Sunday, December 27, 2015

Mulgrew on Evaluation--Logical Fallacy, Obfuscation, and Omission

Michael Mulgrew is President of the United Federation of Teachers so it's only fair to assume he speaks for leadership. Despite his constant talk of victory in Cuomo's agreement to hold off using Common Core results for teacher evaluation, teachers are still going to be judged by junk science. The only difference is which tests on which we base said junk science.

Informed people, like Diane Ravitch, reject junk science. The American Statistical Association found that teachers account for only 1-14% of student scores. I'd say those who choose to ignore that are akin to climate change deniers. Yet when UFT President Michael Mulgrew is faced with objections to the new 50% junk science system, he asks if teachers want to go back to principals making choices.  In fact, that's a black and white fallacy, assuming there is only one alternative to Cuomo's 50% plan, the one for which Mulgrew thanked the Heavy Hearts Assembly. Furthermore, it's an appeal to fear, another logical fallacy. It reminds me of nothing more than Orwell's Squealer asking the animals whether they wanted Jones to come back.

This was an effective argument at the Delegate Assembly, where the overwhelming majority had signed the loyalty oath, agreeing to follow the leader no matter what. But a thinking person has to reject the argument, and not simply because it's a logical fallacy. First of all, if you accept the ASA's findings (as opposed to Cuomo's), you have to concede that this leaves half your rating up to pure chance. While it's possible the junk science could bring your rating up, it's equally possible it could drag you down. And while Mulgrew can point to people who were saved by junk science, I know people who were sunk by it. In fact one such teacher, Shari Lederman,  has literally placed junk science on trial. A colleague of mine likens depending on junk science to suggesting you go ahead and take up smoking, because maybe you won't get cancer.

More importantly, Mulgrew neglects to consider or acknowledge the flip side of his APPR agreement--the DOE no longer needs to prove teacher incompetence in these cases. Under the current agreement, if the UFT rat squad says you suck, you have to prove you are NOT incompetent. That's a huge burden of proof, one teachers are unlikely to overcome. So while Mulgrew can argue there are fewer teachers with twin bad ratings, the consequences they now face are far more dire than before. That there are fewer facing double negative rating does not mean there will be fewer people facing 3020a, or fewer who actually lose their jobs.

Mulgrew can call those of us who oppose him Chicken Little. He can say we're hysterical and illogical. He can call us names. But I know people directly affected by the APPR law he boasted about negotiating. I know the 50% Heavy Hearts Law was designed specifically to fire more teachers, and I know the notion of Firing Our Way to the Top is essentially ludicrous. The best predictor of test scores are income and degree of special needs, and as long as the politicians blame schools and teachers for such things we are not going to fix the perceived problems with test scores.

It's a shame we haven't got a President who addresses this head on. Ours, in fact, seems to prefer his head in the sand.
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