Friday, September 13, 2013

UFT's Defense of APPR Examined

UFT negotiated and supported the law that ushered in the odious new evaluation system, which has everyone freaked-out. Their advice to freaked-out teachers is "Calm down."  The argument leadership offers in favor of the new system is this--under the old system the principal, alone, determined whether you are satisfactory or unsatisfactory. That was the only measure.

Now, there are multiple measures. 40% is so-called objective measures, and the other 60% is based on observations, artifacts, and who knows what else. The fundamental problem with the UFT argument that this is an improvement is that the principal can still have you rated poorly. If principals holds sway over 60% of your rating (or even 55% after kids take 5), it's a fairly good bet that they can make sure you don't hit the magical 65 that will render you "developing."

On the other hand, you may believe that principals enter rooms with no prejudices or experiences and perfectly apply low-inference observation techniques. Of course if that is the case, I'm not precisely sure why we'd need multiple measures. But let's humor that notion for a moment. Every principal is a paragon of virtue and records only what is actually observable. Thus the 55 to 60 points of observation or whatever will be precise in every way, and will not vary one iota from one principal to the next.

The problem is, if that happens to be the case, there's still another way you can be declared ineffective and be placed on a one-way rail to Palookaville. If you fail the so-called objective measures, your perfect principal will have no power whatsoever to help your rating. And in that case, you'd certainly have fared better under the old system.

Imagine you are a music teacher, and your school's MOSL committee, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to tie your rating to the English Regents exam. The kids bomb the exam two years in a row, and you're facing 3020a dismissal charges. Let's not even trouble ourselves with the fact that judging your performance via test scores is junk science.

Sure, there are those guys who will observe you, the dementors or something, and if they give you thumbs-up, it will be a regular 3020a where the city has to prove you're incompetent. As that's the same thing you'd fact under the old system, it is in no way an improvement. Unfortunately, if the dementors signal thumbs-down, you'll have to prove you are not incompetent. That's a pretty tough hill to climb. And  in that case, you are certainly in a worse place than you'd have been under the old system.

So the problem with this new system is the prime alleged unfavorable factor, a principal's subjectivity, remains intact, while another factor, test scores likely to be totally out of your control, threatens you as well. That's double trouble, hardly an improvement for anyone, and if you really place Children First, Always, you fire their Good Teachers Never.

Is there anyone out there unaffiliated with Bill Gates who thinks this system is an improvement?
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