Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bloomberg: Fracking Is Great

The Mayor of Money, up in Albany to push the legislature to create a Tier VI pension, said he supports fracking so long as its not near the NYC watershed.

Just another reason to send the Little Autocrat back to Bermuda.

You know, I support fracking too - at Bloomberg's house in Bermuda.

The Unbearable Randomness Of VAM

GF Brandenburg does a great job of succinctly summing up Gary Rubenstein's two part analysis of the value-added measurements that were used in the Teacher Data Reports:

He discovered several very important things:

(1) There is almost no correlation between a teacher’s score in 2009 to that for the following year.

(2) There is almost no correlation between a teacher’s score when teaching math and when teaching reading – to the same kids, the same year, and in the same elementary class.

(3) There is almost no correlation between a teacher’s score when teaching different grade levels of the same subject (i.e., Math 6 versus Math 7, and so on).

In other words, the Value Added Methodology is very close to being a true random number generator — which would be great if we were playing some sort of fantasy role-playing game or a board game like Monopoly or Yahtzee. But it’s an utterly ridiculous way to run a school system and to evaluate teachers.

I highly recommend reading his two blogs on this topic, which are here (for the first part) and here (for the second part).

After you read them, you need to pass the word (email, word of mouth, twitter, Like, facebook, whatever).

We need to kill this value-added mysticism and drive a special wooden stake through its evil, twisted heart.

The NY Times reports that the VAM rankings released for charter school teachers yesterday had an even higher margin of error than the ones released for traditional public school teachers last Friday.

Nothing like using an evaluation system with a maximum margin of error of 75% in math and a maximum margin of error of 87% in English to publicly humiliate teachers.

Of course the Mayor of Money says he has no problem with this - no evaluation system is perfect, but we need to evaluate teachers, this is the best we can do, and the data must be made public.

Would Bloomberg trust a political poll with a MOE of 87%?

Would Bloomberg trust a company that had a 75% MOE on its reported earnings?

Nope - but he trusts an eval system with that kind of MOE.

It's time to send the Little Autocrat back to Bermuda and take away his control of the NYC school system.

Seriously - he's not trying to improve public schools.

He's trying to destroy them - and teachers too.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If Merryl Tisch Is For It, It Must Be Bad

The Wall Street Journal reports that Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch wants to shield the new teacher evaluations New York State will be using next year from disclosure to the press:

As New York City parents and teachers struggled Monday to make sense of recently published schoolteacher rankings, education officials considered whether future releases should be illegal to protect a fragile truce on a new statewide system.

Legal experts said a series of court rulings have made it increasingly clear that statistics-based portions of teacher evaluations are public information, unlike those of police officers, firefighters and other public workers specifically protected under state law.

Only a change in law, experts said, would change that. Shielding teacher rankings from public view is likely to become a new pressure point in the debate over how to measure the effectiveness of teachers, lawmakers and officials said Monday.

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, which sets education policy, said that while she backs using tests scores to hold teachers accountable, she would support changing state law to hide their rankings from public view.

"If that's what it's going to take, I think that we have to really consider a remedy here," Ms. Tisch said.

You'll recall Tisch, along with other so-called education reformers like Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and Wendy Kopp, was against the publication of the Teacher Data Reports in New York City.

Why were all these reformers against the publication of the TDR's?

Did they want to shield teachers from publication humiliation?

Unlikely - Gates has made his philanthropy bones demonizing teachers as THE problem in public education and Merryl Tisch said late least year that the public hates teachers but once a scientific, objective teacher evaluation law was put into place, they wouldn't dislike them so much.

You know, like the one with the maximum margin of error of 87% in English and 75% in math that the city used for 4th-8th ELA and math teachers.

Never mind that poll after poll shows the public actually likes and respects teachers (here is the latest one) - in Tisch's mind, teachers suck, many need to be fired and an evaluation based upon a flawed VAM model is the way to get this goal accomplished.

So no wonder she wants to shield the new teacher evaluations from public disclosure.

Because it has been public disclosure of the VAM used in the Teacher Data Reports that has even parents who share the view that teachers should be held accountable by using test scores wondering if evaluations based upon test scores makes any sense:

How useful are the city’s newly released teacher-evaluation scores? Let’s say you’re a hypothetical parent—maybe me. You go to the Times’ summation of the ratings for your child’s school, and find that they look pretty bad. In English, none of the teachers managed to score above average; only a small minority of the math teachers did. A teacher your child loves and seems to be learning a lot from was in the high single digits, percentile-wise. This is surprising, if not alarming, because your child’s school, as evidenced by a brutal middle-school admissions process, is one of the more highly regarded in Manhattan, a reputation that is backed up by other statistics. Its scores on the state English and math tests are well above average; so are its admissions to specialized high schools. On the city’s other arcane customized statistical product, the school report card, it has received an A five years in a row. The city just gave your child’s principal a twenty-five-thousand-dollar performance bonus. If you believe in statistics, you are presented with a terrific school with terrible teachers—except that the importance of teachers is what underlies this whole exercise and, as far as your amateur eye can tell, has been a key part of its success. You also learn that there are similar contradictory numbers at other good—or is that “good”—schools, including the elementary school your child just graduated from, toward which you feel unmitigated gratitude. You might be a parent who really does believe that tests are meaningful, and knows for a fact that teachers are. And then you’re just confused.

Look a little further and you’ll find a Times article—maybe it’s about your child’s own school, and a teacher in an upper grade there who, once you read about what she does for her students, many of whom have gone on to great high schools, you feel your own child would be lucky to have. She’s the subject of an article, though, because she’s probably going to be denied tenure and is thinking of leaving teaching: she has been statistically designated as being in the lowest seven per cent of teachers, according to the ratings. Why? The Times throws up its hands, referring to a formula that turns on what students are expected to do, involving thirty-two variables “plugged into a statistical model that looks like one of those equations that in ‘Good Will Hunting’ only Matt Damon was capable of solving.”

That formula, it turns out, is especially bad at dealing with both terrific and terrible:

The city acknowledged that the model was “too sensitive” among teachers whose students did either very well or very poorly. That lesson was shared with schools and the state “as it creates a new model for teacher evaluations,” said Matthew Mittenthal, an Education Department spokesman.

So should we make choices based on the current model or not? The city already does, in terms of tenure. The ratings were released as part of a lawsuit, but with what was reportedly the Bloomberg Administration’s tacit encouragement. Teachers ought to be held accountable. I went to a public elementary school in Brooklyn where I had a third-grade teacher who kept the shades drawn and had us fill the time coloring things in, as she sat at her desk in some sort of jittery daze; she should have been fired, just as the first-grade teacher who encouraged me should, in my book, have been given not only bonuses but baskets of flowers. And statistics are great, if they make sense. They are powerful both politically and rhetorically; if the city is going to play this game, it has to do a lot better. Otherwise, it is going to lose even the parents who share its goals.

So if even parents who like the idea of using test scores to "hold teachers accountable" are starting to rethink their support of that position, you can bet how parents who do not support using test scores to grade teachers are going to feel about the issue.

The reformers are afraid the TDR publication has torn back the curtain on the mess that is VAM and given the opposition some very powerful ammunition in the fight to prove using VAM to grade individual teachers is crap.

No wonder Merryl Tisch is now calling for the new evaluations - 40% of which will be tied to state and local tests evaluated through different value-added measurements - to be hidden from public view.

Clearly Ms. Tisch, who never met a teacher she didn't want to bash, isn't concerned for the reputations or feelings of teachers or she wouldn't say the insulting things she says about teachers on a regular basis.

So the motivation is more devious.

Simply put, she wants to hide just how error-riddled the new statewide evaluation system is going to be and what better way to do that than make it unFOILable.

In the end, I don't want my evaluation to show up in the NY Post every year, but I also don't want the NYSED, the Regents, and the NYCDOE to be able to do their value-added machinations in the dark away from public view.

Because you can bet a mayor who says he wants to fire 50% of teachers and a Regents Chancellor who thinks the public hates teachers despite a multitude of evidence that they actually like teachers are going to try and rig the evaluation system to scapegoat teachers and fire as many as they can.

So I'm torn on this.

And the thing that keeps coming back to my mind is, if Merryl Tisch and Bill Gates are for something, it must be really, really bad...

Monday, February 27, 2012

Murdoch Is Scum

Just in case you needed more evidence, see here.

Gotta love that News Corporation hacked Charlotte Church and her family from 2002-2006, followed her relentlessly, published salacious stories about her family, brought her mother to the brink of suicide, threatened to print even more salacious material about the family if her mom didn't give them an exclusive about her suicide attempt, and then was going to put the Church family on trial when they sued News Corp. for damages.

Evil, evil people.

A Murdoch Monday

Rupert Murdoch spent the weekend bragging about his new Sunday Sun and rejoicing in the publication of the Teacher Data Reports in New York City.

But has hasn't had such a good Monday:

LONDON - Rupert Murdoch's top-selling U.K. tabloid, The Sun, had a culture of making illegal payments to corrupt public officials in return for stories, a senior police officer said Monday, as Murdoch announced that the paper's first-ever Sunday edition had sold more than 3 million copies.

Sue Akers, a Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, told Britain's media ethics inquiry that the newspaper openly referred to paying its sources and that such payments had been authorized at a senior level.

Her comments came the day Murdoch's company paid former teen singing sensation Charlotte Church 600,000 pounds ($951,000) in a phone-hacking settlement for violating her and her family's privacy.


Church's settlement Monday resolved her claim that 33 News of the World articles were the product of journalists illegally hacking into her family's voicemails. Despite her legal victory, Church said years of tabloid intrusions followed by years of legal battles had horrified her.

"What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me. Nothing was deemed off limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational news corporation," she said outside London's High Court.

At one point, Church's mother attempted suicide after Murdoch's papers reported that Church's father was having an affair.

That got the information from a hacked voicemail.

Nice work, Rupert.

It also turns out that News Corp. executives knew as far back as 2006 about phone hacking and other corruption but did nothing about the problems:

Senior executives of Murdoch's British newspaper division, including former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, have always insisted they were unaware of widespread phone hacking at the tabloid, even though private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was jailed briefly in 2007 for eavesdropping on royal aides on behalf of the tabloid.

But an email from the News of the World's then-lawyer, Tom Crone, submitted to the inquiry suggests that both Coulson — who later became Prime Minister David Cameron's communications chief — and Brooks knew in 2006 that police had a list of around 100 people who may have been targeted by Mulcaire.

So much for plausible deniability by the News Corp. braintrust.

A former deputy prime minister gets at the root problem of all of this corruption in Britain:

Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, whose own phone hacked by the News of the World, accused Murdoch of having a corrupting influence on British politics.

"I always thought it wrong that politicians at the highest level were so close to Murdoch, because Murdoch asked a price," Prescott told justice Brian Leveson's inquiry. "I thought it gave a kind of corrupting influence — not in the payment sense but in the power sense."


And Murdoch has enjoyed the same kind of corrupting influence here in the United States too.

Clearly the influence he has over the Republican Party through FOX News is enormous, but the corruption infects the other party too.

Just ask Fred Dicker's best pal, Andrew Cuomo, about that corruption.

He'll tell you - if he can get his lips off Fred Dicker's ass first.

Murdoch Newspapers Bribed Public Officials In Britain

Even as the Murdoch-owned newspapers in New York, particularly the NY Post, are having a field day using error-riddled teacher evaluations to demonize New York City public school teachers, the Murdoch-owned News Corporation is undergoing investigation for corruption in Britain.

Today that investigation got a little more troubling for Murdoch:

LONDON — The officer leading a police investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s British newspapers said on Monday that reporters and editors at The Sun tabloid had over the years paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for information not only to police officers but also to a “network of corrupted officials” in the military and the government.

The officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, said that e-mail records obtained by the police showed that there was a “culture at The Sun of illegal payments” that were authorized “at a very senior level within the newspaper” and involved “frequent and sometimes significant sums of money” paid to public officials in the Health Ministry and the prison service, among other agencies.

The testimony was a sharp new turn in a months-long judicial investigation of the behavior of Murdoch-owned and other newspapers, known as the Leveson inquiry. It detailed financial transactions that showed both the scale and the scope of alleged bribes, the covert nature of their payment and the seniority of newspaper executives accused of involvement.

The testimony may prove damaging to the News Corporation, the American-based parent of Mr. Murdoch’s media empire, if it gives ammunition to the F.B.I. and other agencies that are investigating the company for possible prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Here is how the Murdoch papers carried out the corruption:

In recent weeks, a number of senior journalists from The Sun have been arrested on suspicion of making illegal payments to officials, and Ms. Akers said that the activities had been carried out by “the arrested journalists.”

Ms. Akers said that the payments from The Sun went far beyond the occasional lunch or dinner, with one public official receiving more than $125,000 over several years, and a single journalist being allocated more than $238,000 in cash to pay sources, including government officials.

It was clear from references in the e-mail messages — to staff members’ “risking losing their pension or job” and to the need for “tradecraft” like keeping the payments secret or making payments to friends or relatives of the officials — that the journalists in question knew that the payments were illegal, Ms. Akers said.

“Systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money,” she said. “The e-mails indicate that payments to ‘sources’ were openly referred to within The Sun, with the category of public official being identified, rather than the individual’s identity.”

She added: “Some of the initial e-mails reveal, upon further detailed investigation, multiple payments to individuals of thousands of pounds. There is also mention in some e-mails of public officials being placed on ‘retainers,’ and this is a line of inquiry currently being investigated.”

Maybe the Murdoch papers in New York can stop the witch hunt of teachers using error-riddled teacher evaluations and instead focus on the very real corruption that infects their parent company to the core.

Mulgrew Needs To Withdraw The Agreement The NYSUT/UFT Made With The State

The Times takes a look at the fallout from the publication of the Teacher Data Reports and comes to this conclusion - Mulgrew must either justify his support for the new state evaluation system that is just like the one the city used for the TDR's or withdraw his support for it:

In the days leading up to the release of ratings for thousands of New York City public-school teachers on Friday, hundreds of e-mails poured into the in-box of Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.

“Enough of cooperation,” one member of the union wrote to his leader. Others prodded Mr. Mulgrew to stand up against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, describing him as “untrustworthy,” in what he said was a call to arms of unparalleled intensity.

“How many times do we have to get kicked in the teeth before we realize we can’t work with these people?” John Elfrank-Dana, a union chapter leader at Murry Bergtraum High School in Lower Manhattan, asked during an interview, echoing what many of his fellow teachers have said in recent days on Twitter and on various blogs.

Mr. Mulgrew and his comrades had fought for more than a year to block release of the ratings, known as teacher data reports, which try to calculate how much value individual teachers add by predicting their students’ test scores and then measuring how much they exceed or fall short of those expectations. But the legal defeat a court dealt the union, by green-lighting the release, may yet be a political victory for the union — by galvanizing members and mobilizing allies on the left, including the Occupy movement and, through which scores of people signed petitions and sent letters to news organizations last week protesting the publication of the ratings.


In New York, the state’s new evaluation system would use similar measures to calculate at least 20 percent of a teacher’s score; it took more than a year of fighting in court and at the negotiating table for state officials and union leaders to agree on the value-added weight. Mr. Cuomo had to intervene, and he ended up drafting Mr. Mulgrew to help bridge the differences between both sides.

When the deal was announced in Albany on Feb. 16, praise for Mr. Cuomo came from all corners, including Mr. Mulgrew and some of the same mayoral hopefuls who are now criticizing the rankings’ release.

Now, amid the controversy of last week, more questions are stirring about the reliability of the new system, which was written into Mr. Cuomo’s budget but still has to be signed into law.

Merryl H. Tisch, chancellor of the Board of Regents, said publication made it “more complicated to go back and negotiate at the local level,” a requirement for the new system’s adoption statewide. Mr. Mulgrew’s predecessor, Randi Weingarten, who is now president of the American Federation of Teachers, said it “couldn’t have come at a worse time.”

The outcome largely depends on Mr. Mulgrew’s next move. He will have to either figure out a way to justify his support for the new system to the union’s angry membership, or withdraw it.

You know where I stand on this. Indeed, you know where I stood before the union agreed to the new eval system on February 16.

VAM is crap.

The evaluation system the state put into motion is a nightmare, the extent of which will become apparent verym very soon.

Any evaluation system that relies on adding 20+ standardized tests a year to each grade so that students do nothing but either prep for tests or take tests and evaluates teachers using a value-added score derived from those scores with large margins of error and wide swings in variability is damaging to children, teachers and schools.

I criticized Mulgrew last week for fighting the release of the TDR's even as he was supporting the development of a similar eval system for the whole state.

Mulgrew has already admitted he doesn't have confidence that the state VAM for the new eval system is going to be any more reliable than the city VAM.

Now I call for Mulgrew at the UFT and Iannuzzi at the NYSUT to withdraw their support for the new system.

The publication of the TDR's shows the reformers cannot be trust to keep their promises, but even more importantly, the publication of the TDR's shows what a load of garbage VAM is and gives a glimpse into the future if the state goes ahead with the new evaluation system.

A Question For Teachers

Carol Corbett Burris asks it at The Answer Sheet:

Should my professional work be reduced to a number that is public and thus will affect my relationship with my community, students and their families?

This is exactly what the new evaluation law in New York State does:

The reality is that the release of teacher scores based in student test data will exacerbate all of the bad consequences of using test scores to evaluate teachers. Teachers will be even more likely to teach to the test, to resent uncooperative students, and to see fellow teachers as rivals not colleagues. They will hesitate to take on student teachers, who might depress their score. (This is already being reported by some Long Island schools of education). They will be confused as their scores go up and down each year, even as those teachers work harder and harder to prepare students for tests. For evidence regarding the unreliability of VAM scores, see here.


I could present other examples but there is no need to depress the reader further. There is every reason, however, for the educators of the nation to stand up and say “no more.” No more to systems that are planes being built in the air with parachutes for the builders but not for the child inside. No more to evaluation systems created by economists that result in the public ridicule of teachers. No more to systems which in any manner or part place teachers on a bell curve and rank them by student scores.


Unfortunately the momentum of this teacher evaluation plane that is being built in the air is too strong for this to be stopped.

My feeling is, this system will come to fruition and will play out in New York State for a number of years before it is changed.

Just as it wasn't until the TDR's were publishing that the public got a glimpse into the unreliable nonsense that is VAM, it won't be until we get the stories of teachers going from 87th percentile one year to 7th percentile the next year to 75 percentile the year after that people may come to realize VAM used on individual teachers is subject to wide swings in variability and therefore mostly useless.

It won't be until we get stories of the 21 new city and state tests added to the curriculum that turn schools into nothing but test prep and test-taking factories that the public will have to confront the madness of placing all of this emphasis on high stakes tests for teachers.

It won't be until teachers that parents know to be excellent are fired as "ineffective" that there will be political pressure from people to fight this nonsense and put some sensible and practical system into place.

Until then, I think we have some very dark, dark days to come.

And I think just as there were innocent people hurt by the publishing of the TDR's, there will be plenty of innocents harmed by Cuomo's "scientific" and "objective" evaluation system.

It would have been nice if the unions had called this system the crap it is and forced Cuomo to impose it, making Little Andy and the Regents and the NYSED have sole ownership of it.

But that hasn't happened.

Instead we have the UFT sending out Leo Casey to defend this piece of garbage and to attack principled opposition to it coming from principled people like Carol Corbett Burris and Diane Ravitch and Aaron Pallas.

And so the battle against this will have to be fought by the rank and file teacher, by the principals who have been at the barricades already fighting this mess, by the parents who now see the damage the new evaluation system brought to us by Obama, Duncan, Cuomo, Tisch, King, Gates, et al. is going to do their children and their schools.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ethics-Challenged Murdoch Assures Sunday Sun Will Be "Fun...And Ethical"

The man who leads a corporation of phone hackers, computer hackers, extortionists, bribers, and other assorted criminals and lawbreakers promises his new Sunday newspaper will have the highest standards:

Rupert Murdoch's Sun on Sunday launched with a manifesto that attempts to set out a fresh agenda for the tabloid replacing the News of the World, which was closed by the media mogul last July.

The newspaper pledged to be "fearless, outspoken, mischievous and fun", while setting out its commitment to high ethical standards in the wake of the scandals that have rocked News International and led to the arrests of 10 of its own journalists for alleged corrupt payments to public officials.


An editorial on page 12, titled "A new Sun rises today", admits News International is going through a "challenging period" and states that it will hold its journalists to account and abide by the ethical code set out by the industry watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission. It reads: "As we launch the seven-day Sun, we want to strengthen that connection [with the readers] with a new independent Sun Readers' Champion to accept feedback and correct significant errors.

"Our journalists must abide by the Press Complaints Commission's editors code, the industry standard for ethical behaviour, and the News Corporation standards of business conduct. We will hold our journalists to the standards we expect of them. After all a newspaper which holds the powerful to account must do the same with itself. You will be able to trust our journalists to abide by the values of decency as they gather news."

The paper said it would remain "fearless, outspoken, mischievous and fun" and said the Sun has been a "tremendous force for good", adding: "It is worth reminding our readers, and detractors, of that as we publish our historic first Sunday edition during what is a challenging period. News International closed our sister paper the News of the World over the phone-hacking scandal.

Even as the Sun launches with its promises of ethical journalism, The Guardian reports the following:

Earlier this week News International was accused in court documents of having taken active steps to delete and prepare to delete its email archives as phone-hacking allegations and lawsuits against the publisher mounted in 2009 and developed in 2010.

According to court documents filed by victims of hacking, the newspaper publisher allegedly produced an email deletion policy in November 2009 the aim of which was to "eliminate in a consistent manner" emails "that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation".

An unnamed senior executive at News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that publishes the Sun and the News of the World, also repeatedly demanded progress on the policy during 2010, asking on 29 July: "How come we still haven't done the email deletion policy discussed and approved six months ago?"

They've got some work to do at News Corporation to assure the rest of us they've learned to be ethical, don't they?

No Wonder Reformers Like Gates, Kopp and Rhee Didn't Want The TDR's Released Publicly

Because they expose value added measurements for the jive they are:

You would get the same kind of rankings through a random sample.

Which is basically what these TDR's based upon value-added are.

Can't wait until we're all evaluated each year with this stuff.

If Only Life Were Like The Movies

The DOE Couldn't Wait To Release The TDR's

The Columbia Journalism Review dispenses with the lie that the DOE was forced to release the TDR's or that journalists had to publish this stuff:

Eleven New York City education reporters were huddling on e-mail last October 20, musing over ways to collectively pry a schedule of school closings out of a stubborn press office, when the chatter stopped cold. Word had filtered into their message bins that the city was about to release a set of spreadsheets showing performance scores for 12,000 of the city’s 80,000 teachers—names included. Few understood better than the beat reporters that this wonky-sounding database was a game changer.

The Los Angeles Times already had jolted newsrooms across the country back in August, when it published 6,000 public school teachers’ names next to its own performance calculations. New York education reporters, though, were considerably more reluctant to leap on this bandwagon. They found themselves with twenty-four hours to explain a complex and controversial statistical analysis, first to their editors and then to the public, while attempting to fend off the inevitable political and competitive pressure to print the names next to the numbers, something nearly every one of them opposed. “I stayed up all night kind of panicked,” said Lindsey Christ, the education reporter for the local NY1 television station, “writing a memo to everyone in the newsroom explaining what was coming and what was at stake.”


On October 20, reporters from the Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal,, NY1 television, and WNYC public radio found themselves in an awkward spot. Some were so angry at what looked like a blatant attempt by the city to use reporters in its fight with the UFT that they quietly threatened to quit if their editors insisted on publishing names. Others were torn between the power of the data to inform—who are we to second guess readers’ ability to process all this complexity, they asked—and their power to distort. On top of all the other distortions, the skeptics pointed out, the tests used to calculate these evaluations had been found to be flawed. The state had been forced to recalibrate the results because the tests had become too easy to pass. The next day, reporters took a collective breath. The union filed suit in New York State Supreme Court, claiming the rankings were riddled with errors that would unfairly harm teachers. “Just because it’s a number,” the union’s lawyer, Charles Moerdler, argued later, “doesn’t mean it’s suddenly objective.” Nothing would be released until the case was settled.

The delay allowed time for news organizations to compare notes. On Thursday evening, October 21, many of the reporters found themselves at a midtown Manhattan bar, sharing drinks with the same teachers union and Department of Education staff they had encountered in court earlier. The occasion was a farewell party for New York Times education reporter Jennifer Medina, who was moving to the paper’s Los Angeles bureau. A guest from the union parked his oversized protest poster—displaying the city’s confounding-looking mathematical formula for value-added numbers—against the bar. The debate from the courtroom spilled over into the festivities. School reps shrugged off complaints, reminding reporters it was they who had filed Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests for the data. Weren’t they in the business of printing information?

But the Department of Education had privately dropped hints to some reporters that their competitors had already submitted foils, some journalists countered. Suspicions had been raised when the department responded to the foils with uncharacteristic speed. Normally, such requests took months, with layers of negotiations, said Maura Walz, a reporter for, an independent online news service. This time, it was service with a smile. “The Department of Education wants this out,” said Ian Trontz, a New York Times metro editor. “They have a lot of faith in these reports. They believe they are trustworthy enough to educate and empower parents.”

Still, empowering parents had not seemed to be a top goal in the past for this administration. To the most skeptical reporters, it appeared as if the city was using them.


By December, frustration was mounting among the New York reporters as they waited for the State Supreme Court judge to decide whether the teacher data should be released or not. Reporters described “a spirited debate” that erupted during an off-the-record pizza and wine farewell party for outgoing Chancellor Klein before Christmas. Several in attendance said reporters bombarded him with pointed questions about the data, and Klein defended their release, for the sake of parents’ right to know.

Meanwhile, some reporters produced stories that attempted to add context to the controversy over the data. WNYC ran a story that examined what school districts in Denver, the District of Columbia, and Tennessee were doing with their value-added reports. Meredith Kolodner at the Daily News found a Manhattan middle school teacher who received a “zero” rating for her performance as an English teacher. The problem? Pamela Flanagan had never taught English, only math and science. Sharon Otterman of the Times wrote a thoughtful piece that dug into some of the research. She reported on a 2010 Mathematica Policy Research institute study that warned the city’s error rate was probably very large. That’s because the Department of Education was using only four years’ worth of students’ tests to analyze each teacher (Los Angeles used seven years’ worth). The study found that with only three years of data, the results were wrong 25 percent of the time. Parents and community members remained off the radar, however. In New York, 5,000 parents sent protest letters to the Department of Education in December opposing the release of the teacher-data reports. “We believe there must be meaningful teacher evaluations in our children’s schools,” said Martha Foote, a Brooklyn PS 321 parent, “but humiliating teachers with unreliable information will only hurt them.” Their letters did not make the news.

In November, reporters got another surprise. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he would replace Klein with Cathie Black, a Hearst magazine executive who had neither government service nor education experience. The New York Times went on a rare offensive against the mayor’s choice. Reporters continued to wait for the teachers union’s case to be resolved, but by this time, the Times, the Daily News, the New York Post, and WNYC had all decided to print the data when it does arrive—names included. (The Wall Street Journal refused to disclose its plans.)

On January 10, State Supreme Court Judge Cynthia Kern ruled in favor of the city and the news organizations, saying that “there is no requirement that data be reliable for it to be disclosed.” The union quickly filed an appeal. And at press time the data was stalled in court, again.

But as they waited, the news outlets were constructing databases to collect and report the numbers, which will be searchable by teacher’s name, by school, and by district. WNYC, for example, is building an interactive tool that will try to provide context for individual teachers and caveats for the wide swath of statistical errors.

It was probably inevitable. Journalists by instinct and trade are usually in the role of arguing for full disclosure of public information, fending off cautious government arguments for moderation and restraint, not the other way around. That instinct, and the pressure of competition, eventually won out. After all, the information is public, some reporters noted, and the city is using it for tenure decisions and evaluations. “It’s in the public interest,” said Trontz of The New York Times. “If we find the data is so completely botched, or riddled with errors that it would be unfair to release it, then we would have to think very long and hard about releasing it.”

The only holdout so far appears to be “We plan to run a message saying why we are opposed to using the names,” said Elizabeth Green, editor of the site and author of a forthcoming book, Building a Better Teacher. “I want to treat schools with as much dignity as we treat restaurants. We don’t just splash grades A through F about restaurants in the paper without explanation. We do individual stories. To be fair.”

Perfection of the data is not the point, argues Arthur Browne, editorial page editor of the Daily News. The numbers, he said, will be “a net positive in terms of adding to the conversation about quality of teachers.” But what about the quality of that conversation?

In New York City, schools coverage has been largely tethered to the corporate reformers’ agenda—mostly to a measuring tool for firing incompetents. Inadequate classroom teachers are without question a serious problem, as are the rules and systems that protect them. But it’s unwise to think that weeding out the weak will address other pressing challenges facing teachers and schools and students across the city—the huge dropout rate among a rapidly growing Hispanic population, for one example, or the absence of good preschools for the rising number of poor children, or state budget cuts that are gutting core services to schools, and on and on.

I don’t happen to know any education reporters who were drawn to this complex beat in order to pore over spreadsheets, or score an interview with Bill Gates as an education expert. Most pine for more time to spend in classrooms, in science projects with preschoolers, in rapt discussions with teachers or principals or parents. Most are inspired by education’s expansive connections to culture, science, politics, and the world of ideas. The best education reporters are skilled at the invaluable art of connecting the dots for readers between policy from on high and reality in the classroom. Yet education reporters have increasingly found themselves herded toward a narrow agenda that reflects the corporate-style views of the new reformers, pulling them farther and farther away from the rich and messy heart and soul of education.

Unfortunately, most of the reporting these days has done the same for teaching by reinforcing the corporate education reform meme that the only things that matter in education are tests, test scores, and teacher ratings derived from those.

That reporters have named names in the paper using data that they know to be flawed and error-ridden is unconscionable and nothing they try and say in their defense can justify allowing themselves to be used in the political game the powers that be in both the private and government sector are playing to destroy teachers.

Sorry, doesn't matter how much "context" you give it.

These reporter KNEW the NYCDOE was using them.

And they allowed it anyway.


But they reached out and asked teachers to correct the record themselves.

Yeah, that should assuage their guilt.

Or cover them in a court of law.

Reminds me of a movie I saw once:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The TDR's Pull Back The Curtain On The Sham That Is VAM

In theory, using value-added measurements based upon test scores to evaluate teachers seems practical. It seems like a common sense thing to do.

But here is how it works in practice:

The New York City Education Department on Friday released the ratings of some 18,000 teachers in elementary and middle schools based on how much they helped their students succeed on standardized tests. The ratings have high margins of error, are now nearly two years out of date and are based on tests that the state has acknowledged became too predictable and easy to pass over time.

But even with those caveats, the scores still provide the first glimpse to the public of what is going on within individual classrooms in schools. And one of the most striking findings is how much variation there can be even within what are widely considered the city’s best schools, the ones that each September face a crush of eager parents.


For parents, seeing the rankings of the teachers they know well can be shocking. Vicki Khan, a parent at Public School 333, the Manhattan School for Children on the Upper West Side, was surprised to see that some of the teachers whom she considers outstanding had poor ratings, including one who routinely sends many of her students to a highly selective middle school. One teacher who was often late and had poor control of the class, she said, did well.

“I’m finding it really interesting because it seems completely wrong,” Ms. Khan said, adding that one of the co-teachers in the sixth grade did not even get a rating, in an apparent mistake.

Anna Rachmansky, whose son is a fifth grader at P.S. 89 in TriBeCa, was visibly stunned upon discovering that a teacher she held in high regard scored in the 10th percentile in math.

“I’m very surprised she would get poor in anything,” Ms. Rachmansky said. “She’s a very strong educator. She individualizes the curriculum.”

Sandra Blackwood, the co-president of the parent teacher association at Public School 41 in Greenwich Village, said she had little confidence that the data would be meaningful, though she felt it was important to look.

“If it is anything like the school grading system,” she said, “it will probably be highly arbitrary and not make any sense.”

But even though parents can get a peek inside of school buildings for the first time to see differences among teachers, that does not help if the underlying information is incorrect, Elizabeth Phillips, the principal of P.S. 321, said.

“What people don’t understand is that they are just not accurate,” she said. “We are talking about minute differences in test scores that cause a teacher to score in the lowest percentiles,” like a teacher whom she finds great and who scored in the sixth percentile because her students went to a 3.92 average test score from a 3.97, out of a possible 4.

And that is not to mention the teacher who had test scores listed for a year she was out on child care leave, Ms. Phillips said, and the team teacher in a classroom who did not get a report at all.

Ah yes, the excellent teacher beloved by children and respected by parents - the one who routinely sends her students to a highly selected middle school - gets a low rating on the value-added measurement for the Teacher Data Report.

Is this a fair assessment of her teaching ability?

Of course not.

For now, all that happens is she gets humiliated in public (a bad enough consequence of this policy.)

Starting next year, she will be declared an "ineffective" teacher and slated for firing in another year if she doesn't "improve" and begin to "add more value" to her students' test scores.

And this will happen to thousands of teachers all over the city every year.

Eventually we will all get the "ineffective" label when the VAM decides we didn't add enough value to our students' test scores.

This is madness.

This is not going to improve public education in the least.

And it is of course not meant to.

It is meant to demonize teachers, break the union, and allow the districts to fire any teacher at any time for any reason.

And the education reformers and the political and education establishments behind this just may get away with it.

But there is one little problem with their plan: now they're screwing with the teachers of kids in places like Park Slope, TriBeCa, Great Neck and Scarsdale.

These are neighborhoods where many parents have the time and the financial resources to know what is going on in their kids' school (unlike in lower income neighborhoods where parents are working two or three jobs to make ends meet.)

Parents in places Park Slope, TriBeCa, Great neck and Scarsdale KNOW who the good teachers are and you can bet that when some VAM score comes down and says these teachers are "bad," the majority of parents who have been paying close attention to their kids' education are going to know the VAM is wrong.

As these parents in the Times article know it.

The publishing of the Teacher Data Reports has really pulled the curtain back on VAM and evaluation policy based upon test scores.

Parents are starting to see that this stuff is not what it is purported to be.

No wonder Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch didn't want the TDR's published with names of teachers attached.

She knew this would expose VAM for the crap it is.

Same goes for Bill Gates, Wendy Kopp and all the other corporate education reformers who came out against publishing the TDR's.

They were afraid parents and the public would see the fatally flawed VAM based on test scores as not the solution to what ills public education but as something that would add to the problems.

Unfortunately, the teachers unions have signed off on VAM for the future teacher evaluation system here in NY State, so there isn't much they will do to fight it.

In fact, they're defending it even as they denounce the very similar TDR system.

So the fight is going to have to come from parents, teachers and students to say "Enough with the tests! Enough with the VAM! We want our education system back!"


Wouldn't That Be A Shame?

Proponents of value-added and teacher evaluation systems that use VAM as a key criteria are worried that the publishing of the Teacher Data Reports is going to jeopardize New York's new VAM-based teacher evaluation system:

Outside the doors of the Tweed Courthouse, the headquarters of the city’s Education Department, there were few champions on Friday of the release of individual performance rankings of 18,000 public school teachers.

Although city officials chose to release the teacher reports on the Friday of a week-long break, when many teachers and principals were on the beach and out-of-reach, the publication of the reports was greeted with an outpouring of criticism.


The word of the day was shame, both on the press and on the city’s Education Department for pursuing and suing for the data’s release, and on behalf of teachers, many of whom view this as public humiliation.


Even a Columbia University economist, Jonah E. Rockoff, who recently authored a study with two other economists using the same kind of statistical model, known as value-added, to show the effects good teachers can have on students, said he opposed their public outing in New York City.

“I think the release and having people focus on value-added in the absence of other information is a nuisance,” he said. “It’s going to cause a lot of controversy, stir up a lot of trouble for some people, and I feel like it’s unnecessary.”

Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch said that releasing the reports could endanger the teacher evaluation system recently agreed upon by the state’s teachers’ union and the State Education Department. The formula that districts will eventually put in place will use teachers’ value-added scores as 20 percent of their evaluation, and a swell of opposition to the methodology could make it difficult for districts and unions to reach final agreements.

“I really think publishing the names of teachers and their rankings on one metric of any type of teacher performance is not going to result in the improvements that we want,” she said. “And it will demonize teachers and it’s going to make it more difficult to retain the best and brightest in the classroom.”

It would be a shame if the new teacher evaluation system based on a value-added measurement methodology as flawed as the one used in the Teacher Data Reports is endangered by the publishing of the TDR's.

It would be a shame if the publishing of the TDR's sheds some light on this statistical jive known as value-added that has huge margins of error, wide swings in stability from year to year and can rank an individual teacher on the bottom of the heap one year, the top the next.

It would be a shame if the publishing of the error-riddled, flawed TDR's became a controversy that put proponents of the VAM system on the defensive and forced them to prove this methodology is fair, just, and practical enough to evaluate individual teachers and base jobs and reputations on the results.

Yeah - that would be a shame.

No wonder Wendy Kopp, Dennis Walcott, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and so many other education reformers who promote teacher evaluations based heavily on test scores and value-added measurements of such tests were opposed to the publishing of the TDR's.

It pulls back the curtain on the Wizard of VAM and lets the world see just how accurate this stuff is.

It's a shame that reputations had to be ruined for the public to see how much garbage goes into this teacher evaluation system.

But there is little doubt that members of the public, if they read past the headlines of the stories in the papers, are learning that VAM is flawed, error-riddled hocus-pocus - not the objective science proponents like Governor Cuomo like to claim it is.

Why Would Anybody In Their Right Mind Go Into Teaching?

They base 40% of your evaluations on student test scores, but 100% of the evaluation if you come up "ineffective" on that 40% part of the evaluation.

They use a value added methodology (VAM) with a margin of error as high as 75% in math and 87% in English.

They release ratings based upon this VAM to the corporate media who are happy to publish them with names attached under headlines like NYC's WORST TEACHERS.

Everybody from Bill Gates to Wendy Kopp to Michelle Rhee to Merryl Tisch to Diane Ravitch to Dennis Walcott to the guy who developed the value-added measurement methodology at the University of Wisconsin in the first place has come out against making these Teacher Data Reports public.

Yet the vaunted journalistic paragon that brought us Judy Miller and Jayson Blair publishes the reports anyway.

So does NY1.

So does the News and the Post.

When contacted about the fairness of publishing the evaluation ratings of teachers that have come from a system that is error-riddled, has wide swings in stability from year to year, has margins of error as high as 87%, reporters say that they have to publish these, that it is in the public interest to get this information out there.

I say, What about accuracy? What about fairness? Doesn't it matter that these reports have margins of error as high as 75% in math and 87% in ELA, doesn't it matter that everybody from Walcott to Gates to Tisch say they shouldn't be published?

I am told that it does not matter, that it is the journalist's job to report the information and data, to report what the people in power and the experts and the teachers involved say about the information and the data, not to independently verify or condemn it.

I'd say this is unbelievable, but I have already seen this same jive during the lead-up to the Iraq war, wherein the press acted as unofficial cheerleader and publicist for the government and spewed lies far and wide.

They're doing the same now in the lead-up to the Iran war.

And now that the UFT, the NYSUT, the Regents, the NYSED and the governor have all agreed to a teacher evaluation system that bases 40% on test scores, you can be sure that we will see this kind of thing every year with teachers.

The press will continue to publish teacher evaluations and ratings based on a flawed and error-riddled value-added methodology that ranks teachers along a bell curve and is rigged to have 10%-15% of teachers come up "ineffective" every year.

Why would anybody go into teaching knowing this is the case?

Why would anybody go into teaching knowing that they are subjecting themselves to a flawed evaluation system, a teaching job that requires you to do constant test prep and testing with your job on the line if the numbers don't come up right every year, and a yearly gauntlet of media humiliation and potential loss of job when the error-riddled ratings come out?

Seriously - why?

I only hope that now that the public sees how flawed these Teacher Data Reports are, as stories come out about teachers rated at the bottom of the list through the use of flawed data and incorrect information, that a sense of fairness and justice in people creates a groundswell to stop this madness, this absolute reliance on tests and VAM's and other flawed, error-ridden methods of teacher evaluation and public education.

But as of now, what we have is blood in the water and the press pouncing like ravenous sharks.

And I can't imagine this is going to help teacher recruitment or improvement efforts.

Newspapers Use The TDR's To Name "Worst" Teachers

That's the way the Daily News framed the story this morning:


And they names names of the "worst" teachers (i.e., those who didn't "add value" to their students' test scores.)

But then you get this warning on the second page of the story:

The teachers union and education advocates have ripped city officials over the release, calling the data deeply flawed with the potential to demonize instructors.

"This was a complete calamity and it is the clearest example of the mismanagement that the Department of Ed has put upon the teachers of New York City," United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew said.

Even Walcott warned that the data is old and cautioned against drawing conclusions.

"I definitely believe in transparency and people having information,” he said. “On the other hand, I'm very conscious ... the data with the names attached could be used in ways that could be harmful to the process of what we're trying to achieve."

One measure of caution is the wide margins of error on the rankings

. The average margin of error on multi-year scores is 35 points for math and 53 for English.

On some individual teacher rankings, the margins of error become even more troubling, going as high as 75 for math and 87 for English.

"The fact that one teacher in a school might be at the 60th percentile and another one's at the 45th percentile doesn't mean that the first teacher is more effective than the second because they come with very large margins of error," said NYU Professor Sean Corcoran, who has studied a similar ranking system in Houston.

The UFT said the rankings are also riddled with straight-forward errors like assigning the wrong students to instructors.

Pamela Flanagan, a teacher at Tompkins Square Middle School in the East Village for the past six years, initially received a zero in a 2009 report.

There was one glaring problem: she was evaluated as an English instructor when she only taught math and science.

“It’s absurd. The margin of error is so wide that you can’t tell anything from it,” Flanagan said. “How is this going to help with my teaching at all?”
Gee, margins of error as high as 75% for math, 87% for English.

But you guys named the names of the city's "worst" and "best" teachers using this data?

That is an out and out attack on teachers.

It is vicious.

And it has purpose.

Once again, the corporate media does the job of its corporate masters by attacking teachers and repeating the meme that unionized teachers with due process protections are THE problem in public education.

With the new evaluation system coming to fruition next year with its mandated city and state tests in every grade in every subject, we can ALL expect to end up slandered in the press as "CITY'S WORST TEACHER!" eventually.

The new eval system, with its bell curve ratings and error-riddled value added measurements, is meant to do just that.

Who do they think is going to want to go into teaching after this?

Seriously, who would want to subject themselves to a flawed evaluation system, a teaching job that requires you to do constant test prep and testing with your job on the line if the numbers don't come up right every year, and a yearly gauntlet of media humiliation and potential loss of job when the error-riddled ratings come out

"The End Of My Way Of Life And Purpose Are Near"

Teacher Karen Scalf responding to the criminals at the NY Times who knowingly published false and misleading data as a "public service":

AS a public school teacher , I am holding on to real teaching and learning amid this crisis of "accountability." I feel like a Native American who knows the end of my way of life and purpose in life is near. The beginning of the end of good public school education is near. "Real teachers are a dying breed," a co-worker says softly to me as we walk into the school house together. We spend training time looking at testing data, noting the gaps in scores from October and December. Are we preparing our own guillotine as we note how many points a student's score went up or down, just waiting until that student's score in part of our worth? Another co-worker says, "Soon they won't need teachers, just facilitators for the test-takers formerly known as students." You can't measure compassion, patience, emotional endurance, humor, rapport, the lyrical quality of a teacher's words or her ability to turn on the "lightbulb," create motivation for globally aware lessons that access many learning styles while allowing students to ponder the intricacies of the world and the human condition.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Mulgrew Admits He Doesn't Think The State's Value-Added Model Will Be Any Better Than The City's VAM Model

Wow - check out this doozy of a statement from UFT President Mike Mulgrew today:

In their lawsuit attempting to stop the ratings from being released, United Federation of Teachers officials identified more than 200 such errors. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said today that the errors showed that the city had not been respectful of teachers in developing or releasing the ratings.

“This was a complete debacle in terms of how the DOE has handled [the reports] and the mismanagement of the data inside of the system,” he said.

Asked whether he thought the state’s model would avoid the pitfalls the UFT identified in the city’s reports, Mulgrew said, ”I’m not confident.

But he said the state’s evaluation requirements are an improvement over the Teacher Data Reports because the new evaluations will showcase the value-added calculations alongside other measures of teacher quality.

Okay, let me get this straight - Mulgrew's not confident that the state's VAM model will be an improvement over the city's VAM model used in the TDR's - you know, the one with the margin of error as high as 75% in math and as high as 87% in ELA - but he STILL agreed to make it THE determining factor in a teacher's evaluation?

After all, come up "ineffective" on the part of the eval based just on test scores (40%) and you have to be declared "ineffective" overall as a teacher, no matter how you score on the other 60% based upon classroom observations and other measures.

Two consecutive years of that ignominious "ineffective" designation and you're fired.

And STILL Mulgrew of the UFT and Iannuzzi of the NYSUT agreed to that evaluation system even though Mulgrew's not confident that it will be any better than the one the city used with the high MOE's and the wide swings in variability?

Gee - that makes no sense.

Mulgrew better send out Lying Leo Casey to spin that doozy.

Leo is a master crafter of b.s., so perhaps he can spin this into something people support.

But on the face of the statement Mulgrew made to Gotham Schools today, the UFT president is saying he agreed to a teacher evaluation system based on student test scores that he lacks confidence in.

NY Post Education Reporter: MOE on Teacher Data Reports As High As 75% For Math, 87% For ELA

You got that right - the Teacher Data Reports which use value-added measurements that Elizabeth Green of Gotham Schools reported "appear to do the job that no measure of a teacher’s quality has done before: They estimate the amount of learning by students for which a teacher, and no one else, is responsible, and they do this with impressive reliability" have a 75% margin of error on math rankings and an 87% margin of error on ELA rankings.

That anything with MOE's this high is going to see the light of day is absurd.

That personnel decisions were made in the past on anything with MOE's this high is very disturbing.

That New York State plans to use a very similar system to decide which teachers are "effective" enough to keep their jobs and which ones should be fired is even more disturbing.

Most disturbing of all is how reporters who know this data is worthless and evaluation systems based on value-added are unreliable at best, highly damaging at worst, are happy to publish the reports with names attached.

Rigoberto Ruelas

It seems fitting to remember the LA schoolteacher who tragically took his own life after being named a "bad teacher" by the LA Times when that newspaper conducted its own witch hunt of teachers using a value-added measurement system that had a high margin of error.

His name was Rigoberto Ruelas.

Who will be the first teacher in NYC to suffer some tragedy as a result of the public shaming that comes from having names and ratings published in the newspapers (ratings that have very high MOE's, btw)?

What will the circumstances be?

Will it be a suicide, as in Los Angeles?

Will some vigilante decide to take street justice to a "bad teacher" who gave their kid a failing grade?

You can be sure that this publishing of the TDR's with names attached will have some dire consequences even if no violence occurs.

You can't pin scarlet letters on teachers in a public shaming exhibition and not expect there to be fallout.

One major consequence of this will be that fewer college students are going to want to be teachers.

I mean, who would want to spend time and money on a college degree for a job where politicians and media elites criticize you daily as THE problem, where you have little job security (now that tenure has effectively been abolished via the new New York State evaluation system, there is no job security), where employees are rated by a system with a margin of error as high as 54%, and publicly humiliated by having their names and rankings in that error-riddled evaluation system published in the media?

The politicians from Bloomberg to Cuomo to Obama all talk about how they want to make sure there is an "effective teacher" in every classroom, and yet the "reforms" they have undertaken on the school system, the curriculum, teacher preparation programs and teacher evaluation systems will ensure that good teachers in the system will either be fired based on an error-riddled evaluation or leave after receiving a public shaming via the same error-riddled eval system.

In effect, they are ensuring that anybody who could be an "effective teacher" wouldn't want to place their own financial security on a job that is so unstable, where the evaluation system is so arbitrary and unfair, and where the media and the political and education establishments all are invested in scapegoating the workforce so they can skate on their own accountability for the problems in public education.

This is where we are at today - the publishing of the error-riddled TDR's crystallize this.

The TDR's Are Released

The city acknowledges on the reports that there are wide margins of error - as much as 54 points out of 100.

Even the economist who helped develop the NYCDOE ratings system came out against the publishing of this data publicly:

The release of the individual rankings has even been controversial among the scientists who designed them. Douglas N. Harris, an economist at the University of Wisconsin, where the city’s rankings were developed, said the reports could be useful if combined with other information about teacher performance. But because value-added research is so new, he said, “we know very little about it.” Releasing the data to the public at this point, Mr. Harris added, “strikes me as at best unwise, at worst absurd.”

And yet, media outlets are going to publish the Teacher Data Reports and name names.

Truly we live in the last days of empire when arrogance and a lack of wisdom among our policy makers, politicians and media elites trump common sense and justice.

NY1 Mischaracterizes Teacher Data Reports

Here is how NY1 leads the story on the publication of Teacher Data Reports:

Parents will soon know if their children's teachers have been earning passing grades, as the city Department of Education is releasing the performance scores of tens of thousands of educators later today, but the teachers' union claims the scores are misleading and based on questionable data.

Notice how NY1 begins the sentence by saying the Teacher Data Reports will show if teachers are "passing" or not, then ends the sentence saying "but the union claims" they are not reliable, are misleading, etc.

The impression given is that these scores are indeed an accurate measure of a teacher's performance, regardless of what the union says, so come on back when we have the names and see where your kid's teacher ranks on the list.

Hell, even Dennis Walcott and Bill Gates say they're unreliable for an overall picture of teacher quality and shouldn't be published, but NY1 frames the TDR story as if it's only the self-interested union coming out against the TDRs

Ah yes - responsible journalism from the Time-Warner-owned NY1.

Expect even worse later today from the Post and the News.

And of course the Times and WNYC have created a "sophisticated tool" to put the data into "context."

As usual, the Times acts like a tabloid but tries to float above as some paragon of journalistic standards.

No word on whether the Times will have Judy Miller working on the accuracy of the Teacher Data Reports.

All horseshit - but remember, the reason these TDR's are seeing the light of day is because the UFT agreed to the pilot program that allowed for the collecting of the data and the creation of the reports in the first place.

Mulgrew can take out all the ads in the press he wants about the unfairness of the TDR's - it was the UFT leadership that brought us this mess by agreeing to the program.

And just as we got assurances back in those days from Randi that this data would never see the light of day in the press and would only be used to help teachers improve their craft, in the new evaluation system agreed to by the UFT and the NYSUT we hear the same assurances from the union braintrust.

You can be sure that the nightmare that these Teacher Data Reports are about to become for the teachers unfairly slandered by them will become a nightmare for EVERY teacher once the new evaluation system based upon value-added data is in place in the next few years.

Leo Casey can shill for the system all he wants at the UFT blog, Edwize.

We have evidence from this TDR mess where the teacher evaluation system is going to go in a few years.

No wonder the UFT, the NYCDOE chancellor, Wendy Kopp, and Bill Gates all don't want these reports to come to light.

They are afraid the "reforms" just agreed to last week that fundamentally change the way teachers are evaluated will be derailed by the TDR's and the way the newspapers and media outlets report on them (Chancellor Walcott alludes to that in his TDR opinion piece in today's Daily News.)

Because today is going to be ugly.

And the ugliness that comes today will make teachers less likely to want to "collaborate" on future "reforms" knowing just where these "reforms" end up and how they are used against them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

UFT Takes Ads Out Against Data Report Publication But Inexplicably Supports Using A Similar Method For Teacher Evaluations

What jokers we have at the UFT:

The New York City Education Department will release the ratings of thousands of teachers on Friday, ending a nearly year-and-a-half-long legal battle by the teachers’ union to keep the names confidential.

The ratings, known as Teacher Data Reports, grade nearly 18,000 of the city’s 75,000 public school teachers based on how much progress their students have made on standardized tests. The city developed these so-called value-added ratings five years ago in a pilot program to improve instruction and has factored them into yearly teacher evaluations and tenure decisions.

Even before their release, the ratings have been assailed by independent experts, school administrators and teachers who say there are large margins of error — because they are based on small amounts of data, the test scores themselves were determined by the state to have been inflated, and there were factual errors or omissions, among other problems.

The union, the United Federation of Teachers, is responding to the release with a $100,000-plus newspaper advertising campaign starting on Friday. With the headline “This Is No Way to Rate a Teacher,” the advertisements will feature an open letter from the union president, Michael Mulgrew, that displays a complex mathematical formula followed by a checklist of reasons why the ratings are problematic.

“The Department of Education should be ashamed of itself,” Mr. Mulgrew said Thursday. “It has combined bad tests, a flawed formula and incorrect data to mislead tens of thousands of parents about their children’s teachers.”

Mr. Mulgrew is absolutely correct on all three counts - the tests were badly designed, the value-added formula has a high margin of error and wide swings in stability, and some of the data attributed to individual teachers is incorrect.

Those are some damned good reasons to oppose the publication of the Teacher Data Reports.

They're also some damned good reasons to oppose the new teacher evaluation system that bases 40% of a teacher's evaluation on similar data and value-added measurements to the TDR's.

Somehow Mulgrew and Company can run an assault against the TDR's as flawed and error-riddled, but defend their agreement with Cuomo to let the state grade every teacher in New York with a very similar method without any irony.

The teachers quoted in the NY Times article understand the problem with basing a teacher's evaluation on test scores and value-added measurements, however:

The New York Times, one of a number of media organizations that had requested the records, plans to publish the ratings on its education blog, SchoolBook, and has asked teachers to respond online. On Thursday, several posters on SchoolBook called the reports deeply flawed and criticized the city as well as the news media for making them public.

Marie Kallo, a sixth-grade English and social studies teacher at Intermediate School 234 in Brooklyn, said that even though she had received an above-average rating, she was troubled by a significant error in her report: It said she had taught 120 students in 2007-8 when she had actually taught more than 200.

“That makes me question the accuracy of all the data reports,” Ms. Kallo said, adding that she also did not understand how the ratings were calculated. “How is it fair to be judged on information that is not accurate?”

Karen Fine, a third-grade teacher at Public School 134 in Manhattan who previously taught fifth grade, said she and her colleagues believed that the ratings were an unfair and inaccurate measure of a teacher’s performance because they used an unreliable methodology that had been criticized by many respected researchers and statisticians, and because they did not account for factors that could affect students on the day of testing, like being tired, nervous, or scared.

“For many of us who teach in N.Y.C., this has been our life’s calling,” she said. “We are constantly attacked on so many levels for what ails education in our country when we know that it takes a community to help children learn: principals, administrators, parents, lawmakers, and yes, teachers. The responsibility cannot lie solely on us.”


But the new teacher evaluation system agreed to last week by the NYSUT and the UFT will help politicians, so-called education reformers, media elites and others continue to attack and scapegoat teachers for all that ails public education.

What's worse, because the unions failed to make Cuomo impose this piece of garbage evaluation system himself and instead held his hand onstage when he announced it, they co-own the evaluation system along with Cuomo, the NYSED, and the Regents.

No wonder they're sending out Leo Casey, the UFT's resident shill and used car salesman, to fool people into thinking the new evaluation system will be nothing like the madness that is the Teacher Data Reports.

But Leo can sling his bullshit all he wants and Mulgrew can take out all the ads he wants on the TDR publication - in the next year when every teacher gets the memo that states 40% of their evaluation is based upon test scores (20% from the state tests, 20% from the city tests), that over 20 high stakes standardized tests are going to be added to the school year in order to pull the new eval system off, and that if a teacher comes up "ineffective" on the 40% based upon test scores, they will be declared "ineffective" overall and slated to be fired in a year, the UFT won't be able to hide their capitulation.

Same goes for when teachers discover that they can be declared "effective" in all three components of the evaluation system yet still come up "ineffective" overall as a teacher and thus be slated for firing in a year, or come up "effective" in all three components and still come up "developing", which means hours of garbage PD to "improve" before the next eval.

Just wait, fellas.

You can fool people with bullshit for a long time, but eventually even the blind notice the overwhelming stench of fecal matter with the moniker UFT stamped on it when they're up to their necks in it.

Tom Friedman - The Imperial Messenger


How does a journalist with a track record of bad predictions and a penchant for superficial analysis - a person paid to reflect about the world yet who seems to lack the capacity for critical self-reflection - end up being treated as an oracle?

The answer is simple: Friedman tells the privileged, and those who aspire to privilege, what they want to hear in a way that makes them feel smart; his trumpeting of US affluence and power are sprinkled with pithy-though-empty anecdotes, padded with glib turns of phrases. He's the perfect oracle for a management-focused, advertising-saturated, dumbed-down, imperial culture that doesn't want to come to terms with the systemic and structural reasons for its decline. In Friedman's world, we're always one clich├ęd big idea away from the grand plan that will allow us to continue to pretend to be the shining city upon the hill that we have always imagined we were/are/will be again.

As a reporter, columnist, author or speaker, Friedman's secret to success is in avoiding the journalistic ideals of "speaking truth to power" or "afflicting the comfortable." Those ideals are too rarely met in mainstream journalism, but Friedman never goes very far beyond parroting the powerful and comforting the comfortable. Friedman sees the world from the point of view of the privileged, adopting in his own words the view of "a tourist with an attitude" when reporting on the rest of the world.

Actually comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted seems to be the defining characteristic of most American journalists.

Friedman just does it the best.

UPDATE: Here's how wrong Friedman was on the Celtic Tiger:

Writing in the New York Times on 1 July 2005, Tom Friedman argued that the rest of the world should "Follow the Leapin' Leprechaun." He argued one of the best things Ireland had done was to "make it easier to fire people, without having to pay years of severance. Sounds brutal, I know. But the easier it is to fire people, the more willing companies are to hire people." In a wildly inaccurate statement, he wrote that: "And by the way, because of all the tax revenue and employment the global companies are generating in Ireland, Dublin has been able to increase spending on health care, schools and infrastructure." In reality, the government at the time was not only not generating revenue, its investment in education was declining and it was beginning to accumulate massive debt. Today, Ireland's deficit is at 32% of GDP -- the highest in the Eurozone.

Of course, Ireland has not only a deficit crisis, but now a massive banking crisis which was the result of a skewing of the Irish economy in 2001 towards construction and mortgage lending facilitated by large international banking exposure, well underway when Friedman made his assessment. In 2005, Friedman argued that the Irish path was far superior to that of Germany, which was holding onto jobs and major industrial production. Meanwhile, a central assertion of Friedman was that Ireland had gotten its governance right. The then prime minister, Bertie Ahern boasted to Friedman in 2005 of having "met the premier of China five times in the last two years." Jump forward five years, and Bertie Ahern was run out of government in disgrace and the new party that led the polls heading towards a new election for 2011 was, for the first time in history, Labour. In March 2010, Eamon Gilmore, the head of Labour, called out the new leader of the government, Brian Cowen, for having committed "economic treason."

Now, Irish banks are to be bailed out by the EU and the IMF to the tune of 85 billion euro at a 5.83 percent interest rate that the country simply cannot afford to pay back. The government will reap enormous pain on its own population in deep budget cuts that are likely to hinder economic growth for years to come. Ireland is a nation lying in economic catastrophe and about to get much worse.

The legacy of Friedman's failed analysis is regrettably, important still today. Ireland, under strong pressure from the American Chamber of Commerce, is holding onto its low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent hoping to keep the international businesses there. While Ireland gains from this, the impact of foreign companies is not going to solve the country's problems. In fact, Ireland could raise its corporate rate substantially and still be among the lowest in the European Union. The political calculation is, in effect, should Ireland tax international businesses? Or should it cut health benefits for seniors, punish the poor, and stand by while a new generation of talent emigrates?

Friedman loves to talk about giving companies the freedom to fire people.

Any writer as wrong as he has been on a host of issues - from the Iraq war to the Celtic Tiger - ought to be fired himself.

But that won't happen in these last days of the Roman Empire.

New York Times Spins Teacher Data Reports Publication As A Positive Development

The publication of 12,700 Teacher Data Reports from 2008-2010 is imminent and the New York Times is dying to get their hands on the names and numbers even though

The ratings are imperfect, according to independent experts, school administrators and teachers alike. There are large margins of error, because they are generally based on small amounts of data. And there are many other documented problems, like teachers being rated even when they are on maternity leave.

Sure, the numbers are completely flawed, the algorithms that were used to come up with those numbers have margins of error bigger than the cocaine bags under Cathie Black's eyes, and some of the ratings will rank English teachers as math teachers or attribute the wrong numbers to teachers, but you know, it's the public's right to know this information.

Oh, plus the Times claims they've solved all of the problems inherent in the flawed Data Reports:

With SchoolBook’s partners at WNYC, The Times has developed a sophisticated tool to display the ratings in their proper context, a hallmark of our journalism.

And just in case the "sophisticated tool" created by the Times and WNYC STILL doesn't give enough "context" to the numbers and you feel slandered by the story, the Times invites you to become your own lawyer:

But we want to take that a step further, by inviting any teacher who was rated to provide her or his response or explanation. We are seeking those responses now, so they can be published at the same time as the data reports.

We plan to include those responses alongside the ratings themselves, so readers can consider them together.

If there were special circumstances that compromise the credibility of the numbers in particular cases, we want to know.

What self-serving horseshit the Times is spinning here.

They are publishing data that they know to be flawed, no "sophisticated tool" they develop is going to make that data any less flawed, and the Times and its outgoing education editor and soon to be Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren (who stirred up her own bit of controversy a few weeks ago with a tweet to a Palestinian-American author that ensures her stay at the Times Jerusalem news bureau may be brief and she'll be back covering teacher data reports before she knows it) can rationalize this all they want.

The fact is, the numbers are horseshit, the reports themselves are horseshit, the Times is horseshit for publishing them and Jodi Rudoren is horseshit for spinning the publication as some kind of public service.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

City Won't Release Teacher Data Reports For Charter School Teachers

Okay, first we learn that charter school teachers will NOT be assessed using the new statewide teacher evaluation system that makes test scores THE determining factor in a teacher's evaluation.

Now we learn that the NYCDOE, which can't wait to release the Teacher Data Reports for 12,500 NYC ELA and math teachers from 2008-2010, will NOT release the Teacher Data Reports for teachers in charter schools.

Two more examples of the rampant double standards the charter school industry enjoys from the political, education and media establishment in this country.

Teachers MUST be held accountable for student test scores - except for charter school teachers, who do not have to be evaluated using this measure.

Teacher have no right to privacy regarding their Teacher Data Reports, even though the NYCDOE acknowledges they are rife with error - except for charter school teachers, who do have that right.

What horseshit.

Ravitch, Gonzalez, Pallas Take On Cuomo's New Teacher Evaluation System

When the UFT and the NYSUT caved to Governor Cuomo's demands on the teacher evaluation system, it looked like there would be nobody to speak out against the inherent flaws in the new system.

But Diane Ravitch, Juan Gonzalez and Aaron Pallas all quickly got to work and pointed out the problems with the system.

The morning round-up at Schoolbook has a nice summary.

Diane Ravitch's critique, which comes from the New York Review of Books, really drives the point home that what this new evaluation system will do is destroy students, teachers and schools:

The New York press treated the agreement as a major breakthrough that would lead to dramatic improvement in the schools. The media assumed that teachers and principals in New York State would now be measured accurately, that the bad ones would be identified and eventually ousted, and that the result would be big gains in test scores. Only days earlier, a New York court ruled that the media will be permitted to publish the names and rankings of teachers in New York City, even if the rankings are inaccurate. Thus, the scene has been set: Not only will teachers and principals be rated, but those ratings can now be released to the public online and in the press.

The consequences of these policies will not be pretty. If the way these ratings are calculated is flawed, as most testing experts acknowledge they are, then many good educators will be subject to public humiliation and will leave the profession. Once those scores are released to the media, we can expect that parents will object if their children are assigned to “bad” teachers, and principals will have a logistical nightmare trying to squeeze most children into the classes of the highest-ranked teachers. Will parents sue if their children do not get the “best” teachers?

New York’s education officials are obsessed with test scores. The state wants to find and fire the teachers who aren’t able to produce higher test scores year after year. But most testing experts believe that the methods for calculating teachers’ assumed “value-added” qualities—that is, their abilities to produce higher test scores year after year—are inaccurate, unstable, and unreliable. Teachers in affluent suburbs are likelier to get higher value-added scores than teachers of students with disabilities, students learning English, and students from extreme poverty. All too often, the rise or fall of test scores reflects the composition of the classroom and factors beyond the teachers’ control, not the quality of the teacher. A teacher who is rated effective one year may well be ineffective the next year, depending on which students are assigned to his or her class.

The state is making a bet that threatening to fire and publicly humiliate teachers it deems are underperforming will be sufficient to produce higher test scores. Since most teachers in New York do not teach tested subjects (reading and mathematics in grades 3-8), the state will require districts to create measures for everything that is taught (called, in state bureaucratese, “student learning objectives”) for all the others. So, in the new system, there will be assessments in every subject, including the arts and physical education. No one knows what those assessments will look like. Everything will be measured, not to help students, but to evaluate their teachers. If the district’s own assessments are found to be not sufficiently rigorous by State Commissioner of Education John King (who has only three years of teaching experience, two in charter schools), he has the unilateral power to reject them.

This agreement will certainly produce an intense focus on teaching to the tests. It will also profoundly demoralize teachers, as they realize that they have lost their professional autonomy and will be measured according to precise behaviors and actions that have nothing to do with their own definition of good teaching. Evaluators will come armed with elaborate rubrics identifying precisely what teachers must do and how they must act, if they want to be successful. The New York Times interviewed a principal in Tennessee who felt compelled to give a low rating to a good teacher, because the teacher did not “break students into groups” in the lesson he observed. The new system in New York will require school districts across the state to hire thousands of independent evaluators, as well as create much additional paperwork for principals. Already stressed school budgets will be squeezed further to meet the pact’s demands for monitoring and reporting.

President Obama said in his State of the Union address that teachers should “stop teaching to the test,” but his own Race to the Top program is the source of New York’s hurried and wrong-headed teacher evaluation plan. According to Race to the Top, states are required to evaluate teachers based in part on their students’ test scores in order to compete for federal funding. When New York won $700 million from the Obama program, it pledged to do this. What the President has now urged (“stop teaching to the test”) is directly contradicted by what his own policies make necessary (teach to the test or be rated ineffective and get fired).

As she said in her blog piece at Education Week yesterday, these are dark days in New York State. She ends her NYRB piece with this warning:

Of course, teachers should be evaluated. They should be evaluated by experienced principals and peers. No incompetent teacher should be allowed to remain in the classroom. Those who can’t teach and can’t improve should be fired. But the current frenzy of blaming teachers for low scores smacks of a witch-hunt, the search for a scapegoat, someone to blame for a faltering economy, for the growing levels of poverty, for widening income inequality.

For a decade, the Bush-era federal law called No Child Left Behind has required the nation’s public schools to test every student in grades 3-8 in reading and mathematics. Now, the Obama administration is pressuring the states to test every grade and every subject. No student will be left untested. Every teacher will be judged by his or her students’ scores. Cheating scandals will proliferate. Many teachers will be fired. Many will leave teaching, discouraged by the loss of their professional autonomy. Who will take their place? Will we ever break free of our national addiction to data? Will we ever stop to wonder if the data mean anything important? Will education survive school reform?

Of course the point of all of this is for education to NOT survive school reform.

This is corporate-driven reform meant to root out creativity and individuality, meant to standardized everything from curriculum to testing to evaluations, meant to demoralize any teacher who dares to stand against the standardization, meant to destroy anybody and anything that stands in the way of corporate control of the school system