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.