Friday, February 03, 2017

New Evaluation System--Is It Happy Dance Time?

I've been to a lot of events in which the beauty and wonder of the new evaluation system has been placed in my face. It's now, it's wow. And it's so much better than the old one, because the matrix will make everything better. Now, you can just match up this rating to that rating, and there are no more nasty numbers and averages to fret over.

And here's the thing--now you don't have to worry if your principal tells you to do some crazy nonsense. If you and he don't agree, it goes to the default option, which is everyone getting rated by schoolwide measures. This makes the junk science more valid because the larger the sample, the more valid it's likely to be. For example, if your sample is small, say, just a few classes, who knows how they are composed?

You could, for example, have a group of repeaters, and who knows why they're repeating? Maybe they have learning disabilities. Maybe they don't know English. Maybe they just don't like studying. Maybe they hate the subject you teach. Maybe they just hate you. Who knows?

But here's the thing--it appears to me, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that anyone who teaches Regents classes is going to be rated by the Regents classes. Common Core? Too bad. No moratorium for high school teachers. That's for 4 to 8 English and math only, last I looked. Can you go school wide for the Regents scores? No. Can you go department wide for the Regents scores? No.

You're on your own. The American Statistical Association says that teachers affect test scores by a  factor somewhere between 1-14%. But that's too bad for you, pal. If that small group of kids you teach doesn't do as well as you need them to, you could be screwed. Now of course there is the possibility that your supervisor could rate you well, and that could save your ass, or at least keep it from getting rated ineffective.

But wait a minute--isn't the whole advantage of this thing, the one I've heard Michael Mulgrew praise on numerous occasions, that it's supposed to save you from the unfettered power that the principal used to wield? Haven't we been told at meeting after meeting how those horrible principals used to write S or U and there was nothing we could do about it until we added this valuable junk science to the equation? Oddly, I don't remember anyone being freaked out under the S and U system. I see everyone freaked out over this one.

But I'm just a lowly chapter leader working in a school every day. I'm sure from the vantage point of the 14th floor at 52 Broadway, where no one teaches more than one class and everyone is rated S or U if at all, things look different. The only thing that really puzzles me is why they aren't up in arms clamoring for the right to be rated by this fantastic new system.

Now here's a thought. Since there are indeed one or two small-minded, vindictive administrators out there, what on earth is to keep them from making teachers they can't stand teach Regents classes full of students who won't do well? Were they to do that, they could sink their prey by observing things that didn't happen and failing to see things that did. I've mentioned before that I've seen video evidence of one such observation. This leads me to wonder how, exactly, we've improved on the old S/ U system. This is particularly true because under that system the burden of proof was always on the DOE.

Now it's possible that if you don't have all Regents classes you will be evaluated by some sort of blend--your Regents classes and whatever measure non-Regents teachers get. We shall see. And you may say, "But hey, NYC Educator, the issue is not so much the system itself as its abuse by crazy supervisors." Now, you may be right.

But here's the thing--union leaders think the supervisors are so crazy that adding junk science to evaluations makes them better. Supervisors are so bad that this is an improvement, evidently. And of course, with the burden of proof on the teacher and the possibility of rigging the game with unfavorable Regents classes this could give supervisors more, not less power.

Perhaps we could've addressed the problem of supervisory incompetence head-on. Instead, leadership is subjecting teachers to this nonsense, painting a happy face on it, and dancing as fast as they can trying to tell us how happy we should be. When I talk to teachers about it, they're just not feeling the love. And neither am I.
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