Thursday, May 13, 2010

Test Scores are the New Rubber Room

When news first got out about the new teacher evaluation method, I was, frankly, appalled. In most ways, I still am. But when I went to tell a senior colleague about the agreement and lamented how admins could now load you up with the worst classes in order to screw up your test scores, she looked at me and deadpanned, "So what? They've always been able to get rid of teachers if they really wanted to."

And you know what? She's right.

That's not to say that I like this agreement. I don't--not one little bit. I'll get to that in a minute. But first let me say that something needed to be done. As my colleague said, they've always been able to get rid of you. If your principal didn't like how you said hello in the mornings, or hated the color scheme of your bulletin boards, they could U rate you and send you to the rubber room. I've seen it happen, as I am sure many of you have.

In fact, two teachers in my school at this moment are under the gun from two different APs. Ironically, both had outstanding scores on their Teacher Data Reports. They must be singing hallelujah at this agreement.

So, in a way, if your admins wanted to get you before, they only had to game the observation system. Now, they'll have to be more creative and game your students' test scores, as well. Certainly they can do that, but it adds an additional hurdle.

This system might be a better deal for some teachers, if not for two huge problems.

First, the tests themselves are essentially invalid. Even the state ed people have admitted as much. Add to that the fact that "value-added" is education gobbledygook--it is virtually impossible to measure where students should be based upon some statistical model. Yet testing will account for 40% of your rating.

Worse still, according to the Times, teachers rated ineffective for two consecutive years can be fired within 60 days. What happened to our protections under state education law? Is Mulgrew giving those away, too? If you look at the UFT web site explaining the agreement, they don't even mention the fact that you can be fired without due process under this plan.

No wonder the city agreed to do away with rubber rooms--they don't need them anymore. Test scores are the new rubber room.

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