New York releases teacher ratings today, but cautions against drawing conclusions. Then, why release them?

After bitter legal battles, criticisms by researchers and protests by teachers, New York City released performance rankings of 18,000 teachers today.

And the condemnation was immediate.

“It is outrageous that the New York City Department of Education is releasing teacher rankings that, by their own admission, are based on bad, unreliable data,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Publicizing this data reneges on a deal I made with former Chancellor Joel Klein years ago that it would only be available to teachers and their supervisors for purposes of improving instruction. Today’s release amounts to a public flogging of teachers based on faulty data.

“Instead of working with teachers to develop and implement an evaluation system that assesses teachers based on multiple criteria and helps them improve, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s education officials preferred to publicly ridicule teachers,” she said.

The release was accompanied by a caveat from the district to not use the scores alone to judge teachers, which I find strange as what else would parents be expected to do with the data?  The rationale for releasing teacher grades or ratings is to better inform parents which teacher are effective and which are not, according to proponents.

New York was ordered to release its data because a court ruled the teacher ratings, which had been collected and used internally, were public documents.

But SchoolBook, a collaboration between The New York Times and WNYC , notes in a very thorough piece:

The push to release the individual rankings began in August 2010, when New York City education officials contacted the reporters who most closely cover the city’s public schools and encouraged them to submit Freedom of Information Act requests for the teachers’ rankings. Until then, the city had refused to release the names with the rankings, citing issues of privacy.

On the eve of the rankings’ release, the teachers’ union filed a lawsuit. The city has acknowledged the reports are not perfect, but one of the judges who ruled on the case as it made its way to the state’s highest court said imperfection was no reason to hide them. Last week, after the union lost its last appeal, the city announced the rankings’ release.

“City officials are disingenuously telling parents, reporters, principals, teachers and others that they shouldn’t draw conclusions based on these scores alone,”  said Weingarten. “But who wouldn’t, when they have nothing else to use?”

According to the New York Times: (Please link and read the entire story before commenting.)

At a briefing on Friday morning, an Education Department official said that over the five years, 521 teachers were rated in the bottom 5 percent for two or more years, and 696 were repeatedly in the top 5 percent. But citing both the wide margin of error — on average, a teacher’s math score could be 35 percentage points off, or 53 points on the English exam — as well as the limited sample size — some teachers are being judged on as few as 10 students — city education officials said their confidence in the data varied widely from case to case.

“The purpose of these reports is not to look at any individual score in isolation ever,” said the Education Department’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky. “No principal would ever make a decision on this score alone and we would never invite anyone — parents, reporters, principals, teachers — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone.”

Nevertheless, the data is ripe for analysis. One fact shared by the Education Department: Many of the teachers included in the database are no longer working in city schools. Officials said 77 percent of the 18,000 who received reports were still employed by the Education Department, but of those who remained, many had moved on to administrative jobs or teach subject areas or grade levels that were not included in the reports.

For example, the teacher who was rated most highly, based on his scores for the 2009-10 school year, is now an assistant principal at another school, according to his online profile. His rating encompassed only one year of data and was based on 32 students’ test scores.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

109 comments Add your comment

Brandy

February 24th, 2012
7:54 pm

How long before we see such idiocy here in Georgia?

It seems like they had the data, flawed as it is, and didn’t know what to do with it. Wonder how much money they spent on the “database” used to compile it?

NWGA Teacher

February 24th, 2012
7:54 pm

“For example, the teacher who was rated most highly, based on his scores for the 2009-10 school year . . .”

That says it all. Rated most highly, based on his SCORES. Insane.

Truth Today

February 24th, 2012
7:59 pm

The releasing of data without a proper analysis only substantiates the reality that our educational system is too political and not structured for continuous improvement. While scores tied to teacher performance are necessary, it is only valid if the score reflect appropriate growth thereby giving teachers credit for the progress made by the student while assigned to the teacher or by placing blame most appropriately if the data suggests that the student regressed or did not make progress while assigned to the teacher. Most importantly is the use of the data to ascertain what content the students did not master while assigned to the teacher, possibly indicating what areas of professional development are needed by the teacher. Clearly, we need an informed population of parents and consumers. Then and only then will they interpret the data most appropriately and come to the right conclusions. When the overall population cannot analyze data and make justifiable conclusions, it may be a most appropriate indictment on our educational system and our teachers in particular. I need to review the data and analyze it before I can make a valid conclusion of what it may infer or even suggest. I encourage all to do so if you are so skilled or inclined to do so. If not skill, call your teachers and ask them why.

V for Vendetta

February 24th, 2012
8:33 pm

This is not something I say lightly because I normally abhor the practice, but . . .

I would be tempted to file a lawsuit for defamation of character or libel. These ratings are misleading and/or personally damaging to a teacher’s career. I have zero faith in our elected officials. While our country plunges ever deeper into debt, they argue about things like birth control and abortion. Morons.

Sherman Dorn

February 24th, 2012
9:01 pm

Maureen,

NYC is releasing the data because it was ordered to. After newspapers requested the records and then sued to get a ruling, New York’s courts ruled that the “TDR” database comprised public records under state law.

It should be stated that former Chancellor (Cowboy?) Joel Klein was in favor of releasing the data, no matter the flaws, while the current chancellor sees the problems with doing so. But a court order is a court order…

Maureen Downey

February 24th, 2012
9:09 pm

@Sherman: The NYT suggests, however, that school officials wanted the information released:

From the Times:
The push to release the individual rankings began in August 2010, when New York City education officials contacted the reporters who most closely cover the city’s public schools and encouraged them to submit Freedom of Information Act requests for the teachers’ rankings. Until then, the city had refused to release the names with the rankings, citing issues of privacy.

On the eve of the rankings’ release, the teachers’ union filed a lawsuit. The city has acknowledged the reports are not perfect, but one of the judges who ruled on the case as it made its way to the state’s highest court said imperfection was no reason to hide them. Last week, after the union lost its last appeal, the city announced the rankings’ release.

irisheyes

February 24th, 2012
9:44 pm

The data are riddled with errors. I mean, even the people who created the value added assessment are cautioning about how it is used. There’s an article on HuffPo about this, and one of the teacher is quoted as saying that he takes time to teach his kids how to write a research paper. Because of that, they don’t score as high on the Regents exam as they could, but when they get to college, they are more prepared for actual college work than some of their peers who scored higher on the Regents because they were given more test prep. Now, on paper, the teachers who do test prep appear to be “more effective”, but which kids got a better education? And isn’t that the point?

irisheyes

February 24th, 2012
9:45 pm

Before the grammar police attack ~ one of the teacherS

irisheyes

February 24th, 2012
9:47 pm

And, isn’t SOMEONE going to always be in the bottom 5%? I mean, it’s not Lake Woebegone. Not everyone is above average.

dekalb teacher

February 24th, 2012
11:11 pm

This same idea is in the works for teachers here in GA. All thanks to the waiver from NCLB. Also the state will be using evaluations from students to rank the teachers as well. I am not in teaching to win a popularity contest, I am in teaching to give my students the best education. And the idea of merit pay will also be partially based on the aforementioned as well.

Public HS Teacher

February 25th, 2012
12:33 am

You mean that people want to mistreat teachers? Color me shocked….

Public HS Teacher

February 25th, 2012
12:38 am

@DeKalb Teacher – You are welcome to use my plan next year when that madness starts in GA….

I am planning a least one party a week for my classes. Sure, I’ll spend some money, but many kids are willing to bring in some junk food into class anyway. I’ll get movies from blockbuster and we’ll have a great time.

The kids will LOVE that. My ratings will be off the charts!

Also, I just plan to give them all As. That will make the kids happy, the parents happy, and most of all it will make the administration happy. Why should I bother to teach? They only care about making everyone happy and making sure that the kids pass. So, I will do just that!

And, oh – might you be thinking about education? Silly you! Who cares about that in Georgia? The EOCT is curved so very much by the State DOE, a monkey can randomly fill it out and pass.

However, I am afraid that I will only be able to stomach one such year like that. I’ll probably win Teacher of the Year or whatever, but I am over the State of Georgia and how they treat teachers. So, after one more year, I move out-of-State. I already have bought a home there and am making plans.

So long, Georgia. Enjoy your generations of totally stupid kids.

Mary Elizabeth

February 25th, 2012
1:39 am

From a link within the “SchoolBook” link above, entitled,”Value added assessments”:

“A computer predicts how a group of students will do in next year’s tests using their scores from the previous year and accounting for several factors, like race, gender and income level. If the students surpass the expectations, their teacher is ranked at the top of the scale — ‘above average’ or ‘high’. . . .”

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I see both negatives and positives from this data evaluation of teachers. One significant positive is that teachers will probably more readily recognize that they must instruct every student where he or she is specifically functioning in order for the student to achieve maximum growth. Thus, teachers will find ways to insure that differentiated instruction is occurring within their classrooms.

In terms of a negative that I noticed, I have analyzed the value-added-assessment model, in detail, and I see no reference to the individual student’s IQ data. I recognize that even to mention the use of IQ scores is uncomfortable; however, I believe that that variable in data assessment must also be broached, if the assessment of teacher effectiveness and of students’ maximum growth for a given year, is to be completely valid. Here’s why:

A student with a below average IQ may have been instructed very well to have increased only 7 months, in a particular curriculum area, in a 12 month time period. However, a student who scored in the gifted range of IQ, and who only increased 1.6 years in a 12 month time period, may not have been instructed well. Based on the gifted student’s innate potential level, perhaps he should have progressed 2.8 years of growth, for a year’s time period, instead of only 1.6 years.

I recognize that the value-added-assessment formula measures not only the student’s progress for the current year, but it measures, also, the probability of the student’s progress based on how much that student had progressed for the past three to five years, on the average, for each year. Thus, if the student achieves less than that average amount of progress for his present year, his present teacher could be rated as a poor instructor. (Other factors, such as a principal’s evaluation through observation are, also, considered.)

However, here is the catch. I was taught, as a graduate student, that if a student is reading within two years of his grade level, that he will be able to function in the reading requirements for that grade level. This means that if a 7th grade student is reading on 5th grade level that he will be able to function in the material for the 7th grade, but if he is reading on 4th grade level or below, in 7th grade, then he will not be able to function on 7th grade material.

Now, in considering the variable of IQ score, Johnny has scored in the IQ range of 83 to 88 for several years. That means that he is probably below average in his innate potential. One could, then, reasonably expect Johnny to grow 7 months in a 12 month period. Let’s say Johnny is in 2nd grade and he is reading on grade level 1.5 which is sufficient for him to function in 2nd grade. Next, he enters 3rd grade and he is reading on 2.2 grade level, having grown 7 months in 2nd grade. Johnny should still be able to learn and grow in 3rd grade because he is not reading more than two years behind 3rd grade level. So, he grows another 7 months in 3rd grade, with good instruction, based on his potential.

Now, we have Johnny in 4th grade and he has advanced in his reading skills to 2.9 grade level, which is within the two year cut off point for being able to master the curriculum for 4th grade. Next year, Johnny is in 5th grade and, having advanced 7 months in a year, he is reading on 3.6 grade level, but he can still cope. The next year, in 6th grade, Johnny is only reading on 4.3 grade level which is barely sufficient for coping with 6th grade material. In 7th grade, Johnny is only reading on 5.0 grade level, and he just barely passes his classes, but he does pass to 8th grade. In 8th grade, he reading on 5.7 grade level. Each year, then, from 2nd grade to 8th grade, Johnny has made his maximum progress which was, based on potential, 7 months of growth for a year’s work.

Johnny has been promoted to 8th grade because he passed 7th grade curriculum, but he is only reading on 5.7 grade level in the 8th grade, or more than two years behind his grade level. Therefore, although his 8th grade teacher may be a good teacher, Johnny may not advance 7 months in the 8th grade, as before, because he will have been taught on his frustration level during his 8th grade year. Johnny’s teacher was not aware of his IQ scores, nor of his academic developmental history, which had shown how he finally reached an academic frustration point in his 8th grade school year. In fact, Johnny may even regress in his reading skills in 8th grade because he will have spent a year being taught on his frustration level. At the end of his 8th grade year, his reading level may only be 5.5 grade level. When he entered 8th grade, his reading level was 5.7 grade level. His teacher is surprised that she received a poor rating based on Johnny’s 2 months’ regression in his standardized test scores. After all, his previous years’ scores had shown that Johnny could be expected to advance at least 7 months in a year’s time. His teacher does not know why he regressed by 2 months since she had tried so hard to help him grow. Johnny does enter 9th grade, however, because he (barely) passed most of his classes even though he regressed in his standardized reading scores, but now he is only reading on grade level 5.5 in 9th grade, or 3 and 1/2 years behind grade level – a perfect candidate for drop-out status. If teachers had made wise and prudent use of Johnny’s IQ scores, as well as spending time assessing his developmental history, they might have analyzed his unique needs more wisely, earlier, and they might have provided him with the remediation he needed earlier, even though he was advancing “according to how he had advanced previously.”

A factor of data so vital as IQ must be weighed, along with curriculum standardized pretest and posttest scores, in order to assess accurately both teachers’ instruction and students’ needs.

IQ is a variable that should be weighed within value-added-assessments, in addition to the named criteria, above, of “race, gender, and income,” in order to have a fuller understanding of each student’s potential. Of course, there are IQ variations within every race and ethnic group, within both genders, and within all income levels. IQ data is one additional source of data information which gives a more complete instructional analysis. Students’ IQ scores should be handled discreetly, and certainly IQ scores should never be published.

d

February 25th, 2012
6:17 am

NWGA Teacher says a teacher has test scores…. I know it wasn’t an intentional mistake, but teachers don’t have test scores (well except their certification test scores. Students have test scores. Students are the ones who actually take the tests, and since there is actually little accountability on the part of the students to actually perform on tests in Georgia, using these scores to evaluate teachers is the insane idea.

concerned

February 25th, 2012
6:20 am

Truth Today- are you aware of the main designer of these value added assessment algorithms has questioned the use of them. Are you aware of the margin of error of above 70% for both the math and the english exams? Educating ourselves with useless data is not educating ourselves. In no more gives information for formulating opinions and options than if I told you that gas prices for the next month will be based on a formula that is 70% WRONG all the time. How would it be if our economies based our budgets on that faulty input? How many household budgets would be adequately served by being dished misinformation like that. Margin of errors so high means it is not information at all and doesn’t even constitute data- throwing darts at numbers on the wall would likely result in more consistent results than these published results.

concerned

February 25th, 2012
6:26 am

I know it is not common to follow education news from New York but it has been in the press a great deal. The assessments from NYC had to be realigned repeatedly in the pass decade- the passing rate bar was miscalculated on more than one occasion. It made the headlines a while back. Would a parent actually trust anything concerning test results or scores coming after that track record? The only silver lining I see out of this garbage being published is that the lie that is test score value added scores/teacher effectiveness link will be shown in the absurd light that it is. But, at what cost to the students, to the teachers, to families and to the educational budgets and systems.

William Casey

February 25th, 2012
7:40 am

The “value-added” approach based on student test scores may have some validity in evaluating a teacher’s performance, but it is limited even if the data is not flawed. Without many classroom observations by trained professionals from outside the system, teacher evaluation will remain bogus. Real learning isn’t like “piece work” on an early 20th century assembly line. The “value added” approach is simply trying to evaluate (or give the appearance of evaluating) on the cheap. Pure politics.

see

February 25th, 2012
8:13 am

I teach at a special education school for emotionally, behaviorally disturbed children. Our classroom time is often disrupted due to the problems these children exhibit. My goal is to teach them to effectively manage their behaviors so that they may return to the regular school setting. Many of my student’s behaviors in the regular school are exacerbated by being taught at their frustration level in regular school. Imagine sitting for 6 hours a day, not understanding what is being taught and unable to do the work assigned. Add to this fact that you have never been taught coping skills to deal with your frustration.

Now, in order for me to help these students, I try to make learning accessible to them. I may teach 7th graders 3rd grade math, but they are learning the third grade math. They are actually grasping the concepts and able to do the work. I had a teacher observe a child she had worked with before, and she noted a complete change in him. She had never seen him participate in any of her lessons. In my class, he was raising his hand, answering questions, and adding his opinion to discussions. I’m sure he will not meet expectations on the CRCT, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t learning.

So, is this considered a success because I’ve engaged a student in the learning process, or a failure because he will show no growth in the 7th grade math standards?

adam

February 25th, 2012
8:25 am

we need to see ratings for newspaper employees.

Sarah

February 25th, 2012
8:26 am

As long as teachers resist accountability but demand more and more money, the public will be suspicious.

And they should be.

Teacher Reader

February 25th, 2012
8:29 am

The problem that I see is not the school district putting out the scores, but the parents for not realizing that a child’s test scores aren’t how a teacher should be evaluated and should demand a better evaluation tool. Everyone gets evaluated on their job. These evaluations aren’t always “fair.” However, there needs to be accountability across the board in education (teachers, teacher aides, administrators at all levels), and there are much better ways to do this evaluation. These evaluations should not be made public, but should be used to get rid of teachers and others working in the field of education who do not belong.

carlosgvv

February 25th, 2012
8:33 am

Our local, state and national Govt. has many people on the payroll. Now that teacher performance ratings are being made public, when will we see the performance ratings of all our other public employees?

TeachAmerica

February 25th, 2012
9:19 am

If you have cancer, do not go to an oncologist. Go see a family practice physician. The overall patient death rate for a family practice physician is lower than an oncologist’s. Family practice physicians must be better at their jobs than oncologists. The data says so.

Mary Elizabeth

February 25th, 2012
9:53 am

@ see, 8:15 am

“I may teach 7th graders 3rd grade math (Instructional Level), but they are learning the third grade math. They are actually grasping the concepts and able to do the work.”

“I had a teacher observe a child she had worked with before, and she noted a complete change in him. She had never seen him participate in any of her lessons. In my class, he was raising his hand, answering questions, and adding his opinion to discussions.”

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You have hit the “instructional formula for success,” on the head! Students must be taught where they are individually functioning, or they will not be able to grow and achieve to their maximum levels. This fact not only applies to the special education students you teach, but to all students – from the ones who are the most gifted to the ones who are slower to achieve. All students can learn to their maximum abilities, if (1) each is taught where he/she is functioning, and if (2) each is taught at a rate in which he/she can absorb the material taught, with mastery.

You may want to read my 1:39 am post to understand why this is true, as well as read the link that I am providing, below, entitled “Mastery Learning,” for fuller understanding of these instructional truths.

Several years ago, when a local school system mandated that all 8th grade students take Algebra for their 8th grade mathematics course (regardless of where each student was individually functioning), I predicted that at least half of those 8th grade students would fail that course, and they did. Many of those 8th grade students were, unintentionally, “set up” for failure by an unknowing County Office mandate that was actually intended to increase the standards for all 8th graders. It is unfortunately true that many highly educated educators still do not know these specific instructional truths, because professional educators specialize in various areas of expertise. More value must be placed upon perceptive teachers’ input regarding instruction (such as yours). All educators want students to achieve to their maximum growth each year in every curricululm area, but, to achieve that end, each child MUST be taught where he or she is functioning at point in time, which is referred to as the student’s Instructional Level. (See link below.)

I tried to warn others that almost a majority of those 8th graders would fail that Algebra course, with that one-size-fits-all approach to building mathematics’ standards, through investing my time in writing a comprehensive article for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, but my article was never published. It is frustrating to watch, from the sidelines, and not to be able to help students and teachers, better understand instructional truths when such large and impacting instructional errors are made by those who mean well, but who are instructionally unsophisticated, in these ways.

The present movement for evaluation of students and teachers must acknowledge the assessed potential of each student, which will effect his or her rate of learning curriculum, if schools across this nation are to help every student “achieve and grow” yearly.

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http://maryelizabethsings.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/about-education-essay-1-mastery-learning/

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Ole Guy

February 25th, 2012
9:55 am

It would appear that the release of these (so-called) ratings is simply another tactic in efforts to get teacher in line. At least, NY teachers are, I imagine, unionized, so that they might present a unified voice. Right or wrong, there needs to be MEANINGFUL ADULT dialogue between the two groups of disputing parties. In the “Land Of Oz”, better known as Georgia, only the “great wizard” rules.

catlady

February 25th, 2012
10:04 am

Why release rankings based on bad data? To piss on teachers. Perhaps the teachers should release rankings of their leaders based on bad data–put it all over the newspapers, announce it on the TV news, etc.

D

February 25th, 2012
10:05 am

To see, I applaud your work, but the problem is that your children are being put into a no win situation. Your students should not be put back into a regular classroom EVER if there behavior causes a disruption to the learning environment. It’s unfair to all parties involved and selfish on the part of the parents of the student with disabilities. I’ve been on both sides of this issue professionally and personally and no one wins. Add to the mix that a teacher is being rated and now you have a disaster in the making. Mainstreaming is a boon for advocates and looks good on paper, but in reality is a sham and causes more harm than good.

Hermione

February 25th, 2012
10:07 am

@Public HS Teacher: Where will you move? Do you think things will be different somewhere else?

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

February 25th, 2012
10:39 am

@Sarah “As long as teachers resist accountability but demand more and more money, the public will be suspicious. ”

Teachers are not resisting accountability – they are resisting accountability measures that have been shown to have severe margins of error which make them about as accurate as a coin toss. They are resisting accountability measures that do not take into account student differences, or subject differences.

Let’s take a single scenario – which isn’t at all unlikely. In order to better facilitate services, teacher A has all the “English as a second language learners,” many of whom are below grade level in academic skills. Class B has all the inclusion students who have diagnosed learning difficulties. Class C has a new teacher who has been give behavior problems the other teachers don’t want to deal with, and class D had all the well behaved students and high achievers because they teacher is the wife of a principal. Do you really think deciding those teachers’ abilities and classroom effectiveness based upon their students’ scores is fair or accurate?

In Tennessee, they are basing “teacher accountability” upon the scores of students they don’t even teach! They are measuring the art teachers’ effectiveness based upon students’ reading scores! You tell me how that is accurate or fair. Of course teachers are resisting such idiocy!

We are getting closer, with testing that reflects student growth throughout the year, rather than merely an end point measure compared with “general” on grade expectations… however, you still have issues with student mobility, student motivation, etc.

I know of one teacher who was called to account for the reason a percentage of her students did not make huge gains on a “progress” testing over a three month period. Well, those students were very high achievers from the beginning and were at a point where they started topping out in the testing for their grade level. In order to score higher they would have to be taught content that was not developmentally appropriate for them, or was totally outside the purview of the curriculum… example teaching Latin or middle school algebra to third graders. You can toss a bit of that in here and there, but you can’t teach an elementary class Latin in order for some of your students to excel on a standardized test. On the other end, you have teachers struggling to have students identified and tested for learning difficulties, who are being judged by the fact that students who are not making sufficient gains, likely because they have serious cognitive deficits.

When they come up with an effective measure which truly reflects my abilities as a teacher, I will gladly jump on board, but as long as they try to judge my abilities based upon measures that are rife with errors and fallacies, then I will resist.

redweather

February 25th, 2012
10:40 am

I suspect many teachers will consider leaving our public school systems for private, and who could blame them? The pay may not be as good, but at least they’ll be treated like teachers and not data sets.

LeeH1

February 25th, 2012
10:56 am

I don’t know what the problem is. Everyone in the Tea Party knows that teachers are overpaid, underworked, and coddled by the unions. They are the enemies of the people, and suck up all our tax dollars. Our children don’t need such over-paid and under worked teachers. We should fire them all, and then let Tea Party volunteers take over those jobs. Then they would be done right, the children would become good Christian americans, and it would cost the tax payers nothing! God Bless the Tea Party!

Hermione

February 25th, 2012
11:29 am

I would love to see Tea Party volunteers take over teaching jobs! As a public school teacher, I am to the point that I would not even volunteer to be a “data set” if I had the opportunity. I will be leaving the profession at the end of this year.

Hermione

February 25th, 2012
11:32 am

@redweather: Private school teaching definitely sounds attractive! This testing-driven atmosphere is toxic to everyone working in the trenches, and especially to the students.

Tony

February 25th, 2012
12:21 pm

When you are running a machine that produces widgets using the exact same components each time one is made, it is easy to determine efficiency ratings based on the performance of the employee. However, those who believe that teachers can be just as easily judged are sadly mistaken and they are causing the emphasis for improving education to be misdirected. Students are not the same as widget components. Teachers can not give the same inputs to every student and get the same results. It is impossible. Whereas a factory can operate in this fashion, schools can not.

When we decide to stop the teacher-bashing and have thoughtful discussions about improving our educational outcomes, we will begin to see breakthroughs. We should allow teachers more time to work together with their colleagues and the parents of children rather than spend so much money and time on testing. The obsession with testing is ruining our schools.

I agree with V for Vendetta that the publishing of ratings based on faulty, unreliable data is slanderous. I can’t imagine a single corporate entity that would stand idly by while their product was denigrated by similar, faulty rating systems.

Ron F.

February 25th, 2012
12:31 pm

Mary Elizabeth: @1:39 (goodness, I thought I was a nightowl!!):

I work with struggling readers in a rural county. I frequently see the kids like Johnny. I even went so far as to get a master’s and certification in reading so I could help these kids. What frustrates me so is that not only are we told to teach the curriculum and “differentiate” instruction, I also tend to get funny looks from admins when I bring in the data showing kids reading on elementary levels in high school. The test is still the goal, no matter what evaluation system we come up with. I frequently move kids up at least one grade level, with many making over 2 grade levels of progress with targeted instruction. I LOVE what I do, but clearly if standardized test scores are the measure, my kids will likely fall short and I’ll be scored low. It’s sad to think that doing my job and helping kids build skills, confidence, and potential for future success could make me look bad. This year, my first group of 40 or so seniors who I worked with as freshmen are graduating. Of those who stayed in school (we lost 5 to transfer or dropping out), every single one will graduate either on time or within one semester of their orignial graduation date. Most didn’t pass the EOCT in ninth grade, but are ready to graduate and most are planning post-secondary education. I simply cannot believe that one, admittedly flawed score could cost a teacher like me. I fear what’s coming in Georgia as we implement the new college and career ready index for schools.

Ron F.

February 25th, 2012
12:36 pm

“I suspect many teachers will consider leaving our public school systems for private, and who could blame them? The pay may not be as good, but at least they’ll be treated like teachers and not data sets.”

redweather: I have seen some very good teachers leave for just that reason and I agree that more will likely do the same. I’ve contemplated it myself and have decided to wait and see how the next school year goes. I’m an optimist by nature, but I seriously wonder how states hope to retain teachers and encourage new teachers when everything coming down the line is negative.

Ron F.

February 25th, 2012
12:41 pm

Tony: when those discussions involve teachers and the decision makers really listen, we might see substantive changes. Ironically, most suggestions for improvement offered up by teachers are low-cost if not totally free, and would remove a ton of bureacracy. Therein lies the problem- there is too much at stake for too many highly paid people in administrative roles. The teachers are increasingly looked down upon or ignored because the simple solutions would cost people their jobs and might actually make the system work better.

Mary Elizabeth

February 25th, 2012
12:55 pm

@ Ron F, 12:31

You have written such a wise post with experience to back it up. Yes, you could be cut from the system that is presently being designed, and that is why I write with so much detail as I have on this thread. We must assess, as doctors assess, to pinpoint where to teach kids, in a targeted, instructionally sound way. But, to think that all kids will meet at the same instructional standard, at the same point in time, is instructionally unsound and that fact must be shared and known to others in power. Also, the instructional principles reasons behind this fact must be highlighted to them. We must keep sharing this instructional truth until someone hears who has the influence – and the will – to build what you are saying into assessment instruments for both teachers and students.

You sound like a great teacher to me. I commend you highly.

This statement, below, that you have shared is true in so many other school settings, also. It is a sad testimony of the pressure placed on administrators to simply show results without considering where students are functioning, at point in time, or without considering how fast they are reasonably able to move through the curriculum – that is correct for them and targeted to them individually – with excellent instruction:

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“I also tend to get funny looks from admins when I bring in the data showing kids reading on elementary levels in high school. The test is still the goal, no matter what evaluation system we come up with.”

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NOTE to U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan: I commend what you and the President are trying to do to improve education and to enhance the respect that teachers are afforded in America, but I surely do hope you read this post in full! ;-)

@Dekalb teacher

February 25th, 2012
12:57 pm

DT says he or she is not in it to win a popularity contest. True. I appreciate that; however, surveying parents and students and allowin them to write comments is helpful. For example, my child is assigned homework on Mondays and it is due on Friday. this happens every week. I am a working mo m and I have time on the weekends to help my childdren with homework, rarely during the week. I asked my child child’s teacher if I could get the homework early — on Friday instead of waiting until Monday and he flat out refused…thus discouraging, not encouraging parental involvement.

Like it or not, parents and students are customers and you have to make an effort to accomodate them — or risk losing your job to some other teacher at a charter school.
GM

To Ron F...

February 25th, 2012
1:00 pm

You wondered allowed “but I seriously wonder how states hope to retain teachers and encourage new teachers when everything coming down the line is negative.”

In a different economy, I might agree with you but in today’s economy there are plenty of people willing and able to fill the void if public teachers quit. Good benefits and admirable working hours are in short supply these days and pensions are unheard of. If I had to do it over i’d go into education. I would be THISCLOSE to retirement and a pension.
Good Mother

Public HS Teacher

February 25th, 2012
1:24 pm

@Hermione – I bought a place on a beach. My life will be better for sure. I am qualified to teach in college, so I’ll look at all of the local colleges to see if there is a fit.

Then, my fall back is to look at local high schools both public and private. Sure, it may be similar to GA – but it simply cannot be worse!

Hey Teacher

February 25th, 2012
1:34 pm

Ridiculous. Would anyone tolerate a police officer’s performance review being made public knowledge? A social worker? A fireman? Additionally, if we run off the teachers that score at the bottom, who do you think is going to replace them? My brightest students wouldn’t tough teaching with a ten-foot pole — and this kind of crap is the reason.

Ron F.

February 25th, 2012
1:52 pm

Good Mother: good point, but I wonder how many people see it as “the grass is greener…” As my kids say, “it ain’t all that”. :-) Many find the “admirable working hours” mean you do a lot of work at home instead of going home to supper and the TV. I fully appreciate the fact that I still have a job with good benefits in this economy, but it becomes challenging to retain a positive outlook in the face of sooooo much negativity. I love teaching, and I LOVE the work I get to do with my struggling learners, but I wonder if that passion for the profession will be enough to keep me going. In this economy, I’d be a fool to leave, of course. But is that reason enough to stay in a job and is it fair to the kids when teachers lose the love and desire for the profession? I don’t think I’d trust my doctor very much to do his job well if he came in saying “I used to really love this, but now I’m just counting days…” I’m trying my best NOT to end up like some friends/teachers I know who are just counting days to retirement.

Beverly Fraud

February 25th, 2012
1:55 pm

NOTE to U. S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan: I commend what you and the President are trying to do to improve education and to enhance the respect that teachers are afforded in America, but I surely do hope you read this post in full! ;-)

You mean efforts like Arne Duncan coming to Atlanta TWICE to politically prop up Beverly Hall AFTER it became obvious to ANYONE with any degree of knowledge and integrity that she was the central player in THE biggest cheating scandal in United States educational history?

And then Obama STILL trying to nominate her to an educational advisory council?

Ron F.

February 25th, 2012
1:57 pm

Hey Teacher: it will take a few years, but eventually we’ll end up with an inadequate pool of prospective teachers, and then what? If the numbers of young, energetic people drop too much, we won’t be seeing big score improvements then. We really need to be doing all we can to encourage new teachers with new ideas to join the profession. Especially now as the baby-boomers are retiring. In the next ten years, we’ll need a lot more new teachers than we’re going to be attracting I’m afraid.

flipper

February 25th, 2012
2:08 pm

Well, the whole thing is sort of silly because parents who are plugged into a school and are paying attention know who the good teachers and who the bad teachers are and know how to avoid the bad ones or get them removed from the classroom. Happens all the time at our schools. They don’t need a silly “rating” system based on bogus test scores.

Public HS Teacher

February 25th, 2012
2:13 pm

@Ron F. – Counting days to retirement? Heck, I am counting days to just get in my 10 years here in GA. Then I am “outta here!”

I have tried to understand the reasoning behind these types of decisions/attitudes in Georgia. And, the only thing that I can find is that the corrupt politicans are being swayed by the “education” corporations that want to set up shop here and open “charter” schools to make a profit. In other words, it is all about money.

Things are so overlooked to justify this money thirst…. the unbelievably strong PULBIC schools, the amazing STUDENTS graduating from these public schools, and so on.

But, hey – the Georgia voters seems so very ignorant and willing to latch onto any sound-bite thrown their way. They deserve what they get.

I just really hope that they are ready for the generations of stupid kids here in their future!

had enough

February 25th, 2012
2:51 pm

Clayton County School System employees: It is time to stand up, speak out, and demand a full scale investigation into the actions of Edmond Heatley. For some reason, the current board and the PSC have hidden themselves under a rock as it relates to the inhumane and disrespectful treatment of the system’s employees. First of all, he was illegal for him to take away our bonus money. Secondly, he is controlling ALL funds in Clayton County, He controls the ASEP funds, and he has informed some high schools that the county will now take control of the monies made from the sale of tickets to sporting events (basketball). The RTTTmoney is being used to fund a technology initiative. Read the job postings. If we do not demand his resignation, we will suffer more financially. Why is it that Fulton County’s superintendent found a way to thank the employees of the school system, yet Ed Heatley is not visible. Why does he need a bodyguard? He knows that he is a cruel dictator who treats employees with the utmost disrespect. The board members should be ashamed of themselves for bringing this man to the county. He is concerned about himself only. He has no interest in the students or the employees of this county. After all he did say that, “Morale was a personal issue.” Well, a majority of the employees of CCPS have a personal issue.

Brandy

February 25th, 2012
3:16 pm

I see four major flaws with Value-Added Assessments:

First, test scores allow for only so much growth. If a school scores at the top % one year, they are expected to exceed that performance the next year. If they do not for three years, they are a failing school, despite producing top scorers. Of course, any idiot can realize that you cannot score above the top %!

Second, states routinely track assessment data incorrectly. Rather than comparing the same set of students’ scores from year to year, they compare this year’s third graders against last year’s third graders. Two groups of completely different children. What if a teacher happens to get a class of geniuses one year and a class of dunces the next? Ooops.

Third, NCLB requires that all students, regardless of ability or IQ, be taught and tested on grade-level. This is true for extremely disabled students as well as for extremely gifted students. The student with a 70 IQ is never going to be able to do seventh grade mathematics in seventh grade, nor should he or she be expected to. The student with only the brain stem and complete lack of control of his or her bodily functions will never be able to read, especially not on grade level.

Fourth, the assessments are not standardized across the country. New York uses a different assessment from Georgia which uses a different assessment from North Carolina and so on and so on. The assessments can also be changed at will, making year-to-year comparisons largely invalid.

None of these points adds up to confidence on my part that a professional’s life should be ruined because of public reporting of rankings based on his or her students’ test scores. Remember, this data will now be around forever. It could potentially follow the named teachers for the rest of their lives, good or bad.

Brandy

February 25th, 2012
3:22 pm

@Public HS Teacher, You are right! It’s the same “bright and shiny” syndrome Georgia politicians have about transportation projects, building projects, and anything else that attracts lobbyists, their money, and the hint or suggestion of Federal funding.