Every Child Deserves a Great Education

Archive for March, 2012

Academicia: Kids re-enact the Oscar nominees 0

Posted on March 19, 2012 by dmayer

Embrace your inner teachiness.

Jest is proud to present our first installment of the year’s best movies, as performed for and by children. Feeling guilty because you didn’t see half the nominees this year? Watch this instead!

My favorite is the one in which the kids re-enact a scene from Moneyball (“We should use math!”) Enjoy!

I was rejected by Teach for America 0

Posted on March 13, 2012 by dmayer

I was turned down by Teach for America. This year is the first that teachers have been eligible to apply. It may have something to do with all those millions of tax dollars our government rationed out to the organization, or it may have something to do with discrimination, or both. Teach for America has staked its entire service on the notion that professional teachers won’t teach in the schools where they place recruits. I’m an excellent teacher, so I thought I’d apply.


Before I even finished my online application, a recruiter from TFA gave me a call. He wanted to know what I had in mind to do after my teaching experience. I said I wanted to teach. I explained that I was a teacher with administration credentials, so I might want to become a principal, but mostly I just wanted to teach under-served children in a struggling school. I explained that I was an excellent teacher and had received awards for my teaching. He said that was fine, and if I really wanted to teach that was okay, but the “chatter” over the next couple of months, he said, will be all about what I wanted to do after my teaching commitment was up. He then encouraged me to finish my application to qualify for the phone interview. (TFA loves to promote its high number of applicants, so they don’t like to let any nibblers get away.)

At that point, I was pretty sure I didn’t stand a chance, but I was curious about the process and if I could make it, so I finished the online application. It was fairly standard until I came to the section asking about my affiliation to several different organizations. I was a member of none. Then there were some curious questions asking me about student loans and if I intended to borrow money to pay for expenses if I was accepted. I said no to that as well.

Some people are accepted at that point. I wasn’t. Apparently being affiliated to one or another of those groups assures your acceptance. Somehow magically, at that point, some applicants are foisted straight to the in-person interview, bypassing the online questions and activities and the phone interview. TFA doesn’t explain how that decision is made, just that they know. WOW! But not me, I guess being an excellent teacher was not a strong indicator. I was asked to answer more questions and to give my opinions about some strange situations that had nothing to do with teaching ability.

In fact, throughout the entire application and interview process, I wasn’t asked one question about my education philosophy, knowledge, or skills. I wasn’t asked about my experiences working with kids. Not one question during the phone interview pertained to my teaching. I thought that odd. I was applying for a teaching position, wasn’t I?

The next communication I received from TFA asked for my input about the application and interview process. It was not an anonymous survey, and it must be completed before I would be notified of my status — optional, of course. Hmmm. The first interviewer had hung up on my repeatedly. Bad connection, he said, after I called him back each time. The online activity had scrolling problems which is a concern when taking a timed test. (I wondered if children ever had that problem when taking standardized tests.) Hmmm. Would I be chastised for telling the truth? Would my lack of participation be looked upon as capricious? Hmmm. The entire process was lovely, I lied. What else would one say?

A few days later I was notified that I had failed the phone interview. I was rejected by form letter. I’m sharing it with you here.

Dear _____________,

Thank you very much for your interest in Teach For America and for the time and effort you invested in applying to our program and speaking with an interviewer. I am very sorry to inform you that, after careful consideration of your candidacy, we did not select you to advance to the next stage of our admissions process.

Your initiative in applying to Teach For America demonstrates your commitment to expanding opportunities for children and effecting social change, and we would like to offer all candidates a path to realizing these aims. This said, we know that Teach For America is not a fit for everyone. While acknowledging the limitations of any selection process, we have developed a set of admissions criteria over time that helps us identify those most likely to be successful in our particular program.

We know, however, that you have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting our country’s pressing social needs, and we encourage you to pursue other ways to make a difference. To assist you in your pursuit, we have posted on our website a list of recommended resources. Additionally, if you are interested in being contacted by educational and service-oriented organizations that may wish to recruit Teach For America applicants for similar opportunities, you can complete a short form here.

I am sorry that we will not be able to provide individual feedback on admissions decisions, given that we do not have the resources to handle the volume of potential requests. Although this e-mail may bring disappointment, I hope that your experience with Teach For America thus far has been positive. If you would like to share any anonymous feedback on our admissions process, we welcome your reflections and suggestions here.

I wish you the best in your future endeavors.


Sean Waldheim
Vice President, Admissions

Here are a few of the fakers I lost out to.

I think if I made a rad effort I could totally groove with these guys. Honey badger the achievement gap, indeed. Snap. Your loss TFA.

Note that the rejection letter makes no reference to teaching either. Here are some of the things I won’t be receiving because I was rejected by Teacher for America. Note that none of these things is paid for by Teach for America even though it collects millions. Teach for America hires no teachers.

Snapshot of Corps Member Compensation

* Salary ranging from $30,000 to $51,000
* Health insurance
* Retirement benefits
* AmeriCorps education award of $10,700
* Loan forbearance and paid interest for two years
* $1,000 – $6,000 of no-interest loans or grants for relocation
* Educator discounts
* Exclusive scholarships and benefits from grad schools and employers

If you are an educator, I suggest you check out Educator Discounts because you may be eligible for some of them. In other words, you don’t have to be a Teach for America recruit to take advantage of many of them.

I know I’m not the only teacher rejected by Teach for America this year. TFA must stop leading with the mantra that certified, experienced teachers will not teach in poor schools. It is simply not true. It is a matter of recruitment and access to jobs. Teachers simply do not have access to TFA jobs because, inexplicably, the government has promised them to untrained, inexperienced corps members who do real harm to children and cost school districts millions. It’s time to stop this foolish, elitist jobs program and give every child a professional teacher.

In the meantime, I wish the new crop of TFAers well. I hope each of you have a better experience than John Bilby, and if you don’t, I hope you’ll have the courage to tell the world about it because every child deserves a great education.

Diane Ravitch in Portland March 20, 2010 0

Posted on March 12, 2012 by dmayer

Our public schools aren’t failing!

Education reformers would like us to believe that our public school system is in shambles, teachers are failing our students, and as a result we need to implement more rigorous methods of evaluation (ie. standardized testing). Are we really any worse off than we were 50 years ago? Are schools really failing, or are we looking at education through an out of focus lens? Join Diane as she focuses on the realities of education today.

Illahee Lecture
Date: March 20, 2012
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Lincoln High School, 1600 SW Salmon Street
Tickets: $20.00
Register here

Date: March 20, 2012
Time: 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Location: First Unitarian Church, SW 13th and Salmon Street
Tickets: free
Register here


Diane Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University, a historian of education, and educational policy analyst. From 1991-94 she was Assistant Secretary of Education and led the effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. From 1997 to 2004, she was a member of the Assessment Governing Board, which oversees federal testing. In her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Ravitch examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated, including standardized testing, privatization, restructuring schools. Drawing on over forty years of experience, Ravitch now critiques today’s most popular methods of restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, and the proliferation of charter

Watch an excerpt from Diane’s keynote speech to at 2012 Louisiana School Boards Association Conference:

Take a look inside The Death and Life of the Great American School System here.


Diane Ravitch believes education reform should focus on getting children out of poverty, not finding the bad teachers. Watch Diane on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart here.

Value-added teacher evaluation — all you ever wanted to know 0

Posted on March 01, 2012 by dmayer

This week the New York Times published teacher rankings of 18,000 New York city teachers.



The ratings, known as teacher data reports, covered three school years ending in 2010, and are intended to show how much value individual teachers add by measuring how much their students’ test scores exceeded or fell short of expectations based on demographics and prior performance. Such “value-added assessments” are increasingly being used in teacher-evaluation systems, but they are an imprecise science. For example, the margin of error is so wide that the average confidence interval around each rating spanned 35 percentiles in math and 53 in English, the city said. Some teachers were judged on as few as 10 students.

Evaluators deserve a failing grade on their “value-added” system, but it seems only teachers must be held accountable for the work they do. How do these geniuses rank teachers, and remember this is a ranking system, not a scoring system? In ranking teachers, someone has to be at the bottom and top, everyone else falls in between. Ranking does not give teachers an A, B, C, D, or failing grade based on desired criteria. The late Gerald Bracey explained the difference in Some Common Errors in Interpreting Test Scores. Of course, the article only discusses the evaluation of students, schools, districts, and states. At the time this article was written, Bracey could not have conceived of government officials ranking teachers with a rating system as draconian as value added evaluations.

Accumulated here are articles explaining the ridiculous value-added system that has for some inexplicable reason gained legitimacy. Also, included are responses from teachers and parents.

NYC Teacher Evaluations Released

Ratings are out for some 12,700 fourth to eighth grade New York City public schoolteachers. Called teacher data reports, they were released to the public for the first time ever Friday afternoon. Data is old, from 2007-2010, and about 30% of teachers listed no longer work for NYC schools.

The teacher and the consultant

“Value-added measures” to judge a teacher’s worth — what’s that all about? If we would only listen to teachers.

Merit Pay, Teacher Pay, and Value Added Measures

Value added measures sound fair, but they are not. In this video Prof. Daniel Willingham describes six problems (some conceptual, some statistical) with evaluating teachers by comparing student achievement in the fall and in the spring.

Measuring student growth

Pearson wants to control the world’s curriculum and testing. (Gag factor — ipecac)

Using Teacher Evaluation to Improve School Performance

Within the first moments of the presentation, the presenter says, “We have no idea what good teaching looks like. We’re not educators, we’re economists.” Then he goes on and on for nearly an hour to explain how to evaluate a good teacher. Jonah Rockoff, the Sidney Taurel Associate Professor of Business at Columbia Business School, and Douglas Staiger, the John French Professor in Economics at Dartmouth College, discuss research used to identify the effectiveness of teachers in achieving student outcomes by using a value-added approach, and the use of these measures for teacher evaluation and screening, in their presentations at the Social Enterprise Program’s first annual Nonprofit Leadership Forum, Measuring and Creating Excellence in Schools.

Evaluating teacher evaluation… Critique of ‘Value-Added’ assessments (VAMs) shows that they are based on ‘beliefs’ rather than evidence

Illinois is rushing headlong into VAM (value-added-modeling) for teacher assessment, behind the cheerleading of many of the Astro-Turf “School Reform” groups ranging from Stand for Children to Advance Illinois. Under the PERA, Chicago teachers will begin being evaluated using so-called “value added” methods during the 2012 – 2013 school year. But as virtually all the credible research shows, VAM simply doesn’t work!

NYC to Release Teachers’ ‘Value-Added’ Ratings: Why It’s Not Fair

Normally, I respect The Nation for it’s forward thinking, but it has taken a giant step backward in quoting Bill Gates and Wendy Kopp for their opinions on teacher evaluation. “For what it’s worth, I agree with Gates and Kopp: value-added is a promising tool, but must be further refined and deployed with extreme caution.” Neither Gates nor Kopp has any education expertise. Period. What they do have is a huge stake in disclosing the rankings. What if many Teach for America recruits are in the bottom percentiles? What if teachers at the charter schools, generously funded by Bill Gates, are in the lower percentiles? Of course, they don’t want don’t want rankings published.

In Teacher Ratings, Good Test Scores Are Sometimes Not Good Enough

The New York City Education Department on Friday released the ratings of some 18,000 teachers in elementary and middle schools based on how much they helped their students succeed on standardized tests. The ratings have high margins of error, are now nearly two years out of date and are based on tests that the state has acknowledged became too predictable and easy to pass over time.

You can’t principal-proof a school: Why top down evaluation systems are doomed to fail

As everyone in the education world already knows, the New York Times won a lawsuit that forced the New York City Department of Education to publish the teacher-level value-added data it has been collecting as part of its accountability system. The result? The public unveiling of the work product of an expensive system that is confusing, unreliable—and apparently—error-riddled.” Don’t be fooled by the introduction, the Fordham Institute has a schizophrenic moment as it tries to rationalize value added teacher evaluation.

Shame is not the solution

The height of hypocrisy. Bill Gates, and Bill Gates’s billions alone, is responsible for the farcical evaluation system now being used to publicly persecute teachers. I suppose he figures that by poo-pooing the publication of the scores, he will gain favor in the eyes of the public and perhaps even in the eyes of educators. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

City Teacher Data Reports Are Released

The reports are now available on SchoolBook, posted on the individual pages for the elementary and middle schools whose teachers’ ratings were released. You can search for a school by using the search module on the left.

Evaluating Value-Added Models for Teacher Accountability

Evidence that the idea has been around for a while, this 191 page document by the oh-so-conservative Rand Corporation published in 2003 espouses analyzes of early models.

NYC Teacher Evaluation Data Show Charter Schools Perform No Better Than Public

The blue markers represent NYC’s traditional public schools, while the red and yellow markers represent charter schools, with the chart plotting the average change in English Language Arts (ELA) scores (0 being the 50th percentile) from the end-of-year 4th grade tests (x-axis) to the end of 5th grade, the first year of middle school. Read Gary Rubinstein’s TeachForUs.org blog post for a more thorough explanation.

Teach for Us is a blog sponsored by Teach for America. Since Teach for America teachers are prevalent in charter schools, these evaluation results must be a huge disappointment to them. Teach for America has been effective at withholding data about the effectiveness of TFA recruits. These VAM are more evidence that TFA recruits are not the exemplary teachers they are proclaimed to be, and should be a catalyst for school districts hiring TFA recruits to demand evidence that they are worth the investment.

Also posted at Daily Kos with comments.