Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Factsheets on Education Issues Facing the 2012-2013 Illinois Legislative Session

CReATE is a network of over 100 professors from numerous Chicago-area universities who specialize in educational research and who work collectively to conduct, review, and distribute studies in order to promote public learning and dialogue about education issues. Sorting out the rhetoric from the reality, CReATE is pleased to release a series of FACTSHEETS in November 2012 about five of the most pressing education issues in the 2012-2013 Illinois legislative season. Highlighting numerous studies about the nation, the state of Illinois, and the city of Chicago, these Factsheets share a common message. They tell us that the research is clear: Several of the most common and commonsensical reforms have not only been unsuccessful at improving schools, but more significantly, have already proven to make things worse as school governance becomes less democratic, school funding becomes more inequitable, and public education becomes far less capable of serving the needs of the children of Chicago and Illinois.

Factsheet on Charter School Funding (November 2012)
Factsheet on Charter Schools (November 2012) 
Factsheet on  School Closures, Governance and Accountability (November 2012)
Factsheet on School Funding Formulas (November 2012)
Factsheet on Tax Increment Financing (TIF) (November 2012)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Research Brief #3: Tax Increment Financing and Chicago Public Schools Construction Projects Introduction

CReATE |Research Brief #3
June 2012

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is one of Chicago’s leading financing tools for development. TIF districts create a development fund based on the property taxes generated in the TIF district. When the TIF district is formed, all the properties in the district have the property value amount on which taxing bodies draw their revenues (the baseline) frozen for 23 years. Any new tax revenue created above the property value baseline amount (the increment) is diverted into the TIF development fund, used to finance community development projects in both the public and private sector. State law requires TIFs to be used for the development of blighted or deteriorating communities. In recent years, the city of Chicago has expanded its use of TIFs to increasingly include sections of the city that are economically developed and stable. Currently, TIF districts cover over 30% of the city.

The effects of TIFs are controversial. On the one hand, critics of TIFs note that each district diverts revenues from the public school taxing body, thus depriving them of revenues that would have otherwise gone to them. TIFs capture about $500 million in tax revenues each year, about half of which is diverted from the public school system. Critics have also pointed to the revenues given to large corporations, such as Boeing and United Airlines to finance the expenses of moving their headquarters to the downtown Loop, as an abuse of the intent of TIF. On the other hand, city officials and TIF proponents claim that the TIF is the only game in town for financing local development projects. They emphasize the public works projects and new school construction to demonstrate the benefits of the TIF program. Since 1983, 46% of TIF revenues have been allocated for public works projects, with 47% of those revenues going towards Chicago Public Schools construction projects.

This white paper examines the nature of TIF funded public school construction projects. Key findings include:

  • 1 out of 3 schools receiving TIF funds are in the highest socio-economic communities (Tier 4) as measured by Chicago Public Schools (CPS), even though the TIF was designed to help develop blighted communities. 
  • Selective enrollment schools constitute 1% of CPS schools but receive 25% of TIF funds used for school construction projects. 
  • Schools with some form of an exclusive enrollment process (includes selective enrollment schools and charters, magnets, etc) received nearly 50% of all TIF funds used for school construction projects. 
  • Neighborhood area attendance schools constitute 69% of CPS schools but receive 47% of all TIF funds used for school construction projects. 
  • 78% of the schools receiving TIF funds are located in the northern 50% of the city, even though the TIF is suppose to help underdeveloped communities.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Research Brief #2 - Increasing Safety Through Restorative Justice: Making Schools Safer for Girls and LGBTQ Students of Color in Chicago’s Public Schools

April 2012

From the relentless bullying of Phoebe Prince at her school in North Hadley, Massachusetts, which resulted in her suicide, to the murder of Derrion Albert near Chicago’s Fenger High school, stories of youth violence draw the public’s attention to the important matter of school safety. But how exactly are we conceptualizing the problem of violence? Which students are at risk for being harassed and bullied? What are the safety concerns for girls and LGBTQ students of color? Are punishing perpetrators and increasing the policing of schools the best directions for Chicago Public Schools (CPS)? What role can restorative justice strategies play in ending school violence and fostering safer CPS schools?

School violence includes both the extreme acts that capture the media’s attention as well as the everyday, chronic harassment that often flies under the radar of school disciplinary policies and security measures, undetected by safety officers and surveillance cameras. Events involving extremely dangerous violence are rare, and rates of gun violence on school grounds have actually declined in recent years in the U.S. More widespread is the chronic harassment of peers, which has serious negative implications for both academic achievement and physical and emotional health. Among the most common student behaviors that threaten the safety of others are bullying, physical intimidation, and harassment. These safety threats are particularly problematic regarding gender and sexuality. Hill and Kearl report that 48% of the middle and high school students they surveyed had experienced some form of sexual harassment, including physical and cyber- harassment, and negative comments related to students’ perceived sexual identity.

Chicago is no different. The Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) has argued that “safety is an urgent issue at both the elementary and high school levels for both students and teachers in Chicago schools.”4 In their recent survey of student and teacher perceptions of school safety in CPS, they found that students welcomed efforts by teachers and security staff to make their schools safer, but did not believe that harsh discipline increased their safety. Furthermore, students reported concerns about safety (or lack thereof ) not only in classrooms, but also in hallways, the cafeteria, and outside of school buildings.

Too often, schools respond to violence with punishment, including schools here in Chicago. CPS has one of the highest suspension rates in the nation. Suspension and expulsion rates have declined overall in the last 10 years, but there is a “discipline gap” in which CPS students of color experience a far higher rate of suspension, and expulsion from school. While African American males comprise 25% of CPS students, for example, they represent 45% of the students suspended from school and are the students who are most likely to drop out.

Multiple studies confirm that student misbehavior that impacts school safety does not vary significantly by student ethnicity or race. In other words, student misbehavior is consistent across ethnic and racial groups. However, there is consistent and staggering evidence of disproportionate disciplinary referrals and sanctions. African American youth, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Latino/a and Native American youth, experience disproportionate amounts of school disciplinary actions. In the 2009–2010 school year 44,567 of CPS’s approximately 410,000 students were suspended. Suspensions continue unabated in CPS despite research that shows the negative impact on students’ school performance and school safety. Our “solutions” are not only missing the problem, but also are exacerbating other problems.

The main purposes of this research brief are to highlight the often overlooked problem of gender and sexual harassment for girls and LGBTQ youth of color, and to recommend that harsh school discipline procedures for students involved in incidences of harassment and bullying be replaced by restorative justice strategies that heal, rather than harm. This research brief synthesizes current research to offer a more complex understanding of the problem of school violence and presents an alternative framework for the solution of making schools safer through restorative justice practices, particularly for girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) students of color. Because fewer than 10% of CPS students are white, when referring to girls and LGBTQ youth in CPS, this brief necessarily centers its analysis on girls and LGBTQ students who are predominantly African American and/or Latino/a.

This briefing paper was prepared by William Ayers, Leslie Rebecca Bloom, Kevin Kumashiro, Crystal Laura, Chris Mack, Erica Meiners, Kate Phillippo, Amira Proweller, and Gerri Spinella.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Press Conference - Remarks by Kevin Kumashiro, Isabel Nuñez, David Stovall, Therese Quinn, Erica Meiners and Julie Woestehoff

Compilation of Comments for CReATE Press Conference
3/26/12, 11am, Hull-House Museum

(1) Kevin Kumashiro (Primary Contact Person)
Professor of Asian American Studies and Education
University of Illinois at Chicago
President-Elect, National Association for Multicultural Education, 773-996-8530

Good morning, and thank you for coming.  My name is Kevin Kumashiro.  I am a professor of Asian American Studies and the former chair of Educational Policy Studies here at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  I am the president-elect of the National Association for Multicultural Education, and I am also a coordinator of a citywide network of educational researchers called CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education). 

This morning, CReATE delivered to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, and the Chicago School Board an open letter of concern, titled “Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher and Principal Evaluation.”  Signed by 88 professors and researchers who specialize in education from 15 different universities throughout the Chicago and surrounding areas, this letter describes our concerns regarding Chicago’s implementation of legislation for the evaluation of teachers and principals, and offers our recommendations for moving forward.

This is not the first time that we have issued a joint statement.  Over a year ago, we began to issue statements and reports to contrast CPS’s approaches to school reform with the research on school reform. And our messages have been consistent: that some of Chicago’s school reforms lack a sound research basis, and more significantly, that research has already proven some of these reforms to be detrimental to student learning and success.

These messages similarly frame our open letter about teacher evaluation.  The 2010 amendment to the Illinois School Code, known as the Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), requires districts to include “student growth” as a significant portion of teacher and principal evaluation.  Our letter describes three main concerns:

First, timing.  CPS is moving forward with plans to implement the new evaluation system in the fall of 2012, but CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.”  PERA requires the use of multiple assessments, but CPS has not yet developed all of the assessments, has not yet field-tested them, and has not yet trained teachers and principals on how to use them effectively.

Second, validity.  Under PERA, “Student growth” will be measured primarily using value-added models, as by looking at changes in test scores over time.  But recently, ten of the nation’s leading scholars on assessment wrote a joint letter cautioning against teacher-evaluation approaches that use value-added models, because such models can be unstable (they can vary from year to year or even from test to test for the same group).  Furthermore, such models were developed to assess student change, not teacher efficacy, so to use the models for a different purpose should first require more field-testing and development.

Third, impact.  We have already seen the results of placing increased value on tests: a more narrow curriculum, less cooperation between teachers, less desire to work with students with special needs—that is, this overemphasis on test scores results not in increased success for our students, but the opposite. 

As researchers who specialize in education, we believe that hurried implementation of teacher evaluation using student growth will result in inaccurate assessments of our teachers and decreased learning among the children in our care. We support accountability and high standards. We want what is best for our students. We believe, however, that an unproven and potentially harmful evaluation system is not the path to lasting school improvement.  We therefore make two recommendations for moving forward:

1. Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale.
2. Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal evaluation.

In moving to develop and implement reforms that are based in sound research and that are field-tested locally, we hope that CPS will consult with the professors and researchers among us who bring both scholarly and practical expertise on these issues, and we look forward to the opportunity to serve.

With me are several members of CReATE, who will elaborate on our open letter.  Professor Isabel Nunez of Concordia University Chicago will discuss misconceptions of testing.  Professor David Stovall of the University of Illinois at Chicago will discuss the impact of testing on students.  Professor Therese Quinn of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will discuss the role of teachers in a democratic society.  Professor Erica Meiners of Northeastern Illinois University will discuss the relationship between this initiative and other reform initiatives, revealing the bigger picture of school reform.  We also invited a response from Julie Woestehoff, executive director of PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education).  And we’ll conclude with time for questions.

 (2) Isabel Nuñez
Associate Professor of Foundations, Social Policy and Research, Concordia University Chicago

The centrality of test scores in the new approach to teacher and principal evaluation is of particular concern to educational researchers.  Testing in general is such a priority that the first CReATE research brief was devoted to countering the misconceptions that underlie its use and overuse.  You can read more about some of the issues we raise today in that document, which is available on our website.

First, testing is not “the way it’s always been done.”  Large-scale educational testing was born in the early 1900s at a particular time in history:  the industrial revolution.  Some might argue that the limited range of achievement that tests can measure was appropriate when preparing for the early-to-mid 20th century workforce, but in today’s globalized, information-based economy, “student growth” must be more meaningfully defined and assessed.

Next, if we are going to make the mistake of reducing student growth to an ascending diagonal on a line graph, we must at the very least abide by the principles of measurement.  The discipline of testing, called psychometrics, is governed by rules, and the uses of testing proposed in the new system of evaluation break some of the most fundamental of these. 

The first important consideration of testing is purpose.  The process of test construction is so specialized that an instrument designed for one purpose cannot be effectively used for another.  As we state in the letter:
Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth.  Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person.

What makes this even more frightening is that many of the likely contenders to be Type I and Type II assessments were not even designed to evaluate student learning, but instead to compare performance.  Most large scale standardized achievement tests are scored by norm-referencing, a process of ranking, which ensures that 50 percent of test-takers score below the 50th percentile, no matter how high the overall level of mastery. 

You may hear from their defenders that tests like the ISAT also report “criterion-referenced” scores, which are not ranked.  However, for scores to be able to be ranked, each item must garner only 50% correct responses, which seriously compromises the test’s value for reflecting mastery of all the standards.  It is incredibly inappropriate to draw inferences about student achievement based on such tests, much less to base educator evaluations on them. 

Even if we use the best tests possible, it is a core truth of psychometrics that no test is completely reliable:  Error is a component of every attained score.  For this reason, test developers, academic bodies and professional associations alike warn against attaching severe consequences to performance on any test.
Clearly, this is not the first instance of schools systems riding roughshod over the principles of measurement.  It is, however, a distressing extension of the destructive misuse of test scores, which has already brought terrible harm to the children of Chicago. 

(3) David Stovall
Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and African American Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago

(4) Therese Quinn:, 773.459.3775
Associate Professor and Chair of Art Education
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Over 100 years ago, Margaret Haley, the Chicago elementary school teacher who was also the founder of the first American teachers’ union, argued for a vision of public schools as the center of our democracy. However, she proposed, schools can democratize society only if schools themselves are democratic. Haley and another maverick, Ella Flagg Young, a prodigy who passed her teaching examinations at age 15 and went on to become the first woman to serve as superintendent of a major American city, both argued that teachers must play central roles in school administration and policy-making, and, as professionals who are critical to the nation, must have opportunities and support to continue to grow intellectually throughout their working lives. Without this, they claimed, schools would become little more than factories, with rote assignments administered by teachers relegated to the role of automatons.

The issues and debates about education then were much the same as they are today. What’s different is that we now have decades of evidence showing that Haley and Flagg were right. For example, the nation with the most successful education system by many measures, including highest students scores and smallest spread of scores between schools is Finland, a country in which all curriculum is local and developed by teachers who are charged with designing and pursuing high standards and shared targets within their professional communities. Yet these high levels of success and responsibility don’t translate into top-down mandates. The schools are democratically organized and decisions are made laterally. Teachers evaluate their students, and collaboratively design ways to assess and improve school-wide successes. Students spend less time in school that those in most other industrialized nations and Finnish teachers spend less time teaching than do teachers in many other countries, and are not required to be present at their schools when they don’t have classes or other duties.

The Finnish education scholar Pasi Sahlberg describes a system in which teaching is consistently rated as one of the most desirable and admired professions, ahead of doctors, architects and lawyers. Finnish teachers are considered knowledge workers, education leaders, and critical members of their communities and the nation. So what are we doing wrong?

While we should certainly learn from the successful educational systems designed by our global neighbors, we should also look back at the insights of our home-grown visionaries in education, like Margaret Haley and Ella Flagg Young. They pointed to the need for what Finland has put into practice and proven as successful for students—a public education system that supports and trusts its teachers. 

Rousmaniere, K. (2005). Citizen teacher: The life and leadership of Margaret Haley. Albany, NY: State University of New York.
Salhberg, P. (2011). Finnish lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press.

(5) Erica Meiners
Professor of Educational Foundations, Women’s Studies, and Latina/o and Latin American Studies
Northeastern Illinois University

This is another example of a top down reforms that have little basis in research from Chicago's unelected school board. As we have recently seen in NYC, the forced implementation of teacher evaluation models that are based on student scores on standardized tests results in inaccurate evaluations of our teachers and a further demonization of a valuable profession. In NYC researchers and teachers voices have been uniform in critiquing the unreliability of the approximately 18 000 teachers that were recently assessed through the "value-added" teacher evaluation model. Again, research tells us what will build stronger schools for our communities - smaller class sizes, parent and guardian involvement and healthy communities. When one in four Americans lives in poverty, we need strong leadership from our city to support schools as spaces for transformation - not shifting the blame.

(6) Julie Woestehoff: 773-715-3989;
Executive Director
Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE)

Good morning. I'm Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, or PURE, and co-founder of the national group Parents Across America.

I'm very glad to be here today. It's so important for parents and the general public to hear what education experts are saying about education policy. Unfortunately, most of what passes for education expertise these days comes from wealthy corporate reformers and people who make money off of education. They don't have any real education credentials, but they're too often the ones our lawmakers listen to, and too often the ones who have the  most influence in decision making about the kind of education our children receive. Parents prefer to listen to educators.

I'm here representing a growing body of parents who strongly oppose the use of student test scores as significant factors in evaluating teachers, which the Chicago Public Schools is proposing to do beginning this fall.

Parents already feel that there is too much emphasis on testing in schools, and too much time wasted on testing that's taking away from teaching. In his 2012 State of the Union message, President Obama said teachers should stop teaching to the test. Yet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been pressuring states into making standardized tests play an even more dominant role in education, especially in his demand that states pass laws tying teacher evaluation to student test scores in order to compete for federal funds.

Last year, Parents Across America wrote a position paper and a fact sheet* about the dangers of tying teacher jobs and compensation to test scores. In preparing those reports, we found out that real education experts have been warning policy makers that judging teachers using student annual test results or score growth over time is unreliable, unfair, and counterproductive. The CReATE experts are warning us today that CPS is moving in the wrong direction with its plans.  

I want to thank CReATE for including the parents' perspective in this press conference.  Too often, parents are left out of these critical discussions. PURE was disappointed when the Illinois legislature defined the process for developing Chicago's teacher evaluation system as simply a negotiation between the union and the district. Teacher evaluation is not just a contractual issue. It is an issue of educational quality that will have just as much impact on our children as it will on their teachers. There is no doubt that a poorly-designed system, one that relies too heavily on existing flawed tests, or on assessments that have not even been written yet, will negatively affect our children and their educational opportunities. 
It's time to listen more to real educational experts like those that have formed CReATE and less to people who are more interested in political or financial profit than in making our public schools stronger.

It's also time to listen to parents, who are demanding better, sounder education policies that are supported by research. We believe that teachers should be evaluated by robust systems that use multiple measures, as well as parent and peer input, to identify their weaknesses, help them improve, and weed out those unsuited to the profession. Concerned parents and community members should insist on fair, reliable, broad-based systems of evaluation, as well as on the other kinds of support that teachers need to succeed.
*PAA's position paper, Tying Teacher Salaries to Test Scores Doesn't Work, is here:

Our related fact sheet is here:

Parents United for Responsible Education is an award-winning parent-organized, parent-run public school advocacy group established in 1987 and based in Chicago. PURE’s overall goal is to assure a high-quality education for all children. Our main strategy is to support active, informed, meaningful parent participation in the public schools. PURE offers information, advocacy and other support for parents and local school councils. PURE has a special role in focusing on issues from the parents' point of view. PURE's membership and constituency are multiracial, multi-cultural and economically diverse. Find us at

Parents Across America (PAA) is a grassroots organization that connects parents and activists from across the U.S. to share ideas and work together on improving our nation’s public schools. We advocate for proven, progressive measures such as reducing class size and increasing parent involvement, and oppose high-stakes testing and corporate-style efforts to privatize our schools. PAA is committed to bringing the voice of public school parents – and common sense – to local, state, and national education debates. Visit our web site, for more. 

Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher and Principal Evaluation: An Open Letter of Concern to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, and the Chicago School Board

March 26, 2012

Misconceptions and Realities about Teacher and Principal Evaluation

An Open Letter of Concern to

Mayor Rahm Emanuel,
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard,
and the Chicago School Board

Regarding Chicago’s Implementation of Legislation for the Evaluation of Teachers and Principals

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) plans to implement dramatic changes in the 2012-2013 school year.  As university professors and researchers who specialize in educational research, we recognize that change is an essential component of school improvement.  We are very concerned, however, at a continuing pattern of changes imposed rapidly without high-quality evidentiary support. 

The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children.  We believe it is our ethical obligation to raise awareness about how the proposed changes not only lack a sound research basis, but in some instances, have already proven to be harmful.

In this letter, we describe our concerns and relevant research as we make two recommendations for moving forward:

1.     Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale.

2.     Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal evaluation.

We also urge consulting on the above steps with the professors and researchers among us who bring both scholarly and practical expertise on these issues.


In January 2010, the Illinois State Legislature—in an effort to secure federal Race to the Top funds—approved an amendment to the Illinois School Code known as the Performance Evaluation Review Act (PERA), which requires districts to include “student growth” as a significant portion of teacher and principal evaluation.  While most of the state does not have to implement a new evaluation plan for teachers until 2016, CPS was able to get written into the law an early implementation date of September 2012 for at least 300 schools.

The proposed rules associated with PERA will not be finalized until April 2012 at the earliest.  Nevertheless, CPS is moving ahead with teacher and principal evaluation plans based on the proposals.  The suggested rules define “significant” use of student growth as at least 25% of a principal’s or teacher’s evaluation in the first two years of implementation, and 30% after that, with the possibility of making student growth count for as much as 50%.

The PERA law mandates that multiple measures of student growth be used in teacher evaluation.  The proposed rules identify three types of measures: standardized tests administered beyond Illinois (Type I), assessments approved for use districtwide (Type II), and classroom assessments aligned to curriculum (Type III).  Under the proposed rules, every teacher’s student growth will be determined through the use of at least one Type III assessment, which means that two Type IIIs would be used if no Type I or II is appropriate.

In what follows, we draw on research to describe three significant concerns with this plan.

Concern #1: CPS is not ready to implement a teacher-evaluation system that is based on significant use of “student growth.”

For Type I or Type II assessments, CPS must identify the assessments to be used, decide how to measure student growth on those assessments, and translate student growth into teacher-evaluation ratings.  They must determine how certain student characteristics such as placement in special education, limited English-language proficiency, and residence in low-income households will be taken into consideration.  They have to make sure that the necessary technology is available and usable, guarantee that they can correctly match teachers to their actual students, and determine that the tests are aligned to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  In addition, teachers, principals, and other school administrators have to be trained on the use of student assessments for teacher evaluation.  This training is on top of training already planned about CCSS and the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, used for the “teacher practice” part of evaluation.

For most teachers, a Type I or II assessment does not exist for their subject or grade level, so most teachers will need a Type III assessment.  While work is being done nationally to develop what are commonly called assessments for “non-tested” subjects, this work is in its infancy.  CPS must identify at least one Type III assessment for every grade and every subject, determine how student growth will be measured on these assessments, and translate the student growth from these different assessments into teacher-evaluation ratings in an equitable manner.

If CPS insists on implementing a teacher-evaluation system that incorporates student growth in September 2012, we can expect to see a widely flawed system that overwhelms principals and teachers and causes students to suffer.

Concern #2: Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher-evaluation approaches that use Value-Added Models (VAMs).

Chicago already uses a VAM statistical model to determine which schools are put on probation, closed, or turned around.  For the new teacher-evaluation system, student growth on Type I or Type II assessments will be measured with VAMs or similar models.  Yet, ten prominent researchers of assessment, teaching, and learning recently wrote an open letter that included some of the following concerns about using student test scores to evaluate educators[1]:

a.      Value-added models (VAMs) of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers.  For example, different statistical models (all based on reasonable assumptions) can yield different effectiveness scores.[2]  Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test.[3]
b.     There is no evidence that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement.  In order to determine if there is a relationship, researchers recommend small-scale pilot testing of such systems. Student test scores have not been found to be a strong predictor of the quality of teaching as measured by other instruments or approaches.[4]
c.      Assessments designed to evaluate student learning are not necessarily valid for measuring teacher effectiveness or student learning growth.[5]  Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations.

Concern #3: Students will be adversely affected by the implementation of this new teacher-evaluation system.

When a teacher’s livelihood is directly impacted by his or her students’ scores on an end-of-year examination, test scores take front and center.  The nurturing relationship between teacher and student changes for the worse, including in the following ways:

a.      With a focus on end-of-year testing, there inevitably will be a narrowing of the curriculum as teachers focus more on test preparation and skill-and-drill teaching.[6]  Enrichment activities in the arts, music, civics, and other non-tested areas will diminish.
b.     Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, students who are English Language Learners, or students suffering from emotional issues.  Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors.[7]
c.      The dynamic between students and teacher will change.  Instead of “teacher and student versus the exam,” it will be “teacher versus students’ performance on the exam.”
d.     Collaboration among teachers will be replaced by competition. With a “value-added” system, a 5th grade teacher has little incentive to make sure that his or her incoming students score well on the 4th grade exams, because incoming students with high scores would make his or her job more challenging.
e.      When competition replaces collaboration, every student loses.

Our Recommendations

1.     Pilot and adjust the evaluation system before implementing it on a large scale.

Any annual evaluation system should be piloted and adjusted as necessary based on field feedback before being put in place citywide.  In other words, Chicago should pilot models and then use measures of student learning to evaluate the model.  Delaware spent years piloting and fine-tuning their system before putting it in place formally statewide.  Conversely, Tennessee’s teacher-evaluation system made headlines when its hurried implementation led to unintended negative consequences.

2.     Minimize the percentage that student growth counts in teacher or principal evaluation.

Until student-growth measures are found to be valid and reliable sources of information on teacher or principal performance, they should not play a major role in summative ratings.  Teacher-practice instruments, such as the Charlotte Danielson Framework, focus on what a teacher does and how practice can be strengthened.  Students benefit when objective feedback is part of their teachers’ experience.  Similar principal frameworks serve the same purpose.

We, Chicago-area university professors and researchers who specialize in educational research, conclude that hurried implementation of teacher evaluation using student growth will result in inaccurate assessments of our teachers, a demoralized profession, and decreased learning among and harm to the children in our care.  It is wasteful of increasingly limited resources to implement systemwide a program that has not yet been field-tested.  Our students are more than the sum of their test scores, and an overemphasis on test scores will not result in increased learning, increased well-being, and greater success.  According to a nine-year study by the National Research Council[8], the past decade’s emphasis on testing has yielded little learning progress, especially considering the cost to our taxpayers.

We support accountability and high standards.  We want what is best for our students.  We believe, however, that an unproven and potentially harmful evaluation system is not the path to lasting school improvement.  We must not lose sight of what matters the most—the academic, social, and emotional growth and well-being of Chicago’s children.[9]

Download this letter here.

* * *

Signed by 88 educational researchers across Chicagoland, as of March 26, 2012.  University affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

1.     (Primary Contact) Kevin Kumashiro, University of Illinois at Chicago,, 312-996-8530
2.     Ann Aviles de Bradley, Northeastern Illinois University
3.     William Ayers, University of Illinois at Chicago
4.     Martha Biondi, Northwestern University
5.     Leslie Rebecca Bloom, Roosevelt University
6.     Robert Anthony Bruno, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
7.     Brian Charles Charest, University of Illinois at Chicago
8.     Amina Chaudhri, Northeastern Illinois University
9.     Ronald E. Chennault, DePaul University
10.   Sumi Cho, DePaul University
11.   Katherine Copenhaver, Roosevelt University
12.   Gabriel Cortez, Northeastern Illinois University
13.   Todd DeStigter, University of Illinois at Chicago
14.   Renee Dolezal, University of Illinois at Chicago
15.   Sarah Donovan, University of Illinois at Chicago
16.   Aisha El-Amin, University of Illinois at Chicago
17.   Stephanie Farmer, Roosevelt University
18.   Rocío Ferreira, DePaul University
19.   Joby Gardner, DePaul University
20.   Erik Gellman, Roosevelt University
21.   Judith Gouwens, Roosevelt University
22.   Eric Gutstein, University of Illinois at Chicago
23.   Horace R. Hall, DePaul University
24.   Cecily Relucio Hensler, University of Chicago
25.   Peter B. Hilton, Saint Xavier University
26.   Lauren Hoffman, Lewis University
27.   Marvin Hoffman, University of Chicago
28.   Nicole Holland, Northeastern Illinois University
29.   Amy Feiker Hollenbeck, DePaul University
30.   Stacey Horn, University of Illinois at Chicago
31.   Diane Horwitz, DePaul University
32.   Marie Tejero Hughes, University of Illinois at Chicago
33.   Seema Iman, National Louis University
34.   Valerie C. Johnson, DePaul University
35.   Susan Katz, Roosevelt University
36.   Bill Kennedy, University of Chicago
37.   Jung Kim, Lewis University
38.   Michael Klonsky, DePaul University
39.   Pamela J. Konkol, Concordia University Chicago
40.   Emily E. LaBarbera-Twarog, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
41.   Crystal Laura, Chicago State University
42.   Pauline Lipman, University of Illinois at Chicago
43.   Alberto Lopez, Northeastern Illinois University
44.   Norma Lopez-Reyna, University of Illinois at Chicago
45.   Antonina Lukenchuk, National Louis University
46.   Christina L. Madda, Northeastern Illinois University
47.   Eleni Makris, Northeastern Illinois University
48.   Christine Malcom, Roosevelt University
49.   Kathleen McInerney, Saint Xavier University
50.   Elizabeth Meadows, Roosevelt University
51.   Erica R. Meiners, Northeastern Illinois University
52.   Marlene V. Meisels, Concordia University Chicago
53.   Gregory Michie, Concordia University Chicago
54.   Daniel Miltner, University of Illinois at Chicago
55.   Tom Moher, University of Illinois at Chicago
56.   Carol Myford, University of Illinois at Chicago
57.   Isabel Nuñez, Concordia University Chicago
58.   Tammy Oberg De La Garza, Roosevelt University
59.   Esther Ohito, University of Chicago
60.   Tema Okun, National Louis University
61.   Irma Olmedo, University of Illinois at Chicago
62.   Bradley Porfilio, Lewis University
63.   Amira Proweller, DePaul University
64.   Isaura B. Pulido, Northeastern Illinois University
65.   Therese Quinn, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
66.   Eileen Quinn Knight, Saint Xavier University
67.   Josh Radinsky, University of Illinois at Chicago
68.   Arthi Rao, University of Illinois at Chicago
69.   Dale Ray, University of Chicago
70.   Sarah Maria Rutter, University of Illinois at Chicago
71.   Karyn Sandlos, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
72.   William H. Schubert, University of Illinois at Chicago
73.   Brian D. Schultz, Northeastern Illinois University
74.   Amy Shuffleton, University on Wisconsin at Whitewater
75.   Noah W. Sobe, Loyola University Chicago
76.   Sonia Soltero, DePaul University
77.   Gerri Spinella, National Louis University
78.   David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago
79.   Simeon Stumme, Concordia University Chicago
80.   Tom Thomas, Roosevelt University
81.   Richard M. Uttich, Roosevelt University
82.   Robert Wagreich, University of Illinois at Chicago
83.   Frederico Waitoller, University of Illinois at Chicago
84.   Norman Weston, National Louis University
85.   Daniel White, Roosevelt University
86.   Jeff Winter, National Louis University
87.   Chyrese S. Wolf, Chicago State University
88.   Kate Zilla, National Louis University

This letter can be downloaded at

[1] Baker, E., et al. (2011). Correspondence to the New York State Board of Regents. Retrieved October 16, 2011 from
[2] Papay, J. (2011). Different tests, different answers: The stability of teacher value-added estimates across outcome measures. American Educational Research Journal, 48(1), 163-193.
[3] McCaffrey, D., et al. (2004). Evaluating value-added models of teacher accountability. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.
[4] See Burris, C., & Welner, K. (2011). Conversations with Arne Duncan: Offering advice on educator evaluations. Phi Delta Kappan, 93(2), 38-41.
[5] Goe, L., & Holdheide, L. (2011). Measuring teachers’ contributions to student learning growth for nontested grades and subjects. Retrieved February 2, 2012 from
[6] Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education of the National Research Council. (2011).
Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
[7] Baker, E., et al (2010). Problems with the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, DC: Economic
Policy Institute. Retrieved October 16, 2011 from;
Newton, X., et al. (2010). Value-added modeling of teacher effectiveness: An exploration of stability across models
and contexts. Education Policy and Analysis Archives. Retrieved October 16, 2011 from; Rothstein, J. (2009). Student sorting and bias in value-added
estimation: Selection on observables and unobservables. Education Finance and Policy, 4(4), 537–571.

[8] Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education of the National Research Council. (2011).
Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
[9] Note: This letter was adapted from the letter written by Sean C. Feeney, Ph.D. and Carol C. Burris, Ed.D., which was signed by more than 1400 New York principals in opposition to New York’s evaluation plan.