Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, February 25, 2012

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.


  1. The only reason that comes to mind is that potential and future teachers might believe that they can do better than the current crop of today's teachers. When I became a teacher in the mid 90's, I felt as if I were part of a revolution that was going to enter the field and change lives immediately. Little did I know. I was ill prepared, too young (23), didn't know the content well and was not prepared for the multitude of challenges that lay in front of me. I am in my 15th year, and it is only recently that I can honestly say I have become an excellent one - yet I still learn and would never call myself a master at the art. Be well.

  2. Someone reported on twitter that # of NYC teacher applicants is way down this yr. Will be interesting trend to watch as real teachers urge young people to stay away. When they can't get people to teach the worm will turn.

  3. Norm,

    Do you have a link on that Twitter report. It would be interesting to see the "data" on that, if true.

    I don't think applicants for NYC teaching jobs will drop all that much given the backlog of people who have graduated college with education degrees or people who went back to college to become teachers. Many of them are out of work, working as subs, etc. I know a number of these who have subbed at times in my building. So there is that backlog available.

    And then of course, the economy still sucks, so they have that going for them. But eventually, if and when the economy turns around, the powers that be will find that few people are going to subject themselves to the public abuse and humiliations teachers get, especially if Gates and Company get their way on killing salary steps for test-based merit pay. And with the new eval system, job security is a thing of the past, so that's another downside.

    Yet Klein and Bloomberg are pretty certain you could fire half of the teaching corps and replace them with computerized learning, so perhaps they're not all that worried about anything.

  4. When the supply of applicants dries up, the reformers will merely push distance learning. That will be the end of public education as we know it in this country. "Teaching" will be outsourced to India or China.

    Why do you think Bill Gates has his filthy mitts all over the "reform" movement?

  5. I'm with Susan -- they know these tactics will dry up the teacher pool-- that's what they want

  6. It could also have an positive, unexpected effect -- more people will see for themselves just how flawed, demeaning and useless the system is.

    This may be the reason that so many reformers in favor of value-added are against publishing the results.