Wednesday, February 14, 2018

APPR and the Zombie Teacher Apocolypse

There's a lot of talk about evaluation systems being revamped, because that, evidently, is what you do with teacher evaluation systems, and you do it almost every year. NYSUT has declared it's time. It's odd, to me, that this is necessary because every new iteration is represented as the Bestest Thing Ever, not only by the state, but also by UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

I remember when we fought to have all 22 components of Danielson counted, even though Bloomberg wanted only seven, and it was a Great Victory. I remember when we reduced it to eight, and that too was a Great Victory. I remember the Great Victory when we were able to use artifacts, and the other Great Victory when they were eliminated.

Mulgrew just told the Executive Board that we were not going back to total control by principals. It's funny, because when junk science opponents (like me and Diane Ravitch) object to said junk science, we're told that we support 100% principal control. That's a double logical fallacy. First, it's a strawman, because I've never heard an APPR opponent say any such thing, nor have I said it myself. Second, it's a black and white fallacy, suggesting that if you don't support junk science, the only alternative is total control for principals.

Another bad argument came up at the DA the other day. A chapter leader got up and declared that the junk science saved her rating. I believe that. I've seen junk science raise ratings in my building. In fact, I was very happy to see negative ratings raised by junk science in my building. Nonetheless, there's a world outside of my building, and in that world, teachers rated well by supervisors have seen ratings tumble because of junk science.

APPR proponents will argue, correctly, that this can be mitigated by the matrix. But if you're rated developing by your supervisor, and your test grades get ineffective, the system say you are ineffective. I know people who've fallen under that category, and these people, under new supervisors in new schools, managed to blossom in both supervisor rating and junk science.

Personally, I don't believe the nonsense about earth having been invaded by a plague of zombie bad teachers. I mean, in any large group there will be outliers both high and low. But every time I've heard about the need for new teacher evaluations, it's been accompanied by talk of getting rid of the bad teachers.

It's funny to me, at least, because I regularly encounter far more examples of bad administration than bad teaching. You have some supervisor who hates you and everything you stand for, and therefore you need to watch every word you say to everyone, because if they hear even a hint of something they can write a letter about, they blow it into World War III.

There are certainly ways to improve our system. The first would be to reduce minimum observations to two, unless perhaps you need more support or request more guidance. Most important, though, is this nonsense about having the burden of proof on the teachers to prove they are not incompetent. How do you prove a negative? And isn't it fundamentally un-American to be guilty until proven innocent?

Nattering nabobs of negativity will argue that it's not so bad because all you're losing is your job, as opposed to your life and liberty. I'd argue that losing your income and health care these days could certainly lead to loss of life, as it does for thousands of Americans annually. I'm for removing authority from principals, particularly crazy ones. But I'd mitigate it with something better than a straight crapshoot.

Also, while it's not all that trendy, I'd like to see the issue of insane administrators addressed. Were that to happen, we might not need to rely on convoluted and virtually incomprehensible test scores. If the administrators are so bad that throwing the dice and hoping for the best is an improvement over their judgment, we're ignoring the elephant in the room. Unless you have furniture suitable for elephants, this is something we can't ignore.
blog comments powered by Disqus