Saturday, October 18, 2014

MOSL and the Ten Commandments

Every school needs to determine precisely how junk science is utilized to determine teacher ratings. In our school, we tried to make measures as broad as possible. Wherever we could, we did not tie teachers to ratings based on their individual students. We felt this was unhealthy. For example, if some kid came to me asking for extra help, it would probably be less than optimal for me to say, “Screw you, kid, because you’re in Miss Grundy’s class.”

I probably wouldn’t say that in any case, but I would never want to be in competition with my colleagues. This places me in opposition to the prevailing reformy winds, which cry, “Fire the lowest 5, 10, or 90% of all teachers.” That’s also nonsense. But the entire notion of MOSL is nonsense, and if you’re involved you have no alternative but to choose the nonsense that suits you best.

The trend in my school was highly effective ratings in the building. This left a lot of happy teachers. But alas, most of us, myself included, were dragged down to merely effective after our junk science scores were averaged in. On the flip side, a lot of developing ratings were pulled up to effective.  As chapter leader, pissed off though I was about my rating and those of most of my colleagues, I felt we had more or less done the best we could.

My school, though, tends to do well. I’ve spoken to other people who’ve seen highly effective ratings dragged down to developing, and there are a few cases I’ve heard of that went from highly effective to ineffective. Hopefully cases like those will be corrected on appeal. Most appeals will go to the chancellor, where precedent from Klein on has been a rejection level of almost 100%. Our new agreement allows UFT to present 13% of cases to independent arbitrators, who will hopefully be more reasonable.

The consequences of poor ratings can be dire. Developing is not all that bad, though not all that good either. The primary consequence, aside from damage to your pride and such, is a TIP, or teacher improvement plan. Theoretically, the teacher and admin will collaboratively work out a plan to improve whatever needs improvement. Should that be the junk science portion of the rating, it will be an uphill battle indeed. Reliable studies suggest that teachers effect test scores somewhere between 1 and 14%. And of course if your supervisors are insane, the TIP could be torturous.

You may not appeal a developing rating. However, you will not face 3020a dismissal charges based on such ratings either. Ineffective ratings are quite a bit more threatening. Should you get one, you will be visited by a dementor validator who will decide whether or not you suck. Should the validator decide that in fact you do not suck, your principal can still bring you up on 3020a dismissal charges the next year. However, the DOE will have to prove you suck.

If the validator gives you a thumbs-down, saying yes you do suck, you will then have to prove that you do not suck. This basically robs you of that whole innocent-until-proven-guilty thing, which can be more than a minor inconvenience, what with poverty, health care, homelessness, and minimum wage employment all out there to welcome you.

So the decision of your MOSL committee can be a very serious thing. Do you know what your school’s MOSL committee decided? Did it work last year? Was it changed this year? What has worked for you and your colleagues? What hasn’t? And why on earth are we asked to make such high-stakes nonsensical decisions in the first place?
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