Friday, June 1, 2012

Teachers Are Not Numbers

The other day, a student I had never seen before stopped me on the street as I walked to my car.

"Hey, I know you," she said. "You're Mr....uhm...Mr..."

"Mr. Talk," I prompted.

"Oh yeah," she said, with a look on her face that said she wasn't entirely convinced of my identity. "I saw you in the papers."

As you can imagine, I was a little taken aback. Had she confused me with some criminal whose mug shot resembled me? "In what paper?"

"The Times," she replied. "You're a 98*."

"Excuse me?"

"You're a 98. You know, that's what you scored."

The fog cleared away. She was referring to my Teacher Data Report (TDR) score.

"You must be a great teacher," she said, smiling.

I thought about offering a rebuttal--of saying that TDR scores are meaningless and that in the previous year I had scored at the bottom. But I knew it wouldn't make any difference. "Thanks."

This student--whom I'd never met before and who didn't even know my name--knew my TDR score. By that number alone, she made a snap judgment about who I was and how I did my job.

I wonder how the conversation would have gone had it taken place a year earlier. Would she have approached me to say "You're an 8*. You must stink"?

There's still talk going around about whether teacher evaluations should be made public, available to parents only, or part of a teacher's personal record that is not shared with anyone. I've always fallen into the third camp because I do not believe that student scores are any kind of indication of teacher quality.

I am even more firmly in the third camp after that conversation. If that one girl knew me by my score, how many other children and parents make the same hasty judgment based upon a number with a huge margin of error?

If turning teachers into numbers is such a great thing, why not do it with the children, too? Students could wear a 1, 2, 3, or 4 depending on how they scored on their exams. Heck, we could make parents wear those numbers when they came in for parent teacher conferences, as well. Maybe we could get Bloomberg and Walcott involved--they could wear their approval rating numbers whenever they visited schools.

Of course, such public shaming is reserved only for teachers in this city. If you are a teacher, you are a number. Unless the powers that be in Albany see the light.

*not my real numbers, although they are close. The numbers have been changed to protect the innocent (namely me).


Troth said...

The kids are now being publicly shamed along with us...

High Arka said...

And this, after all the times I had to read "The Scarlet Letter" in K-12...Bloomberg must've skipped those days.