Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Problems With The DOE School Report Cards Are Replicated In The Teacher Evaluation VAM's

The NY Post attacked the Mayor of Money's school report card program for being "too confusing," "misleading," and "eroding confidence in his leadership" of the school system.

Here is some of what they said:

This year’s marks, or “progress reports” — released last week for some 1,200 elementary and middle schools — prove the point yet again.

For example, schools in District 2, which includes well-off sections of TriBeCa and the Village, are widely considered among the best in the city.

But the district’s year-on-year ranking, based on the progress reports, nose-dived from 4th among the city’s 32 districts — to an embarrassing 12th. That includes PS 234, a particularly well-respected school, whose overall grade dropped from an A to a C.

It didn’t help that rankings released by the state less than two months ago, which reflected slightly older data, appeared to be at odds with the city’s grades for many schools.

Likewise, of seven elementary and middle schools that Bloomberg says are so bad they should be shut down and reopened with new staff, two wound up with Bs.

The Post editorial asks how is it possible that such "great" schools like the one's in TriBeCa and the Village could be ranked so low by the DOE report card system, then notes that the system is not based on overall quality but rather on the supposed "progress" and gains students have made on state standardized tests as measured by a complex value-added algorithm put together by the geniuses at the DOE.

So as the Post editorial states, a low grade on the city report card does not necessarily mean a school is bad - it means the school made little "progress" as measured by the DOE's complex value-added algorithm.

The Post says the system is too confusing for parents to understand without some explanation and context for it - explanation and context the DOE and the Mayor of Money fail to adequately provide:

Many parents have little understanding of what the grades actually mean.
So when they see their kids’ beloved schools graded poorly, even as the students there earn reasonably high scores on tests, they just figure that the Bloomberg folks are ninnies.

That erodes confidence in the mayor’s management — endangering his legacy and undermining respect for vital reforms, like mayoral control of the schools.

Yes, many grades, especially at the high and low ends, do correspond roughly to what folks think the schools deserve.

It’s also worth noting that the grading system stems from a vital effort to make schools accountable. If parents get mad at a low grade, they may pressure the school. That’s a good thing.

But then, if folks don’t trust the grades in the first place, accountability measures have no chance.
Nor, for that matter, do Bloomberg’s reforms — or the schools themselves.

What the Post editorial fails to mention is that the vaunted new APPR teacher evaluation system promoted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and signed off upon by both the NYSUT and the UFT leaderships, does the same thing for individual teachers that the DOE report cards do for individual schools.  The problems that are inherent in the way the DOE is inaccurately measuring schools are going to be replicated when the NYSED begins to measure so-called teacher performance using a complex value-added methodology (more on this below.)

Of course when the Post published the Teacher Data Report scores of 4th-8th grade math and ELA teachers earlier this year - the scores with the 52% median margins of error and the 87% maximum margins of error - they too failed to properly explain what the scores mean and how error-riddled and unstable they could be, just as the mayor and his Tweedies have failed to provide proper explanation and context for the DOE school report cards.

Instead the Post trumpeted the TDR scores as "accountability" for teachers, even though many truly excellent teachers, highly respected by students, parents, colleagues and administrators, were tarred as "ineffective" by the highly unreliable TDR scores (Gary Rubenstein demonstrates just how unreliable the scores are here.)

The Post even used the TDR scores to bludgeon individual teachers, smearing one as the "CITY'S WORST TEACHER!" even though this woman was a special education teacher whose score was based upon the tests of eleven ESL students who arrived into the country at various points in the school year and yet were still required to take state tests.

So while I can appreciate the Post's public concern that the DOE school report cards are erroneous, misleading, confusing and undercutting support for Bloomberg's leadership of the school system, I ask where is the same concern for the APPR teacher evaluation system?

The very problems the Post is citing for the school report cards were present in the DOE's Teacher Data Reports and are also present in the state's APPR teacher evaluation system (as Sean Feeney, principal of The Wheatley School in New York State and president of the Nassau County High School Principals’ Association, points out here.)

And yet, not only did the Post trumpet the erroneous, error-riddled, unstable TDR scores as objective, scientific data that proved the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of individual teachers, they've been promoting the state's APPR system as the same.

Make no mistake, many excellent teachers who are respected by students, parents, colleagues and administrators are going to be smeared by APPR as "failures."

I await the Post's concern troll editorial over that travesty with not-so-baited breath.

Clearly the Posties, along with many other education reformers, are worried that the parents in TriBeCa and the Village are going to start to wonder about the validity of a DOE school report card system that measures their children's schools as mediocre and/or failing when those same schools send lots of kids off to high performing schools like Stuyvesant or Hunter College High School.

And once those parents become aware that the DOE school report cards are unreliable, they're going to start to question many of the other tenets the education reformers trumpet as gospel - from the utility of the standardized tests as a measurement of school, teacher and student performance to the validity of the value-added measurement as a tool for high stakes decisions like teacher evaluations, school closings, and employee firings.

The education reform House of Data Cards is beginning to crumble and the Posties know it.


  1. So are the other shell games Bloombag has run- the Compstat crime numbers. economic development data, the efficacy of all those no bid tech contracts- the list goes on and on. But not until his role in the manipulation of the economy and his profits from the collapse due to his market master data terminals will the whole story be told. Can't wait for his inglorious departure from the city, and ultimately his perp walk.No lie, no matter how craftily constructed and purchased can stand forever.

  2. I just wonder how that story will ever get told - he owns the media, journalists fear to cross him knowing that he (or one of his oligarch friends) will one day own the publication they work for, and he's going to aggressively use his philanthropic efforts to sell posterity on his legacy.

    Here's the current lay of the media land:

    Bloomberg News. Bloomberg Views. Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg TV. Bloomberg Radio. The Bloomberg New York Times. The Murdoch New York Post. The Murdoch Wall Street Journal. The Zuckerman New York Daily News (run by an old Murdoch hand and hacking criminal - Colin Myler.)

    Hard to beat back that kind of p.r. Slowly people are realizing - esp. if they have kids in the system. But Bloomberg still has a lot of people fooled over the crime stats, the fire stats, the economic stats, the education stats, etc.