Sunday, January 08, 2017

Observations--Are More Better?

My friends at the ICE blog say that NJEA wants more and longer observations. There is an argument to be made for that. For example, the fewer times you are observed, the more each one counts. If you're only observed once or twice, a bad day could be quite costly. I wouldn't write a test or quiz with only two questions and expect it to represent how well my students knew a topic. (Of course I wouldn't write one with four questions either.)

There is an argument to be made that the larger the sample is, the more accurate the results will be. That, in fact, is one very good reason why the entire NY evaluation system is nonsense. It's entirely possible that a group of students may not represent the teacher's abilities or competence. In fact, since the American Statistical Association says teachers influence test scores by a factor of 1-14%, it's highly unlikely that any group will reflect teacher ability. This notwithstanding, it's where we are.

Since we're here anyway, we may as well go with something that makes sense. To me, at least, if a teacher does well with two observations, that ought to suffice. We ought to give more observations to those who don't do well, thus giving them a chance to improve. This would reduce stress on those who had less to worry about, at least. It would also give supervisors a chance to actually help those teachers in need of support. I don't see how, especially in a large school like mine, supervisors even keep up with the required volume of observations.

There is some reason for hope. At the last meeting I went to, we were told that MOTP was going to be further negotiated. It's common sense to help those who need it, rather than bother with those who don't. I'd think the principals' union would believe that too. In fact there's evidence for that. Last year, the six informals was dropped to four, which I'm pretty sure the principals argued for. This year that was revised--you can ask for four informals but that comes along with two non-evaluative visits from colleagues. The fact that this part of MOTP was negotiated makes me question whether they're really going to do much to improve it in the future, but I'd be glad to be proven wrong.

The one factor that has not been addressed is the most egregious and troubling, and that is the number and practices of insane administrators. UFT reps like to say that the S and U system was flawed because it was completely dependent on the whims of administrators. That's true, to an extent, but it doesn't pass muster as the last word.

For one thing, the stakes were not quite as high. Right now, in NY State, if you get two ineffective ratings, the burden of proof is on you. Now it's one thing for the district to prove you are incompetent. It's quite another for individual teachers to prove a negative, that they are not incompetent. That's a tremendous burden, and fundamentally un-American. When we go to court, we're innocent until proven guilty. It's the other way round for doubly I-rated teachers. That's plainly awful, and perfectly evident to everyone except UFT Unity loyalty-oath signers, who can and do make preposterous arguments about teachers owning the process.

The other is the fact that no one has chosen to address the rather large percentage of blitheringly incompetent supervisors. If, in fact, their judgment is so poor that we need to compensate for it via junk science, crap shoots, and hoping for the best, doesn't it behoove us to address the issue of supervisors who don't know their ass from their elbow? Shouldn't we actually do something about people in charge of education who operate via personal vendetta and petty vindictiveness?

I know some great supervisors. I have seen supervisors act in supportive and helpful ways. But I've also seen the polar opposite. It turns out that people who wish to escape the classroom because they don't like teaching are not precisely the best equipped to support those of us who choose to stay. Who would've thunk it?

We can modify junk science in many ways. Perhaps the matrix does so in a way that fewer teachers will be dragged down for no reason. Perhaps it's true that more teachers will have to do poorly on both axes to be unfairly rated ineffective. But it's all plainly obvious that both axes are still heavily flawed. If we're going to judge teachers, we ought to do so on the basis of ability and competence. I see two axes in the matrix, and both still rely heavily on chance and luck.
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