Education Week - June 1, 2016 - (Page 10)
Courts Often Don't Hold
Districts Liable for Bullying
SCHOOL LAW | Students who have been bullied
in school long have had difficulty holding districts
responsible for the acts of other students. A
decision last week by a federal appeals court
extends that streak, and in stark terms.
A Massachusetts middle school student identified
as R.M. was 12 when he faced alleged bullying by
students at school in 2011. Court papers say one
day R.M. was repeatedly kicked and punched by
students belonging to "the Kool-Aid Club" gang.
There is some evidence that R.M. had agreed to
the beating for initiation to the club. But after he
discussed the situation with the principal, he was
bullied by the club more, because he had gotten
them into trouble. (R.M. himself was disciplined for
"delaying the investigation.")
The suit alleges acts by fellow students of "tabletopping"-in which one bully pushes the victim
backward over another who is on all fours behind the
victim-as well as "pantsing," in which the victim's
pants are quickly pulled down from behind.
The court papers suggest that administrators at
Lexington Middle School in Lexington, Mass., at
times seemed to take seriously the complaints of
R.M. and his mother, but that their responses to the
bullying were ineffective. The suit also alleges school
officials asked Lexington police to go to R.M.'s house
to enforce the compulsory-attendance law when he
refused to go to school because of panic attacks over
His mother sued, arguing, among other claims,
that the actions of the district and its officials fell
within the "state-created danger" theory of liability.
That theory has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme
Court for situations in which government acts create
or worsen danger to an individual.
The suit contends the district "turned a blind
eye" to the bullying and took affirmative steps to
disregard R.M.'s complaints.
A federal district court dismissed the lawsuit, and
in a May 23 decision in Morgan v. Town of Lexington,
a three-judge appellate panel unanimously ruled
for the defendants as well. It cited a 2005 case in
which the court rejected any government liability
in the case of a 15-year-old girl who had witnessed
a murder and was told she would be provided police
protection if she testified in the case.
"She agreed; she was not protected; and she was
murdered," the appeals court said. "We explained
that it is not enough to allege something shocked
the conscience. The plaintiff had to show that
governmental conduct caused the deprivation of the
right. We said: The purpose of the due process clause
is to protect the people from the state, not to ensure
that the state protects them from each other."
The court also rejected the family's state-createddanger claim.
Gates Chief Acknowledges
| CURRICULUM MATTERS | In a letter posted last
week on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
website, CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann
acknowledged that the group had made some
miscalculations regarding implementation of the
Common Core State Standards.
The Gates Foundation has backed the common
standards, which more than 40 states are now
using, since their conception. (The foundation helps
support Education Week's coverage of college- and
career-ready standards.) Over the past seven
years, the math and reading standards have
faced political backlash as well as objections from
educators who disagree with their content. Teachers
around the country also complained that they
lacked the instructional materials and professional
development necessary to use the standards
effectively in their classrooms.
The uproar has been most fervent in places where
student scores on the common-core tests were linked
to teachers' evaluations.
In the letter, Desmond-Hellmann wrote:
"Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the
level of resources and support required for our public
education systems to be well-equipped to implement
the standards. We missed an early opportunity
to sufficiently engage educators-particularly
teachers-but also parents and communities so that
the benefits of the standards could take flight from
The letter goes on to say that all teachers need
access to high-quality materials. "But far too many
districts report that identifying or developing
common-core-aligned materials is a challenge,
meaning that teachers spend their time adapting
or creating curriculum, developing lessons, and
searching for supplemental materials," DesmondHellmann wrote.
The foundation is now "doubling down on our
efforts to make sure teachers have what they need to
make the most of their unique capabilities," she said.
NEW E-BOOK FROM EDUCATION WEEK PRESS
Education Week gets to the
heart of a law set to reshape the
education policy landscape for
years to come.
10 | EDUCATION WEEK | June 1, 2016 | www.edweek.org
Study on Teacher Test
Finds Mixed Results
scores are probed
By Stephen Sawchuk
Does testing make for better teaching? The first major independent
research study on a closely watched
licensing test for teachers that measures classroom skills, the edTPA,
has some mixed answers to that
New teachers who passed the
edTPA on their first try tended to
boost their students' reading achievement more than those who didn't, according to the study, conducted by
the National Center for Analysis of
Longitudinal Data in Education Research, or CALDER.
I think some of what
edTPA is picking
up is your ability
either in written
form or orally.
National Center for Analysis of
Longitudinal Data in Education Research
But passing the exam didn't seem
to bear any relationship to students'
math scores. And it's less clear
whether posting small score improvements on the exam translates into
"This is a study where middleground findings make it harder to
interpret," said Dan Goldhaber, the
director of CALDER at the American
Institutes for Research.
The edTPA differs from most other
licensing tests in that it hinges on a
demonstration of classroom instruction, rather than on a stream of multiple-choice questions.
Some 18,000 teacher-candidates
took the edTPA in 2014, and 13
states now use or are planning to
use the test for licensing, or to gauge
the quality of preparation programs.
The CALDER study takes a stab
at the important question of "predictive validity"-that is, whether
teacher-candidates who achieve a
certain score on the edTPA end up
helping their students learn more
than those who don't.
The researchers examined scores
from some 2,300 Washington state
teacher-candidates who took the
exam in 2013-14. Then they analyzed the standardized-test performance of students taught by a subset of those teachers, using a "value
added" methodology to gauge their
impact on student performance.
(Candidates did not have to pass in
order to teach until January 2014.)
The researchers found a significant association between candidates
who achieved the Washington state
cutoff score-35 out of a possible 75
for most certification areas-and
students' test scores in reading.
But in math, there was no consistent link between teachers who had
passing edTPA scores and students'
It's unclear why the link showed
up only in reading, said Goldhaber.
"It falls into the realm of speculation, but I think some of what edTPA
is picking up is your ability to communicate, either in written form or
orally. And those are skills sets that
may be more important to teaching
reading," he said.
A Controversial Exam
Proponents of the exam have
billed it not just as a way of gauging teacher skills, but as a developmental tool that can help teacherpreparation programs improve their
curriculum. To investigate that potential, the researchers also looked
at whether students did better as
candidates' scores improved.
But the study found that the results were mixed in this connection,
too. There was no association between edTPA score distribution and
students' reading scores. In math,
there was only modest evidence that
a higher score consistently meant
more effective teaching.
The findings are likely to be closely
analyzed, in part because the exam
has proved to be controversial.
Although it was designed by
of the country's most influential
teacher-educators-and her team
at the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity, or
SCALE, some teacher-educators
say the edTPA diminishes their
own responsibility to determine
when someone is ready to teach.
Others question whether the exam
is vulnerable to cheating, or at
$300 a pop, too expensive.
Ray Pecheone, the executive director of SCALE, noted that valueadded estimates can be unstable.
But he praised the study overall.
"I find the results, while mixed, encouraging," he said.
Pecheone added that he would
like to see future research look at
the link between edTPA scores and
teachers' evaluations and to track
results over time.
"The first year of teaching is really
a struggle for most teachers, ... and it
takes certainly more than a year for
them to really show powerful results,
so I'd love to see this study continued
over multiple years," he said.
Coverage of policy efforts to improve
the teaching profession is supported by
a grant from the Joyce Foundation, at
Education Week retains sole editorial
control over the content of this coverage.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 1, 2016
Education Week - June 1, 2016
In Special Education, A Debate on Bias
Proposed ESSA Rules Aim to Strike Balance
Civil Rights Office Gets Aggressive
Charter Movement Fuels Boom For Public Montessori Schools
News in Brief
Transgender Debate: What’s Next?
Free Website Expands on EngageNY’s Mission
Study on Teacher Test Finds Mixed Results
Blogs of the Week
Digital Learning Games Breaking Into K-12 Mainstream
Girls Outperform Boys on First National Test of Tech, Engineering
Oregon Creates a ‘Lens’ for Viewing Educational Equity
High School Takes Cue From Montessori
School Finance Suits: More Than Just a Legal Roll of the Dice?
Report Feeds Into Debate Over Racial, Economic Inequities
Blogs of the Week
Policing Girls of Color in School
The Plight of Black Girls in K-12 Schools
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Black Girls, Discipline, and Schools
Education Week - June 1, 2016