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The Latest on Charleston's Merit Pay Fiasco

on Thu, 01/16/2014 - 18:50

Breaking News: Charleston’s Consultant BOTCHED Dozens of Teacher Evaluations

The firm being paid $2.9 million to run Charleston’s value-added system, recently bungled 10% of DC’s teacher evaluations

Teachers were fired or cheated out of up to $15,000

The firm blames, “A small typo.”   Apparently, they were too busy cashing checks to check their work.

Before this work became a billion-dollar industry, they warned that value-added has a built-in 36% error rate

Is that before or after they botch the data?


Where Are We in the Process?

A stunning avalanche of emails (THANK YOU!!!—Keep it coming!) and negative media attention has quickly moved the District through the stages of grief:


We got some rather huffy feedback to our last newsletter and this op-ed, all of it steeped in...


Why pick on a nice little bonus program like BRIDGE?  How dare we suggest that the District plans to fire teachers and withhold salaries on the basis of shoddy data?

Charleston repeatedly promised to do both of those things in a very aggressive Federal grant application.  Click for key excerpts.

Their application beat out dozens of others to bring in $23 million.

Board and Administration discussed these ideas in several meetings.  I can vouch for their sincerity and enthusiasm.


At the first hint of criticism, the District asked the Federal government for flexibility to “slow down” implementation.  Turns out, the Feds are NOT interested in any major deviations from Charleston’s timetable.

After a round of devastating local & national media coverage, I joined several other teachers for a candid closed-door session on evaluation with Supt. Nancy McGinley.

The most promising concepts discussed are off-limits under the grant.

Regrettably, no such conversation occurred before we applied for the grant that now ties our hands. 


Deck chairs are being frantically rearranged

A districtwide dry-run of VAM scheduled for next year has been replaced with a districtwide dry-run of another component called SLOs (Student Learning Objectives).


How Good Are Your Psychic Powers?

With SLOs, teachers and principals try to guess how many students will hit a data target.

Teachers are judged on whether or not they were right.

For the most part, suitable assessments do not currently exist in Charleston. 


Sound tricky?  That’s why it wasn’t scheduled to go districtwide until 2015.


Now that VAM has run into PR problems, the District has brought in extra consultants to rush SLOs into the pipeline for September.


Want to know more about SLOs?  Join the club.  There’s been very little research


What little there is does not inspire confidence :


No studies have attempted to measure the reliability of SLOs” – Mathematica, 2013


SLOs are difficult to make valid and reliable….Making SLOs an important component of high-stakes evaluation could undermine their validity…SLOs can require substantial training and technology infrastructure…they can be time-consuming

for teachers and evaluators alike.”Mathematica, 2013


Meanwhile, the endgame hasn’t changed at all;

BRIDGE will use both VAM and SLO’s to judge (and fire) teachers, and decide their salaries.

Under the terms of their grant, Charleston MUST ask for a waiver from the state next year to start doing those things in 2015-16.

Help the District move towards:

Acceptance & Letting Go!

Join us on Jan 27th at 5:15pm!

75 Calhoun St.


Tell District leadership to

“Send It Back!