A Response to Mr. Jon Duncan

June 7, 2010 at 12:23 am 9 comments

Jon, first let me say how much I appreciate your comment (which can be seen on the post “A Different Perspective on Sumner County’s ‘Great’ Schools”). That kind of dialogue about TVAAS is exactly what isn’t happening in Sumner County, and that is even more worrisome than the system’s scores. Your argument is not something I haven’t heard before, and I hope you won’t mind a rebuttal. I’m sure you knew it was imminent.

Value-added scores should not be compared to student achievement scores. Both are important but they measure different things. Achievement scores (be it TCAP or ACT) measure the competency of the child being tested. Research shows that the factor most affecting student achievement is socio-economic status. Hence the reason Sumner County has moderately high student achievement scores. Williamson County has high student achievement scores, as we would all expect. Since student achievement scores have been proven to be impacted by socio-economic status, there’s little accountability for the schools if we measure the schools’ effectiveness solely on student achievement scores.

Value-added scores are different than student achievement scores. They don’t measure the child’s aptitude. They measure the impact a teacher/school/system is having on a child’s learning in any given year. I’ll use your examples to explain. If you had a car that went 150mph and you wanted it to go faster, would you take the car to a mechanic who could not make it go any faster? Would you take the car to a mechanic who could only make it go 6mph faster if there were another mechanic who could make it go 20mph faster? Apply the same principle to your other examples. Would you work out with a personal trainer who could not help you gain muscle? Would you invest your money in a stock that would give you no return? Would you actively participate in a social network that could not help you make friends? Or would you chose the trainer with a record of success in adding muscle mass to his/her clients regardless of how much muscle mass with which they started? Wouldn’t you invest your money in the stock with the highest ROI? And wouldn’t you join the social network with the most demonstrated success in creating friendships?

And you’re just talking about the “speed gains” of one car. When I write about the failing value-added scores of the Sumner County School System, I’m talking about the gains added to 28,000 students. If those students were cars, do you really believe that they would all be cars that top out at 150mph? You’re clearly not thinking of the average Sumner County student since you mention an ACT score of 34, and Sumner County’s average ACT composite score for 2009 was 21.1. While it may be more difficult to add value to the education of the student scoring a 34 on his/her ACT (albeit not impossible since a perfect score is 36), there are not enough of those students in the entire Sumner County School System to make that a valid excuse for poor system-wide value-added scores.

The fact is our school system doesn’t have to sacrifice value-added gains for ultimate success. If ultimate success is measured by student achievement scores, a school system can have ultimate success and high value-added gains. Saying that you have to sacrifice one for the other just doesn’t hold water. The best example I can give you is Williamson County. Here’s how they compare to Sumner County in student achievement:

% proficient & advanced in K-8 Math: Williamson 98%; Sumner 93%

% proficient & advanced in K-8 Reading/Language: Williamson 98%; Sumner 95%

% proficient & advanced in 9-12 Math: Williamson 95%; Sumner 93%

% proficient & advanced in 9-12 Reading/Language: Williams 97%; Sumner 96%

TCAP Math (3-8): Williamson 64; Sumner 54

TCAP Reading/Language (3-8): Williamson 64; Sumner 55

TCAP Social Studies (3-8): Williamson 66; Sumner 56

TCAP Science (3-8): Williamson 64; Sumner 56

ACT Composite Score: Williamson 22.8; Sumner 21.1

Promotion Rate: Williamson 99.8%; Sumner 98.8%

Graduation Rate: Williamson 95.3%; Sumner 88.7%

As you can see, Williamson County is beating us in every single category of student achievement. And their value-added gains for math, social studies and science are all above the Growth Standard (see previous blog for explanation) and the State Average. They scored below the Growth Standard and State Average in reading/language. Sumner County’s value-added gains are below the Growth Standard and below the State Average in all four categories.

You use the word “MOST” a lot, but Sumner County Schools do not have the students with the most knowledge. They just don’t. It’s not enough for our schools to just say that the Sumner County student is smarter. The data doesn’t prove it. We have students scoring moderately high on achievement tests. Maybe that’s enough to make some of our parents happy and some of our educators proud. Maybe that’s enough to make some of us relax and say, “We’re doing pretty good.” But moderately high student achievement and shameful value-added gains tell me that Sumner County Schools have all the socio-economic advantages and they’re allowing our students to slide and glide toward mediocrity.

To diminish the importance of value-added gains is amateur. Our system for measuring value-added gains, TVAAS, does not simply measure “improvements over last year’s performance”. TVAAS is a complex system that enables a massive multivariate, longitudinal analysis using all achievement data for each student. In fact TVAAS is the most advanced system estimating the effects of teachers, schools and systems in the nation. Yes, in the nation. There is not another system that is comparable to TVAAS. Over the past decade, many other states have adopted our system. School districts in Tennessee have, in the past, been allowed to minimize the importance of the value-added gains, but all that has changed. Recently legislation was passed in Tennessee that requires all educators and administrators to be evaluated annually with 35% of those evaluations based on TVAAS data, where available (some subjects/teachers do not have TVAAS data). Mr. Duncan, 35% of your job performance will be measured by your school’s TVAAS score. Do you really think the State of TN would pass that legislation if it were impossible for your school to produce positive value-added gains simply because you have smart kids? Of course not. So let’s stop making excuses for ourselves, and let’s start doing the job with which we’ve been charged.

Advertisements

Entry filed under: sumner county education, sumner county public education, Sumner County Schools, TVAAS, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Free Speech Not Just Censored but Silenced We Did Not Create, But We Are Amused

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jon Duncan  |  June 7, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    While I certainly appreciate but do not necessarily require your research, it appears you may be overestimating the validity and reliability of this “complex system that enables a massive multivariate, longitudinal analysis using all achievement data for each student.”

    You do, however, offer a couple of thoughts in your last paragraph that warrant consideration. Yes, I do realize that 35% of my job performance will be measured by my school’s TVAAS scores, and I welcome the challenge. I am a huge proponent of accountability, and if TVAAS is the trendy measuring tool for this season in public education, albeit it a questionable one, then I look forward to exceeding stakeholder expectations. Second, at the risk of responding to a rhetorical question, yes, I do think the State Congress would pass suspect legislation. Considering history, do you think it wouldn’t?

    I expected the Williamson County reference in your rebuttal, and I applaud the efforts of that district. I refuse to make excuses for any educational shortcomings, including finishing behind them, and I am very excited about and blessed by the opportunity to serve as an educational leader in Sumner County. In short, I hope to be a part of improving the already exceptional schools we have here in our county for many years to come.

    Finally, if you’ll forgive my cynicism, your praises for the TVAAS system are a bit presumptuous and your defense of the tool seems to take on a bit of a personal ownership tone: “…TVAAS is the most advanced system estimating the effects of teachers, schools and systems in the nation. Yes, in the nation. There is not another system that is comparable to TVAAS.” Your adulation is reminiscent of that of at least two other “new and improved” advancements of the last century, the Titanic and the Hindenburg. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake the TVAAS model doesn’t meet with the same fate as these epic failures.

    Reply
  • 2. Blue Daze  |  June 8, 2010 at 2:16 am

    ” Do you really think the State of TN would pass that legislation if it were impossible for your school to produce positive value-added gains simply because you have smart kids? Of course not”

    Can we see a citation to the public act?

    Reply
    • 3. sumnerpubliceducation  |  June 9, 2010 at 1:09 am

      Blue Daze, the legislation passed in January that was the base for our state’s Race to the Top application is Tennessee Code Annotated Section 49, Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5. The legislation was ground-breaking. There will be many changes to public education over the next few years while all is being implemented. It is incredibly exciting.

      Reply
  • 4. Jim Jenkins  |  June 8, 2010 at 8:24 am

    A few questions for Mr. Duncan.

    You appear to proudly claim to be a Sumner County School administrator but fail to indicate where you perform your role. Do you work in a particular school? If so, where? Do you work at the School Board? If so, in what department?

    You indicate in your second post (A Response to Jon Duncan) that “Yes, I do realize that 35% of my job performance will be measured by my school’s TVAAS scores” but I thought the point of this form of evaluation was based on the premise that YOUR evaluation would be based on YOUR performance, not that of your school.

    You also state that you are “a huge proponent of accountability” as you refer to TVAAS as a “trendy measuring tool for this season in public education” and in your original post (A Different Perspective on Sumner County’s “Great” Schools) you support your overall argument with the statement that “employers pay based on performance”.

    These statements lead to my biggest question. I assume that based on your statements as an administrator who is a huge proponent of accountability and the grasp that employers pay based on performance you will have no problem publicly supporting that all teachers in Sumner County be paid based on their performance, and not simply paid for showing up. Is that correct? I can also deduce from your apparent grasp of how “employers pay based on performance” that you also comprehend that employers likewise terminate those who do not “perform”. You publicly support paying based on performance, but you will also agree to terminate those teachers who don’t cut the mustard?

    I just want to say that as a Sumner County School administrator you bring a refreshing, and long overdue, public position on paying those that are doing their job and firing those that are not.

    I look forward to finding out in what school or department you work and reading about your support of the “perform or be fired” concept you so articulately described.

    Reply
    • 5. sumnerpubliceducation  |  June 9, 2010 at 1:06 am

      Jim, I wanted to make a quick comment to you. The evaluation tool that will be used for teachers and administrators will use TVAAS scores for 35% of the evaluation. Many teachers do not have individual TVAAS scores, but they will be measured by student growth. Administrators do not have individual TVAAS data. Their school’s TVAAS score will be used for that 35%. Mr. Duncan is an administrator, and that’s why his school’s TVAAS score will be used for that measure.

      Reply
  • 6. Jon Duncan  |  June 9, 2010 at 12:26 am

    I appreciate your questions, Mr. Jenkins, and am happy to respond to them individually.

    “Do you work in a particular school?” Yes. I spent twelve years in the classroom or, as I like to say, on the front lines of public education. Recently I was honored and humbled to be appointed as an administrator at a different school. A simple Google search should produce the rest of the information you request.

    “…I thought…YOUR evaluation would be based on YOUR performance, not that of your school.” With regard to assessment, an administrator’s theoretical performance is so closely tied to student achievement and value-added scores, practically speaking, the two are inseparable. According to Tennessee’s Race to the Top Application, “Evaluations will be based 50% on student achievement data, with at least 35% being based on TVAAS data for teachers and principals who possess TVAAS data” (http://www.tennesseescore.org/_uploads/TN-RTTTApplicationSummary.pdf). As a side note, this site is a great one to visit if you’re interested in an abridged version of what was presented to the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of our state.

    “…you will have no problem publicly supporting that all teachers in Sumner County be paid based on their performance, and not simply paid for showing up. Is that correct?” Yes, that is correct. I am in favor of merit-based pay and, to use your words, the “perform or be fired concept.” I am also in favor of performance-based pay for the Easter Bunny and would like to see his salary indexed to egg futures. I think I have a reasonable chance of seeing both dreams realized in my lifetime (forgive the sarcasm).

    Please keep in mind that many in public education do not support the same types of reforms that I do. Those who have arrived at their opinions independently are more than capable of supporting their views and, based on my debates with them, make sound arguments and offer valid counterpoints. Those who choose sides based on what others tell them are typically unable to defend their beliefs. I have the utmost respect for the first group mentioned, many of whom I call friends and colleagues.

    I hesitate to mix replies to different posts, but I would like to make sure that my thoughts regarding TVAAS and achievement scores are not misrepresented. At no point in my posts did I directly state or even imply that TVAAS scores are useless. Booker T. Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life…as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” While I wholeheartedly agree with this philosophical idea of “relative success,” even our youngest students understand that the real world measures success based on achievement, not in incremental gains toward achievement. Since the blog’s author uses the stock analogy, this is as good an example as any, so I’ll reference it to solidify my argument. A stock can be analyzed any number of ways including, but not limited to, price to earnings (P/E) ratio, dividend (EPS) and yield, trading volume, and market capitalization. Generally speaking, however, the stock’s return on investment (ROI) is the single most important measure to any rational investor. Similarly, a student can be educationally analyzed any number of ways including, but not limited to, reading level, IQ, quarterly grade improvements, TVAAS gains, and exam scores. Generally speaking, however, the overall achievement of the student (final grade, standardized test scores, etc.) is the single most important measure to any rational stakeholder. Baseball pitchers don’t elevate ERA and WHIP above wins; quarterbacks don’t emphasize quarterback ratings or completion percentages at the expense of victories; and public education shouldn’t illuminate TVAAS scores to a point where they shadow achievement scores. Fortunately, most of my Sumner County colleagues understand that an “either/or” approach toward measuring academic performance is a mistake. TVAAS and achievement scores are (and should remain) a “both/and” method of performance evaluation. My point, plain and simple, is this: should we have to choose one measure over the other, achievement scores most accurately reflect the real world definition of success, not “massive multivariate, longitudinal analyses” which might result in value-added data. “Never mistake activity for achievement,” in John Wooten’s terms.

    While I’ve enjoyed the dialogue, this will be my final post on the topic. My time is better spent preparing for the students who will be returning in August, and they deserve my best efforts and my undivided attention. After a great deal of deliberation, I believe the blog’s author and I have many common ideas and philosophies. Though I don’t pretend to know the author’s identity or vocation, there is one seemingly all-important, yet admittedly speculative, difference between the two of us—my passion and concern for public education led me to an identifiable career in the field; the author’s passion and concern for public education led him to an anonymous blog. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this assumption. Thanks to all for the lively debate and to the unidentified blogger for providing the forum.

    Reply
  • 7. Blue Daze  |  June 10, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Can’t figure out the “reply” feature on this software. Technologically challenged. TCA Title 49 Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 5 are huge. Do we have a bill # or #s or Public Chapter #s? Who were the sponsors? That will be a quicker way for me to find the changes, as opposed to wading through the entire code.

    Reply
  • 8. Blue Daze  |  June 13, 2010 at 7:26 am

    just fyi – michie has set it up so that you can’t link to the specific section, just the code generally.

    But thanks, I’ll review the law changes and ponder.

    Reply
  • 9. sumnerpubliceducation  |  June 13, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I finally have that link. It’s Tennessee Code Annotated 49-1-302(d)(1) and (2):
    http://www.michie.com/tennessee/lpext.dll?f=templates&fn=main-h.htm&cp=tncode

    “There is created the teacher evaluation advisory committee…The committee shall develop and recommend to the board guidelines and criteria for the annual evaluation of all teachers and principals employed by LEAs… The evaluations shall be a factor in employment decisions, including, but not necessarily limited to, promotion, retention, termination, compensation and the attainment of tenure status. (A) Fifty percent (50%) of the evaluation criteria developed pursuant to this subdivision (d)(2) shall be comprised of student achievement data. (i) Thirty-five percent (35%) of the evaluation criteria shall be student achievement data based on student growth data as represented by the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), developed pursuant to part 6 of this chapter, or some other comparable measure of student growth, if no such TVAAS data is available.”

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed



%d bloggers like this: