Teachers in ‘Worst Urban District’ Twice as Likely to be Rated ‘Highly Effective’

Dec 17, 2015 by

81 percent of Detroit teachers given highest marks

By Tom Gantert –

According to the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report released in October, the Detroit Public Schools system was rated the worst-performing urban district in the country for the fourth time since 2009.

In contrast, the district’s own evaluations of its teachers for the 2014-15 school year indicate that 81 percent were given the top rating possible, or “highly effective.” This is nearly double the statewide average.

The Detroit district had 2,388 teachers rated in the highest category. Another 467 teachers were rated “effective” (16 percent). Just 45 teachers were given the second-lowest rating of “minimally effective” and 43 teachers were rated “ineffective” (about 1.5 percent each).

Statewide, just 42 percent of Michigan public school teachers were rated highly effective by their districts in 2014-15. In the 2013-14 school year, 79 percent of DPS’ teachers were given this highest rating.

An extreme example is offered by the Detroit public school called the Cody Academy of Public Leadership. It has consistently earned a grade of F on an independent rating system that ranks schools for academic performance after adjusting for the socioeconomic status of their student bodies. Even after compensating for the challenging circumstances that face Cody’s low-income students, it still ranked in the bottom three percent of all Michigan schools.

Yet DPS rated 21 of Cody’s 23 teachers as highly effective. The other two teachers were rated as effective, which is the second-highest rating. No teachers were rated as minimally effective or ineffective.

The 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) report is widely referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card.” The details of Detroit’s assessment are no less dismal than the top-line number cited above (worst in the country). In the terms used by the report, DPS had 6 percent efficiency in fourth-grade reading and 5 percent efficiency in fourth-grade math. The averages for the state of Michigan were 29 percent for reading and 35 percent for math.

DPS also lagged significantly in eighth-grade reading and math scores. Detroit had 7 percent efficiency in reading and 4 percent in math. The state averages were 32 percent for reading and 29 percent for math. This is the fourth time Detroit has been ranked worst among the largest urban systems measured by the NAEP; the other years were 2009, 2011, and 2013.

Nevertheless, the Detroit school district continues to give the vast majority of its teachers the highest possible evaluation scores.

DPS spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski explained some of the factors involved:

“Detroit Public Schools was one of the very first school districts in Michigan to design and implement a teacher evaluation process after passage of the legislation in 2011,” Zdrodowski said. “The legislation required that a consistent tool be used for three years of evaluations. Now that this three year period is over, the district will be reviewing its evaluation process as a part of the 3-Point Transition Plan that Emergency Manager Darnell Earley’s has put into place to guide the final six months of his tenure. During this time, the district will be focused on the assessment of systems and procedures for their operational efficiency and effectiveness, as well as planning for a transition back to some form of local control.”

Teacher evaluations have taken on more significance in Michigan public schools since that law was passed. The same reform package included teacher tenure reforms and a ban on districts making layoff decisions purely on the basis of seniority, with more effective young teachers getting the boot ahead of less effective senior teachers.

An earlier reform enacted under Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration to qualify for a possible federal grant required school districts to adopt some form of merit pay system. But this law has been widely ignored.

Detroit doesn’t have a merit pay system. In the face on an ongoing collapse in student counts and district budgets based on them, teachers are operating under a 10 percent wage concession this year and seniority-based raises, or “step increases,” are also frozen.

“We look forward to the day when we can measure teacher effectiveness based on student growth,” said Gary Naeyaert, the executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for education reform in the state. “Right now, it looks like they earn their effectiveness ratings based on just showing up.”

Source: Teachers in ‘Worst Urban District’ Twice as Likely to be Rated ‘Highly Effective’ [Michigan Capitol Confidential]

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