Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Evaluation Bill--More Moratorium, a Sea Change, or Are We Missing Something?

It looks like the Senate and the Assembly will pass a bill that got stalled in the Senate last year. This bill will mean that state tests will no longer be required to assess teachers in NY State. It doesn't necessarily mean they won't, though. Evidently, this will be negotiated locally. I've got mixed feelings about this initiative.

One thing that never got much mention in the press, given the moratorium, is that high school teachers were not relieved, ever, from being judged by state testing. So to us, the moratorium has always meant nothing whatsoever. How will this change things for us? At the moment, it's impossible to say.

The problem, of course, is that tests don't really measure what we do. The American Statistical Association says that not only do teachers affect test scores by a factor of 1-14%, but that undue focus on test scores actually impedes us from helping kids, the most important thing we do. I know that I will spend a good part of next semester prepping kids for the English Regents, which will help them do nothing whatsoever aside from, hopefully, passing one single test.

I'm currently rated by a test called the NYSESLAT that measures nothing I can determine, aside from how Common Corey my newcomers happen to be. This would be useful, I suppose, if it prepared them for life. Perhaps when boys meet girls somewhere, they say, "Hey, look how Common Corey I am," and true love ensues. Perhaps not. Perhaps Common Coriness is a qualification for an important job somewhere. I don't really know.

I kind of value my MOTP rating, as it comes from a supervisor for whom I have (I have to admit) great respect. For the first few years, the MOSL dropped me from HE to E, which meant one more observation a year. The matrix changed that, and last year I was observed only three times. That is the only thing that changed, other than being able to tell a Chancellor's rep I was rated highly effective at a recent grievance hearing.

I took a strong stand against this law, and against junk science evaluation, which I believe test score evaluation is. While I stand by that, it's also true that fewer NYC teachers got bad ratings under this crazy system. My friend, a high school chapter leader, told me that 30% of the teachers in her school got bad MOTP ratings, and that the MOSL was the only thing that helped them. I also know a teacher who was rated developing in the MOTP, but ineffective on the MOSL, and that brought her down to ineffective.

So do we embrace this system because it helps more people than it hurts? I can't really jump up and down in celebration when it's still dragging teachers into ineffective territory. Will the new bill somehow become an improvement? It really remains to be seen. For now, I'd like to see choice at individual schools in NYC. For example, my school does well on state test scores, but yours may not.

Will there be other options? Perhaps. Will they be supported by research and/ or practice? Almost certainly not. I know of absolutely no such practice.

The only thing that really makes this system work, despite all the stress and misery it causes, is that it rates fewer teachers negatively. But hey, bad ratings are serious shit these days. You could face a 3020a hearing where the burden of proof is on you to prove you are not incompetent. That's one mountain I would not wish to climb. No one should have to do that.

Why is there an elephant in that cartoon?

Every teacher knows. The reason this system works for UFT members is that city supervisors are so terrible, a crapshoot like this one means a crazy supervisor may not be able to rate us poorly and fire us for no reason. That's really a shame. My friend who has the crazy principal likes MOSL because it saves a lot of her colleagues.

My opinion is this--I value input from my supervisor, who was a long-term teacher in my subject area. If she makes suggestions, I will certainly try them. I look at the checklist rating sheets and if I don't get below effective I'm happy. But if she were left to her own devices, to write something, well I'd read it and think about it. I'm certain that would be more valuable. If you have a good supervisor, the older system is absolutely better.

Sadly, many, many city teachers suffer under toxic supervision. There are so many walking, talking remnants of Bloomberg in this city that it's hard to fathom fixing the problem. No evaluation system will be valid, let alone productive, until we address that.
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