When I first opened that email, my heart sank. I thought maybe they had emailed me the square root of my actual number by mistake.
Now, I've been teaching a long time, and I have a long track record of excellent results, so this number was a real shocker. I know how hard I work, and I know that my administration holds me in pretty high regard, so it just didn't make any sense. But there it was.
I went to work the next day hoping that no one would ask my results. As I slunk past friends' classrooms, I felt as if a large neon sign with my pathetic number and the words "You Suck!" was blinking above my head. But an odd thing happened. No one asked me my number, and no one told me theirs. I thought maybe word of my diminutive digits had leaked somehow and my colleagues were just being tactful. I mustered the courage to tell a good friend what I'd gotten, and I was shocked when he told me his. It was even worse.
Now, this guy is a good teacher. I sure didn't believe his number could be real. As the day passed, I spoke with a few other colleagues, and it turned out that I was far from the bottom performer in my school. By the time the day ended, I felt like Mr. Chips.
Here's the rub. If you believe the data, almost everyone in my school is a bum and a slacker. But the truth is I work at one of this highest rated schools in the city according to the state test results. And it has been one of the best schools for many years. So how did a bunch of rubes like us, the sum of whose teacher data numbers total up to a single decent teacher, manage to produce some of the best results in the city?
The answer is simple. The numbers are worthless.
As it turns out, we have such high scoring students that it was nearly impossible to move them up. How do you add value to students who already have perfect or near perfect scores? You can't. And I'll bet that the same is true of working with students at the bottom--they are at the bottom because they have reading difficulties, and moving them up a year or more when they are already several grade levels behind must be damn near impossible.
The DOE took a test that the state knows is invalid--and that can be passed just by guessing--and then came up with a bunch of complicated formulas to derive a number that tells a lot of good, hardworking teachers that they suck. In the same vein, there are surely some lousy teachers out there who feel like they can coast now because their numbers were better than expected.
The only bad result that came of my lousy number was that it made me feel awful for a day or so. I felt bad because I care about my students and I take my teaching seriously--that's what makes me (and most of you) a good teacher. I am over it now, because I know it is horse shit and I know it can't be used to evaluate me. Yet. I do wonder how this mess will affect those teachers who are up for tenure this year, and who can be evaluated by that score. How many dedicated and hard working teachers will be refused tenure because their number isn't high enough for the DOE?
And where is the UFT on this one?