Using test scores to evaluate teachers

by Harry on August 30, 2010

At a meeting of teacher’s union chapter leaders I attended recently to talk about Race to the Top, I was struck by two things: one was how open they were in private about the fact that current ways of evaluating teachers are appallingly bad; the other was how hungry they were for a clearer understanding of how evaluation of teachers using test scores (one of the things States were strongly encouraged to include in their Race applications) would work. I gave my modest attempt to explain how it would work and why it was a bad idea. Now, fortunately, they can discard my critique, and get the real thing. Authors including Richard Rothstein, Helen Ladd, Diane Ravitch, and several eminent psychometricians (including Richard Shavelson, Ed Haertel and Lorrie Shepard) have made an unanswerable (but, as the authors certainly know, eminently ignorable) case against using test scores, even value added modeling methods, to evaluate teachers (here). Here’s the executive summary:

Every classroom should have a well-educated, professional teacher, and school systems should recruit, prepare, and retain teachers who are qualified to do the job. Yet in practice, American public schools generally do a poor job of systematically developing and evaluating teachers. Many policy makers have recently come to believe that this failure can be remedied by calculating the improvement in students’ scores on standardized tests in mathematics and reading, and then relying heavily on these calculations to evaluate, reward, and remove the teachers of these tested students.

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Marxists and rational choice

by Henry on August 30, 2010

In the spirit of more engagement with the left rather than a mere continuation of lobbing potshots at libertarians, let me point out a disjunction between these two “recent”: “posts”: at Lenin’s Tomb

The first, riffing on David Harvey, and what sounds to be a terrible book by Ben Fine and Dimitris Milonakis, is your standard-issue dismissal of economic notions of rationality as a kind of imperialism.

bq. One aspect of this specious conception of “reason” is the encroachment of a set of analytical principles established by marginalist economics into other fields of social science. … Underpinning this approach is three basic analytical principles. … individualism … rational self-interest … exchange. … This imperialism of “reason” (“economic imperialism”, as Fine and Milonakis dub it), has policy consequences. ‘Public choice’ economics, for example, has acquired a prized position in the academia, in think-tanks, and among policy ‘wonks’. … rightist political animus … What I’m describing as the imperialism of market “reason” is nothing other than the ability of the ruling class to naturalise and universalise its accumulation activities, to express it as an ideology, a pseudo-sociology with pseudo-explanations for social phenomena, and to use that ideology as a justification for advancing on and enclosing all areas of public life that are not commodified, not subject to the laws of accumulation.
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Still hanging

by John Quiggin on August 30, 2010

It’s now nine days since the Australian election produced a “hung Parliament”. This term is used rather loosely for any outcome in which neither major party wins a majority of seats, but in this case it’s entirely appropriate. Labor and the Liberal-National coalition[1] each won 72 seats, which means they need the votes of four out of six independents/minor party reps to form government, and the six are wildly disparate.

Anything could happen: four of the six have in the past been Nationals (rural conservatives), though they have gone in very different directions since. If they let bygones be bygones we could have a very conservative government. On the other hand a couple of them now have a greenish tinge, and, with the remaining independent and the single Green party member, we could get a government more progressive than the one that went out.

Overall, this was the kind of election that both major parties deserved to lose and, in some sense, they both did. Isn’t democracy wonderful?

fn1. Here I’m counting as independent one candidate from a dissident branch of the National Party who has stated that he won’t join the coalition.