Friday, September 17, 2010

I've Never Trusted in the Kindness of Strangers

Despite the dearth of Christmas cards I get from 52 Broadway, I always want the UFT to be right.   Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't.  I have grave doubts about the new teacher evaluation system being piloted in "transformation" schools, and likely coming to yours and mine next school year.

If I understand it correctly, 20% of your rating will depend on some sort of standardized test.   Perhaps the "Race to the Top" funds, the ones that can't be used to hire teachers, lower class sizes, or raise teacher salaries, will be used to design such tests.  And, as experience shows, it's entirely likely the tests will be total crap, measuring nothing whatsoever.  Another 20% of your rating would be dependent on some sort of school-based assessment, perhaps a test you write.  I'm fairly confident many, many students will show enormous gains on such tests, unless you happen to work for a principal keen to have his school closed down and lose his job.

The other 60%, of course, would come from observations, portfolios, or who knows what else, so you'll get the same fair shake from administration you've come to know and rely upon.   Or at least, you'll get an equally fair shake.   The big question, of course, is whether or not this system is better than the one that preceded it.  Of course you could have been screwed by your principal under the old system.  Will this one help?

It's a tough call.  A determined principal could certainly give someone out of favor the worst kids in the school, pretty much condemning said teacher to poor standardized scores.    And this same principal could base the other 60% on this 20.  After this happens two years in a row, that teacher would be toast.

Am I saying all principals are like that?  Of course not.  But however many there are, if you happen to work for one, it's a serious issue.  Could such things have happened under the current system?  Yes, but the principal did not necessarily have the standardized test data to back it up.

Naturally I hope for reasonable, fair principals.  But with Joel Klein running Tweed and churning out principals from his Leadership Academy, I'm not nearly as sanguine as I'd be if, say, a reasonable, realistic and experienced person, perhaps one with a background in education, were Chancellor.
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