Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mr. Chips vs. Buffalo Chips

As I mentioned earlier today, there's a reasonable chance that ARIS can tell you what classes you'll be teaching next week, and in many cases, the students you'll be teaching. I saw mine, and already I know what the future holds.

Like most middle school teachers, I ended up with a top class, a middle class, and what's indelicately known as a "bottom" class. I was able to see the scores of their standardized tests from last year as well as their AYP (annual yearly progress). It used to be that you were judged by how many of your students went from 2s to 3s, or 3s to 4s. These days, it's all about AYP. ALL your students are supposed to make a year's progress this school year. It's probably more true now than ever, as the ELA and math tests are being held much later and you'll be seen as responsible for the entire year.

I'm not worried, because I already know where my students will end up on next year's exams!

How do I know? Am I some kind of genius? Of course, but that's not how. It's just a little bit of data from ARIS mixed with a lot of experience. Here's how it breaks down:

  • In my top class, only two of my future students failed to make their AYP last year. They are readers and achievers, and when I work with them this year, they will continue to be so.
  • In my middle class, it's more a mixed bag. Only ten failed to make AYP, but at least ten others made it by a hair's breadth. These students need to be worked hard and motivated to make real progress. I'll do that, and some will have great years while others have to dragged kicking and screaming to get them to read.
  • In my bottom class, no one made their AYP. That's right--NO ONE. That's not a surprise to me, as that is what makes them a bottom class. They have very limited skills. Most have progressed about half a year for every year they have been in school so far, and it will be a miracle if I can get more than a handful to make a year's progress now.

In what will seem an anomaly to educational researchers (you know, those people who don't teach but write papers about it anyway), my top class will have far more students in it than my bottom class--perhaps as many as ten more. It will make no difference. The real math of teaching is that 34 highly motivated kids > 24 unmotivated kids.

My point here is that this is why test data should not be used to evaluate teachers. If I were one of the Divas who always get all the top classes, I'd look like Mr. Chips. If I got all the bottom classes, I'd look like buffalo chips.

And if a vindictive admin gave you a lot of bottom classes, he could "prove" you were a lousy teacher. It would be Goodbye, Mr. Buffalo Chips and a one way ticket to the rubber room.


mathteacher said...

Or your school could use heterogeneous groupings...

melody said...

I'm not from NYC, so maybe that explains it, but I don't get how they can calculate AYP for students. It seems like a ridiculous concept (and even more ridiculous to base classrooms assignments on it). Can you please post how the calculations are done, assuming its not some closely-held, top-secret DOE formula? Muchas gracias.

ed notes online said...

Great piece AC. I commented and linked at ed notes.

Mr. Talk said...

Melody, I have no idea how they come up with these numbers. It's a mystery to everyone. You'd think it was the formula for Coke or something. Considering that the tests get easier every year, coming up with a formula that had meaning would be impossible, IMO.

Norm--thanks for the mention. I always get a lot more eyeballs when you plug the blog!