New Hampshire Education Reforms: A set up for failure?

This is a VERY informative article from the Manchester Union Leader on the new “Teacher Evaluations” being used in the Manchester School District.
Please read through it then note the comments at the end of the article.  To read the FULL article, click on the link provided.

Click here for a list of Title 1 Schools in NH

A link to the NH DOE’s “Task Force” 

August 30. 2014 7:36PM

Manchester school officials back proposed evaluation system


New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER - City school officials are defending a proposed teacher evaluation system that would give “ineffective” educators up to three years to improve before facing termination and make “student growth” count for no more than 8 percent of an individual teacher’s score.

The revised evaluation system was endorsed by the school board’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee on Tuesday, and is expected to go before the full board at its next meeting.

The system was developed in consultation with several “stakeholders,” according to Superintendent Debra Livingston. “The MEA has been at the table,” she said, referring to the teachers union. “The principals organization, administrators, instructional specialists.”

Livingston said the revised teacher evaluation system was meant to respond to feedback on the one implemented two years ago.

“We wanted to see what’s working and what’s not,” she said. “We’re trying to help teachers improve. We also recognize when you hire a teacher, it’s an investment . we’re hiring someone who’s going to continually improve over time.”

State and federal education officials in recent years have pushed for more rigorous teacher evaluation systems and to link them to student performance. Teacher unions have criticized the linkage to test scores as unfair, especially for teachers who work with marginal students.

Last fall, the state Department of Education’s Task Force on Effective Teaching issued its second report outlining recommendations for districts to develop teacher evaluation programs.

The report noted that New Hampshire has a strong tradition of school board control. “The Task Force wrestled with respecting this strong local control orientation while providing a clear vision and practical approach for implementing educator evaluation systems,” the report noted.

But Manchester has less leeway than other districts in how it regards the so-called State Model proposed by the task force, because approximately a third of its schools are recipients of federal “school improvement grants” or Title I funding.

The report notes that the waiver the state has received from the No Child Left Behind Act “requires that all NH Title I schools implement an educator evaluation system aligned with the State Model System.”

After school board approval, Manchester’s teacher evaluation system would be reviewed by the state Board of Education, Livingston said.

The task force “strongly recommends” that districts use statewide assessment tests in measuring student growth, including the new Smarter Balanced test set to be implemented in the spring.

We encourage you to read the entire article.  However we wanted to note the obvious lack of local control now guiding the teacher evaluation process.  We’d also like to note the emphasis on teaching to the test which teachers will now be forced to participate in if they want a positive evaluation.

The New Hampshire Dept. of Education signed agreements with the U.S. Department of Education in order to get a No Child Left Behind Waiver.  Whether you agree with NCLB or not, it is still a Federal Law.  Those who oppose NCLB should be working to repeal the law, not watch and even participate in a process that has the Federal Dept. of Education coercing and bribing states while at the same time placing teachers in a detrimental position.

Evaluations are certainly expected of most employees and no one disputes that.  However under President Obama, Secretary Duncan and Governor Hassan, this reform effort has exposed the real problems with targeting teachers as the scape-goat for schools that may be failing.

Manchester followed the rules prior to Common Core.  They mistakenly aligned their curriculum and taught to the NH Academic Standards.  They used faulty curriculum, like Everyday Math because schools in NH were trying to align fuzzy math curriculum to fuzzy NH Math Standards (GLE’s).

In many ways, the NH Department of Education under Governor Lynch failed the students, teachers, parents and public education.  Under Governor Lynch, the NH Dept. of Education ignored these problems but when the Race to the Top money/grants came out, all of a sudden the old standards weren’t good enough and they had to adopt Common Core Standards.

Like other schools in NH, Manchester did what No Child Left Behind expected them to do.  Align curriculum to the State Standards and tests.  When you adopt poor quality curriculum, like Everyday Math, to poor quality math standards the NH DOE developed, it’s a recipe for failure.

Now that the NH DOE has adopted Common Core Standards, nothing will really change.  They say that the new Common Core Standards are better than what they inflicted upon the schools prior to CCSS, however we are certainly seeing the numerous problems with the developmentally inappropriate math standards, curriculum and tests.

Who now becomes the real victim in all of this?  The Teachers and of course the children.

The teachers are forced to use faulty curriculum because they will be told it aligns to the standards and tests.  The teachers will follow their orders because they know they will now be evaluated on the faulty Common Core tests.  And then in a few years when everyone figures out this was another failure pushed on us by the Feds, they will come up with another program to save us.

At what point do we realize that the top-down approach doesn’t work?

The U.S. Dept. of Ed. budget will be about $69 BILLION dollars.  Money that could be spent on purchasing real math programs for students.  Money that could be used to improve teacher training by focusing Professional Development that helps a teacher fully understand the academic content.

Manchester could correct this problem if they had real leadership.
New Hampshire could correct this problem if they had real leadership.

Many are now referring to this Common Core Reform Effort as a set up for failure.  But who is being set up for failure?  Your teachers and their students.