children of his own. CMS fired its lobbyist years ago so it has not say in what comes out of Raleigh today. Its sad , but reality. Heath has no say and his back ground is in blackjack dealers and valets.

Anonymous said...

When is someone going to start having a fit over the fact that testing will start the 2nd week of May for some students and will run all the way through the 3rd and 4th of June, with testing in each and every week. Does anyone see a problem with this? Or maybe we should include more! This schedule is insane.

BolynMcClung said...

AFTER THE RALLY...........

.....will there be a test?

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...


Citizens of Union, Cabarrus, Iredell, Lincoln and Gaston Counties.

Anonymous said...

North Carolina and its leaders have proven again and again that public education is simply not a priority, but business is! Being that Republicans generally have a more holy than thou attitude then perhaps they can reap what they sow!

Anonymous said...

Why would Zombies attend a CMS school board meeting?

I thought they were looking for braaaaiiiinnnnsss!

Anonymous said...

This is a completely ridiculous and unsupportable argument. The performance of a teacher is not an accurate barometer for the improvement of students. It's 100% the behavior of the parents. Providing a nurturing environment and instilling a healthy respect for education is the only thing that produces effective and responsible citizens.

Anonymous said...

Sorry 11:14, but on no account can student performance be blamed on a family or community's culture. It has to be something or someone else's fault. Remember, we don't understand "minority" culture and it is terribly unfair that those living outside that culture are able to do so well in school.

Missouri said...

Sorry folks but we are stuck with all this testing madness many are willing to make a mountain over a molehill. Gov Bev accepted the Race to the Top money and with it came these strings.

You can keep bad mouthing Republicans all you want but the fact of the matter is, the Pres and Arne are also pushing for this. Republicans listen to the business commnity and have heard for a long time that the public school system is not putting out students that can go to work.

You have some better idea of how to identify students who have not captured the material and need more time in the grade, let someone know. You have a better idea of how to identify and compensate highly effective teachers, let someone know. You have a better idea how to weed out those teachers that do not need to be teaching anymore, let us know but please do not put them in public school administration.

Anonymous said...


The kids are already color-coded and zip-coded for success or failure, so no testing is needed.

Besides, "Race To The Top" sounds racist to me so maybe we can stop that, too.

So what else are we missing?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I've always liked standardized tests.

I wouldn't trust half the teachers I've ever had in public schools to recognize intelligence or ability even if it bit them in the face.

Until they eliminate more of the loser teachers and principals out there, I'd rather have some objective measure of "progress" than their opinion or the opinion of an entire panel of subjective "judges".

Pamela Grundy said...


This is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for this mess. Regarding high-stakes tests, Barack Obama's policies are worse than George Bush's were. At the state level, however, Republicans are in control, so they are the ones who can act to fix the mess. It's harder to influence federal policy, but if we can make some headway on the state level we will try.

As we note in our petition, the best way to evaluate both students and teachers is to examine the work that students do during the year. Unfortunately for the tech industry, this has to be done by people, rather than computers.

Anonymous said...

Pam , for once your correct that is why CMS won the Broad award and Gates grants in the past. All in the name of Scott Murri that toad. Wonder how that fool is liking the heat in Atlanta?

Anonymous said...


I think the evaluation is EVAAS


Though I understand the Freudian slip...

Anonymous said...

There's a place for standardized testing but today's excessive obsession with it isn't improving the teaching profession and isn't improving student achievement.

I don't know anything about Scott Murri being a toad but his midas touch failed to turn him into the promised land prince.


Anonymous said...

I'm just so glad I don't have to teach someone else's kids and be judged by their performance.

Especially in a take-all-comers school system.

All this high-stakes testing is due solely to the underperformers in our society.

And our obsession with somehow making them do better than they typically want to do themselves.

Seriously, it's time to just stop.

Leave those children behind and focus on the ones who care and whose parents care.

Such a waste.

Ettolrahc said...

As a volunteer at these schools where the drop out rate for young black males is sixty percent, I can tell you what would work for the school system.

When parents come in to scream and yell about their little one, put it on the CMS Television live and youtube.

Then read them the history of their little one and what they have been doing along with their grades and the like.

Having more police available right outside the door will make the show much more interesting.

I know this will not help keep kids in schools but the advertising revenue from these shows will help pay for those kids and parents who give a darn.

Anonymous said...

You got that right. There is NO way around this problem if a child does not have parents, or a parent that cares about education. A child either has it or doesn't, and either is from a family (i use that term loosely) that gives a darn or not. I teach preschool and I can already tell who will be successful and who won't.

Anonymous said...

As a refresher course, the previous school board approved a plan that included standardized testing modern dance and marching band. I'm not sure The Zombie Dance was in development for the test. As Wiley would say, I can't make this stuff up.


Anonymous said...

I'm thinking a 22 member task-force committee devoted to developing a scoring rubric for marching dance and modern band....

Anyone care to join me?


Anonymous said...


I think you may be on to something.

Let's make "CMS TV" something of a national sensation.

It could be the latest "reality" show to make it big.

Something like COPS.

If Chicago doesn't beat us to the punch.

I'm hoping more iPads in schools will accomplish the same thing, if only on an "underground" station kind of way.

Like some of the stuff you can already find on YouTube regarding unruly, disruptive "classes".

I just love what's happening in Obama's old town of Chicago.

Couldn't happen to a better place.

Of course, the Chicago reaction will be MORE violence.

Because if other school closings in other high-poverty, high-minority places are any indication, merging schools is like merging gangs.

A lot of these "rival" schools really hate each other.

As if killing over 500 homicides a year isn't bad enough.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Oops, 4:57, you are right. I've corrected it.

Anonymous said...

Ev ass - that's gold Jerry.

Maybe the state legislature intends for the standardized tests to be taken by teachets?

Anonymous said...

All Involved CMS parties