Well, I didn't want to get into this subject in too much detail until I had an opp to meet with KCEA prez Sherry Morgan (coming up later this week), BUT...it sure does look like an awful lot of organizations and individuals endorsing this KCS budget just don't understand the mechanics of the school system's APEX "strategic" (as McIntyre calls it) compensation plan.

Cognizant that the dozen or so teachers to have explained it to me COULD all be wrong, the problem with the APEX plan according to them is that teachers in many subject areas taught in our local schools do not themselves administer any standardized test to their own students.

In those cases, which they say are many, the APEX plan causes the "test-less" teachers to have to "choose" the student test scores from among subject areas other teachers are teaching for the purpose of establishing the "performance" of the "test-less" teachers.

Understand that not only do the "test-less" teachers not teach these students whose test scores will determine the "test-less" teachers' so-called "performance," the "test-less" teachers may not even know the students on whose test scores the "test-less" teacher depends--for 50% of her evaluation score!

As teachers have explained the problem to me, these are just some of the subject areas in which "test-less" teachers will be hitching their wagons to someone else's star (notes in parentheses stand for the grade levels impacted, as in E=Elementary, M=Middle, H=High):

All Social Studies teachers (E/M/H)
All Social Science teachers (H)
All Foreign Language teachers of any sort (H)
All Physical Education teachers (E/M/H)
All Art teachers (E/M/H)
All Music/Chorus teachers (E/M/H)
All Band teachers (M/H)
All Special Education teachers of any sort (E/M/H)
All English as a Second Language teachers (E/M/H)
All Business-related teachers (M/H)
All Health Science-related teachers (M/H)
All Vocational teachers of any sort (H)

Additionally, teachers in high schools are especially upset, as they report that up to 50% of their schools' staff--some claim more than 50% of their schools' staff--are "test-less."

System wide and across all grade levels, they estimate that around 1/3 of teachers are "test-less" and therefore compromised this way. If that's true, the 2011 State Report Card indicates the problem impacts over 1000 teachers.

All of this unconfirmed by either the local KCEA prez or the Superintendent's office, either one...but it sure sounds like our "test-less" teachers have a valid complaint.

Oh, and I find only one news story on this subject in the KNS archives (in which I see my own comments asking "huh?"), which ran August 30, 2011 and which was entitled "Teachers get answers at town hall."

From every indication I have, they didn't.

Are all these teachers wrong or are all these cheerleaders clueless?

AnonyMoose's picture


As I understand this, it looks like more than half of the APEX strategic compensation reward system is tied to two things that have nothing to do with student test scores.

1.) 35% is qualitative assessment
2.) 20% is teacher leadership, measured by quality and impact

Another 10% of the APEX compensation plan is based on if a teacher is at a high needs school. The system recognizes that schools with higher rates of free/reduced price students often carry with them more of a challenge for educators.


Tamara Shepherd's picture


Thanks for the link to that chart, AnonyMoose. I did go to the KCS site before launching this conversation and opened umpteen links produced by my search on "APEX," but after several minutes I still hadn't found this...

Looking just at the factors determining "Objective 1-Student Success," it appears that the formula measures "Student Growth" using two determinants, namely "TVAAS" (so-called "value-added" test scores") which count for 70% of total points and "Other Student Achievement" which counts for 30% of total points.

Since the "Student Success" measure itself counts for 35% of teachers' possible points by all measures, "TVAAS" or so-called "value-added test scores" therefore comprise 25%--not 50% as I'd been told--of teachers' maximum possible points (70% of the 35% total points possible in the "Student Success" category).

Well, I do see that those "test-less" teachers to have told me value-added test scores generated by other teachers' students count for "50% of teachers' evaluation scores" either misunderstood or exaggerated--but I'm nevertheless concerned to see that any percentage of a "test-less" teachers' evaluation score relies on test scores produced by other teachers' students.

Then too, that APEX determines an entire 25% of a "test-less" teachers' evaluation score by this device is significant.

While I can appreciate your comments concerning the several other measures comprising "test-less" teachers' overall evaluation score, that the rubric also relies on those other measures does little to minimize my concern that a full 25% of these teachers' overall scores depend on the test performance of students over which this type of teacher has no possible impact.

Somebody's picture

Have you or anyone asked

Have you or anyone asked someone in the school central office for an actual copy of the compensation plan itself? Searching their website for "APEX" does indeed bring up lots of different stuff, so finding it that way probably isn't ideal.

I do find it befuddling that you're offering a review of something you admittedly haven't seen. It'd be kind of like assessing teachers' performance based on the test scores of students they've never taught.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Somebody, I explained in my first comment here--which is rife with disclaimers--that I was only relating concerns as expressed to me by teachers.

My second comment here relies on the chart itself, which you'll see AnonyMoose linked when I (and you, apparently) could not find it at the KCS site.

(And the only question to be determined by the chart itself related to weighting in the APEX formula. As parent to a high school student myself, I was already aware of just how many subject areas are not tested via any standardized test.)

Jim Horn's picture

Tamara and all, I think

Tamara and all, I think tested and test-less teachers have valid complaints, as do parents and other citizens who care about the student-teacher relationship that has always been the sacred trust that constitutes the heart of good teaching. When the bonus pay and teacher eval system based on test scores came to MA last year, I offered public testimony about what I believe to be the most potentially damaging of all the test and punish policies that corporate education reform has dreamed up.

Such a short-sighted policy promises to replace much needed teacher collaboration with senseless and divisive competition for students who can deliver the scores, and tying teacher pay or job security to scores will not make teachers more accountable for student achievement. It may, however, have a deadly impact on the now-tenuous relationships at the heart of student learning and growth.

On top of these considerations, the National Academies of Science issued a red flag for using value-added testing to make high stakes decisions in schools. As you might expect, the Gates people now running Arne Duncan's Department of Education ignored those warnings, which can be found here: (link...)

There are other reasons, too, to think this is a bad idea, which have to do with putting poor schools with poor children further behind. The teacher pay disparity between the rich and poor systems will become more fine-grained, so that poor schools wherever they are located (in rich or poor districts) can have their teachers further disenfranchised with this kind pay system.

And, of course, there's the research studies, one done in Nashville by Vanderbilt U, that demonstrated bonus pay does not work to raise achievement. The two other studies were New York and Chicago that found the same thing. Enough for now. Jim

Leah Davis's picture

your request for information

Tamara - Please contact me by email if you want more information re a previous post.

jcgrim's picture

Absurd, rigid, fraudulent and meaningless metrics

APEX aggregates a TVAAS (an "other"?)standard test score with the TEAM observation rubric scores.
First. TVAAS test scores are factored into a value-added statistical model(VAM) that calculates the teacher's contribution to student learning (so the true believers claim). Then, it's combined with the TEAM rubric score using a 1 -5 likert scale. The logic of combining 2 vastly different scales and deriving a meaningful score is nonsense. These folks might as well tell us they can turn straw into gold.

Further, even without a TEAM score, Bruce Baker of Rutgers calculates the odds of teachers making a VAM score that will qualify them for a raise or tenure after 3 years. In short, the odds are with the house- teachers lose.
VAM is an absurd, meaningless metric that is about as accurate as rolling dice.

Second. APEX claims the TEAM rubric observation is a "qualitative" evaluation. (35% goes to 50% of TEAM rubric score.) The TEAM rubric score is not a qualitative evaluation. Repeat. TEAM is not a qualitative evaluation. Maybe if I say it enough, those outside of the bubble will understand that TEAM results in a static score between 1 and 5.Even with the professionalism rubric, TEAM is always scored numerically.

Can someone please explain why Knox County schools is wasting money on teacher evaluations that are invalid and unreliable in subjects teacher do teach, do not represent scores of one third of subjects measured, and are not recommended for high stakes decisions by the National Academy of Science? What happened to spending money IN CLASSROOMS for KIDS? How about lowering class sizes and adding libraries with full time librarians?

Finally. Are you aware that TEAM/TAP has no independent peer-reviewed research replicating its claims? The importance of peer-review cannot be overstated. Real science involves critically appraising other positions--kind of like an academic bloodbath! The Milkens have been marketing TEAM/TAP since the1990’s. If it is so effective, shouldn’t there be dozens of studies replicating its success? Peer-review constrains bad science and practices, and protects those from harm who are subjected to its application. It’s not an overstatement to say that, absent critical review, the TEAM evaluation can identify teaching quality about as well as rolling dice. (Oops, there we go again playing craps. Casino gambling is a lucrative business, so why not gamble with the future of our public schools?)

That the Milken family foundation has bypassed peer review and critical analysis and sold its “product” to the taxpayers is very curious. This use of our public funds deserves further scrutiny. Recall that co-founder Michael Milken is a convicted felon. Rudy Giuliani successfully prosecuted him for a massive fraud in 1989 that destroyed his company and cost the taxpayers millions in the ensuing cascade of savings and loan failures. Milken’s crimes were so egregious, president G.W. Bush refused to give him a presidential pardon. Caution and study here would seem wise.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Interested parties will want to know that News-Sentinel editorial staff have scheduled a meeting with representative teachers at which they will explain concerns with the APEX teacher evaluation model.

Many thanks to KNS.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


And I want an honorary MBA from Duke University.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I am just this morning learning that some states have already exempted charter schools from their new laws mandating test-based teacher evaluations and/or merit pay.

Two I've come across are Washington and New York (the latter reported by Diane Ravitch).

In a third state, a two month-old news story reported that Florida may do the same. Have they?

And how widespread is this circumstance?

Bird_dog's picture

APEX looks like stinkin' hooey to me...

Thanks, Tamara, for diving into details that make my head hurt. My kids school days are over, so my focus is on other problems like unemployment, mental illness, incarceration, stuff like that...

Looks like too much time and money has been spent coming up with that ridiculous APEX compensation model - it does not measure what we want to measure: is a teacher effective and are students learning?

Tamara Shepherd's picture


That's "Is our children learning," Bird!

Recall the roots for this nonsense.

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