Dept of Ed Waivers on Teacher-Evaluation Systems

The Department of Education updated its guidance to state chiefs on Friday, saying it will no longer be requiring some states to have their teacher-evaluation systems fully in place for their waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act to be extended. This additional flexibility will no doubt allow states to consider how they will ensure their teacher-evaluation systems are fit-for-purpose.

In a report released Monday (5/12/14), Morgan Polikoff, assistant professor of education at the University of Southern California, and Andrew Porter, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, analyzed the relationship between Value-Added Model (VAM) measures and teacher performance and found only a weak correlation. This calls into question whether VAMs are useful in evaluating teachers or improving classroom instruction. Polikoff commented that this reprieve for states will allow further research to be completed on the use of VAMs to link student outcomes and teacher effectiveness.

A paper from The Kingsbury Center at NWEA previously discussed the dangers of using student growth measures to inform teacher effectiveness and ultimately suggested more research is needed.

Thirty states are moving to, or currently are, linking teacher performance with student growth measures. Polikoff and Porter’s findings should cause these states to pause and consider whether this very weak link should be used when judging the quality of teaching and the subsequent evaluation of a teacher’s performance.

Inappropriate use of VAMs is further called into question by the American Statistical Association (ASA) which released a position statement this April warning states that they should be very aware when using VAMs as part of education accountability systems. The report comments that “Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores... Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”

While the ASA endorses the wise use of data to improve the quality of education, they recommend that VAMS, due to their complexity, should be accompanied by measures of precision and a recognition of their limitation, notably when used for high-stakes purposes. The ASA also goes on to note that VAMs, which are generally based on standardized test scores, measure correlation rather than causation and do not directly measure the potential contributions a teacher makes to student outcomes.

Approval for New Science Standards

On April 10, the Arkansas State Board of Education endorsed the use of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for the next stage in developing a new K-12 Science Curriculum for Arkansas schools.  The Arkansas Department of Education can now continue the process of developing an appropriate implementation plan and suitable middle school and high school pathways for science instruction.

This work will obviously take some time, and we are reminded that the current Arkansas Science Curriculum Frameworks and the Science Benchmark and EOC Biology assessments remain in place for 2014-15 and beyond.

For 2014-15, TLI will continue to offer alignment and assessments based on the current Arkansas Frameworks to help teachers best prepare students for the Science Benchmarks in grades 5 and 7 and the Biology EOC.  In addition, to aid teachers in a smooth transition to a new set of Science Frameworks based on the NGSS, TLI will provide guidance on integrating the Scientific and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, as well as essential Math and Literacy skills into science instruction.  More information can be found on the Science Curriculum Elementary (K-5), Middle (6-8), and Secondary (9-12) pages.

High School Mathematics Newsletter (April)

TLI's High School Mathematics Newsletter for this month brings you information about the cognitive demand of CCSS and PARCC assessments.  This month readers are given a list of resources to help teachers include the Standards for Mathematical Practices in next year's curriculum

Please click on the link below to read more:

TLI High School Mathematics Newsletter - April 2014

What Do Teachers Really Think About Common Core?

If you have been following the debate on Common Core in the press and on social media, you may be wondering what’s really happening outside of the political arena and in schools themselves. What do our teachers and the public really think?

Several recent surveys have shed light on the views of teachers and voters across the nation.

The most extensive poll asked 20,000 PreK-12 public school teachers about teaching, the Common Core, teacher evaluations, and how best they can collaborate.

Some of the highlights from the poll are:

  • 73% are enthusiastic about the implementation of Common Core in their classroom, with the same percentage saying that they believe the implementation is or will be challenging.
  • A majority (57%) of math, ELA, science and/or social science teachers believe standards will have a positive impact on student’s ability to think critically and use reasoning.
  • 93% of teachers from the 45 Common Core states say implementation has begun in math and/or ELA.
  • Many teachers identify that additional professional development and resources, particularly to support those who struggle most, is essential for successful implementation of the standards.


A survey from the National Center for Literacy Education asked over 3000 K- 12 classroom teachers in the 46 states and the District of Columbia who are implementing the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) about how they are implementing the new literacy standards, what works, and what they feel will help the most. The survey’s findings include:

  • While 65% of teachers agree that the standards will help improve student literacy, only 54% feel prepared to implement the Common Core ELA standards.
  • Collaborative planning time was identified as the most valuable support for implementing the standards, with those who do have opportunities to collaborate (virtually or other) feeling better prepared.
  • Where teachers have greater time to analyze student work in teams, they feel more prepared to implement the ELA standards and are more likely to make the significant changes they need in their teaching to meet these rigorous standards.
  • 60% of teachers believe their current curricular materials are not aligned to the Common Core Standards, with 23% rated finding Common Core aligned instructional materials a major challenge. Over 79% are currently creating and adapting their own materials.

These poll results mirror the voices we have heard, as well as some previous but less extensive reports from early implementers and teachers unions. We have been interviewing teachers and administrators about Common Core and how it is being implemented in their schools. The majority of teachers we spoke to are positive about Common Core, and while different schools are at very different stages in their implementation, all commented about the importance of needing sufficient time for planning, good professional development, and access to high quality resources to ensure they are fully prepared to teach the new standards.


 So, what are the take aways from the research and our conversations with educators?

  • Engage with the standards - Teachers who have engaged with, and are further along with the implementation process, are not only more positive about the Common Core Standards, but also feel they will have a greater positive impact on student learning.
  • Adapt instruction- Teachers understand that implementation is a challenge and will require some changes in teaching practice, but they remain enthusiastic.
  • Talk frequently and source quality resources- Opportunities to spend time discussing Common Core Standards with colleagues and having aligned classroom materials are essential.
  • Good leadership is key- Implementation is most successful when school leaders use the Common Core Standards as the focus for instruction, professional learning, and accountability (for themselves and others).


Since 2012 have surveyed voter perspectives about the Common Core Standards for math and ELA. Their third poll, completed in November 2013, found that of the 800 registered voters asked:

  • A majority support having the same set of standards and tests across the states.
  • While 61% had heard about the Common Core State Standards in some form, opinions for or against are nearly equally divided. They attribute this to the recent vocal opposition in the media.
  • When hearing a brief description of the standards, 69% support their implementation and testing, with 54% versus 25% agreeing they should be implemented in their state.
  • 66% support implementing assessments and 89% agree that a drop in test scores does not mean that the standards are not working. Voters understand they need time to work, with 81% agreeing an adjustment period of 1 to 3 years is important.
  • Still, 78% wanted teacher evaluations, based at least in part on student test scores, to continue during the transition.

Unexpectedly, rigorous new standards which support Career and College Readiness are seen as positive by the majority of the public. Voters overwhelming believe teachers need time to effectively implement these new standards while wishing schools continue to be held accountable for the important work they do in preparing our children.

High School Mathematics Newsletter (February-March)

TLI's High School Mathematics Newsletter for this month brings you information about preapring for the PARCC Assessment and teaching students statistics. This month readers will learn to help students make connections between what they learn in the classroom and how that translates to data in the world.

Please click on the link below to read more:

TLI High School Mathematics Newsletter - February-March 2014

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