Monday, September 14, 2015

Leadership Defense of APPR Is Total Nonsense

Teachers all over the city, all over the state, and all over the country are stressed out almost as a matter of course. This is because everyone wonders about the ratings, the ones on which their jobs depend. Sheri Lederman's lawsuit brings this some attention, but not nearly what it merits. As Governor Cuomo and the editorial pages blather on about getting tough with teachers, it seems like nothing more than a diversion so no one looks too closely about the hedge funders and billionaires who've bought them off.

UFT leadership sold us this bill of goods. I don't know how many meetings I've been to in which I've heard that this was an improvement. Before, I'd hear, the principal could just say you suck and you'd get a U rating. That wasn't as big a deal, I'd argue, and everyone would scoff. But it wasn't, because burden of proof was still on the DOE to establish you were incompetent, or unfit, or whatever. Now, if the UFT rat squad determines you suck, the burden of proof is on you, the teacher. And it doesn't get any better under the Heavy Hearts plan.

At one meeting, a District Rep. whose name I do not recall got very testy with me when I referred to VAM as junk science, a concept accepted by both Diane Ravitch and the American Statistical Asssociation. He said he'd be happy if his principal's negative determination were contradicted by the junk science. What he didn't say, what with the test score rating being essentially a crap shoot, was that the teacher well-rated by a principal and dragged down by junk science was also a possibility. Essentially, this UFT employee was endorsing tying our jobs to a crap shoot.

Unfortunately, the case of Shari Lederman shows that to be true. This is a woman whose principal very much liked and supported her, but because of low VAM scores got rated ineffective. Lest anyone think this is an extreme and unusual case, just this week I met two teachers in the same situation. One was a chapter leader from a small school who got an excellent rating from her principal. Another was a young teacher who got a good rating, but whose MOSL numbers were abysmal. If I happen to meet two such people in one week, how many are in the state? I'd argue that one is already too many.

In our high-performing school, our MOSL committee decided to share the joy rather than have individual teachers rise and fall on the basis of junk science. As our grades are generally OK this seemed to work. Almost everyone in our building got scores of 16 on both state and local measures. I got a 15 on state measures, though, and I hear some people did marginally better or worse. I have no idea whatsoever why that is.

What sort of system is it in which virtually no one understands how scores are calculated? What sort of system is it in which scores are meaningless but a person's job could hang in the balance?

And here's the thing--in a building like mine, in which junk science scores are almost uniform, people can still get bad ratings. Are they merited? I can't really say, not having seen the lessons and not having total confidence in the magical Danielson Framework. I don't believe rubrics translate to fairness. I don't believe personal prejudices are overcome by a system that assigns a 1-4 rating for various aspects, and I don't believe a computer calculation takes ratings out of the hands of anyone.

If you have a supervisor who really doesn't like you, threes become twos, twos become ones, you become developing or ineffective, and your morale is in the toilet. Is the UFT rat squad a check against this? If you're rated developing, it's not a factor. If you're rated ineffective, you have to depend on the kindness of rat squads, not a prospect I'd much relish. And as far as I can tell, the Heavy Hearts plan won't even afford you that option. Burden of proof will be on you, and there won't be any rat squad to turn a thumb up and declare otherwise.

This is not an effort to identify good and bad teachers. It's a witch hunt to divert attention from why kids really have issues in schools. For one, think poverty, which Gates won't address, and bought-and-paid-for politicians do virtually nothing to mitigate.
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