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Friday, March 16, 2012

Newsday on Teacher Data Reports

Experts, LIers weigh in on teacher evaluations

Michael Dawidziak, left, and Arnold Dodge are answering questions about the
 pros and cons of New York State teacher evaluations

Thanks for joining Newsday’s web chat. Tonight,
 we’re going to be talking about teachers’ new job evaluations, which
 the state plans to launch in June. Joining us are two distinguished 
panelists — Dr. Arnold Dodge, chairman of the Department of 
Educational Leadership and Administration at the LIU Post campus
in Brookville, and Michael Dawidziak, a Long Island-based political 
consultant and frequent contributor to Newsday’s opinion pages. I’m 
John Hildebrand, Newsday’s senior education reporter and tonight’s 
John Hildebrand- MODERATOR: 
Mike and Arnie, every time we 
report on the subject of teachers' job evaluations, we can expect at 
least 100 comments on Newsday's website. Why is there so much 
debate on the subject?
Michael Dawidziak: 
The bottom line is that the taxpayers are 
paying a lot of money for a quality education system.  Overwhelmingly,
the voters say they are willing to pay for it as most school budgets pass.  
But, they want to know they are getting quality.
Arnold Dodge: 
There is so much debate because there is so much misinformation.   I believe that the public is not fully aware of what 
happens in schools and what is the definition of "quality" teaching.
Comment From Guest 
How will teachers in non testing grades, including special area teachers, 
be evaluated?
Arnold Dodge: 
Special area teachers - including all other subjects 
beyond ELA and math - will have to be evaluated in order for any system 
to be fair.  The question is how will we evaluate teachers in subjects like 
art, PE, etc.  For that matter how will we evaluate librarians, guidance 
counselors and other support personnel?  This is a very difficult issue 
that has only the most prelimary answers being suggested.
Comment From Frank 
what is wrong with the way evaluations are done today...?
Michael Dawidziak: 
All sides agreed that a new evaluation system 
was necessary to replace the current "satisfactory/unsatisfactory" scale 
that has been used for decades to judge teachers.  The main problem 
with the current system is the inability to get a bad teacher out of the 
system which is the real hot button issue among the taxpayers.  in a 
year marked bu historic action, not addressing mandate relief was 
absolutely the biggest failure by Albany last year.
Arnold Dodge: 
As a former principal, I can testify to the fact that 
while the evaluation system that I used was not perfect, it had rigor 
and responsiveness that the current system denies a teacher.  The 
binary system that is used by some districts is not acceptable.  However, 
the alternative that is now known as the APPR is much worse than 
anything that I have seen to date.
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
Here's a question a lot of people are asking us: Should teachers' names be released to the public along with their 
performance ratings?
Michael Dawidziak: 
Teachers' names should absolutely not be 
released to the public along with their performance rating.  The 
idea here is insuring quality and improving the system, not painting 
a scarlet red letter on somebody.
Arnold Dodge: 
Shame is a poor motivator - even Bill Gates has weighed 
in on the negative impact of publishing teachers names along with their performance ratings.
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
Still, New York City did decide to release 
teachers' names last month, under the state's Freedom of Information 
Law. Is the cat out of the bag?
Arnold Dodge: 
This is an unfortunate precedent that will not serve 
the public weal.  If the rest of the state follows suit, we move from 
demoralizing the city teachers to demoralizing every teacher in the state.  
A very poor policy indeed.
Michael Dawidziak: 
Just because New York City went ahead doesn't 
mean that all the other school districts in the state should go along.  
Ultimately, each district will have to answer this question for themselves 
but I believe that most will opt to protect the individual teacher's privacy.
Comment From John 
How will this evaluation process account for such variables as student 
attendance, home life, social issues, disabilities, etc. that are out of a 
teacher's control?
Arnold Dodge: 
It won't.   Not making central the outside influences on 
the life of a child (and how those variables affect learning), may be the 
most significant flaw in the new system.
Michael Dawidziak: 
While you can't come up with a perfect system 
that would address all these situations, the fact that you can't come 
up with a perfect system doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to come 
up with a better one.  That is what this agreement between the Governor 
and Teachers' Unions tries to do.
Arnold Dodge: 
I disagree.  A flawed system that has false negatives 
and positives does damage that will be serious both to the teachers 
who are unfairly targeted and to the entire culture of schools.  We 
certainly should try to come up with a good system  This current version 
is not a good one.
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
And Arnie, getting back to your comment 
that the evaluation system won't account for such variables as student attendance...You would agree, wouldn't you, that the state is going to 
try to use such factors as student poverty and disabilities in the formula 
use to rate teachers?
Arnold Dodge: 
Student poverty and disabilities are so complex, that 
any formula that attempts to account for differences  - and asserts that 
these variables are now controlled - can be very misleading.   As one 
example, children who come to school from impoverished backgrounds 
have an enormous deficit in school vocabulary.   This deficit can follow 
a child throughout his school career.  No formula can possibly account 
for the weight of such deficiency.
Comment From Dave 
As a Special Ed Teacher (Math) I am worried. I teach a 7th grade self 
contained Math class, and my students are performing at the 2nd grade 
reading and math levels. Even if I get the students to go forward to grade 
4 performance (which is a huge leap) it would not be reflected in the 
State Math testing because the students will be taking grade 7 tests, 
and what I teach them in class is not measured by the test. So I fear 
being labeled ineffective... any suggestions ?
Michael Dawidziak: 
Teachers, especially special ed teachers, will 
have the ability to get an "effective" rating even if their students' test 
scores are low, as long as they showed at least some progress. Progress 
becomes the more determining factor over raw test grades in these cases.
Arnold Dodge: 
In fact, a teachers' ratings can be determined as ineffective 
if test scores do not reach a certain level based on the valued-added model.  
The offense to a teahcer who is trying his or her best with a challenged 
population (a population who may not score well on tests) is to be labeled ineffective and therefore be in jeopardy of losing his or her job.  This is fundamentally unfair.
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
Was the state correct in deciding to issue the first new teacher job ratings this June? Or should the state have taken 
more time to perfect the system?
Michael Dawidziak: 
Procrastination and kicking the can down the road 
is usually what elected officials do best.  Albany is showing leadership and 
being an inovative example for the rest of the country.  This spirit should not be discouraged.  Flaws in the system can be addressed as you go and in fact,
 is the only way anything will ever get done.  If you wait for a perfect system,
 it will never happen.
Arnold Dodge: 
No profession or business would use a model that had 
not been fully tested that has such high stakes.   If anything would have 
made sense, it would have been to use the new model in parallel to the 
present model and compare results.  Going on-line with this high stakes 
system, when there are so many questions from the educational community - 
and others -  is sheer folly and is sure to backfire.
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
Shaun by email asks: I work for the NYC DOE 
in a transfer school for kids who have been kicked out of other schools or 
have dropped out and have gaps in there education. They are typically 
overage and under credited. What is the incentive to stay at a school like 
this, our scores are historically low due to our population. I would be 
labeled a bad teacher for trying to help these kids?
Michael Dawidziak: 
Teacher motivation has always been a mystery to 
me and one of the finest examples of excellence for the sake of excellence. 
Let's face it.There are poor techers, fair teachers and superlative teachers.  
The superlative ones choose to do a great job for no greater compensation 
than their poor cointerparts.  You name me any other profession where that 
would be the case.  Great teachers have always been identified as such and 
they will continue to be.
Arnold Dodge: 
Shaun, you are so right to be concerned.  And, at the 
same time, it is so sad that you are asking the question.  A form of this 
question will be asked by even the best teachers, i.e., should I take on 
challenging kids if it means that my scores will suffer?  This is not about 
teacher ethics, but about human nature.  We all want to know that we are appreciated for our work and we all want to keep our jobs.   I would suggest, 
Shaun, that you hang in there, and keep up the good work.  We can only 
hope that there will be a turn of events soon when level heads prevail 
regarding your dilemma.
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
JDarr on asked:

A lot of the commentary about publicizing teacher evaluations is framed as 

an issue of taxpayers' right to know or some philosophical issue. How about 
the practical side? When parents figuratively line up by the thousands to 
demand that their children be removed from the classrooms of teachers 
identified as ineffective and are turned down by beleaguered principals, 
will they then line up outside the superintendents' offices? Then the 
MOD: John Hildebrand: 
We hear that a lot: that parents are going 
to pull their kids out of classes where teachers are rated less than 
perfect. But I'm not sure experience demonstrates that this is the 
case. Take New York City, where they recently released teachers' 
names along with ratings. Many parents interviewed there seemed 
to take the ratings with a grain of salt. So long as their kids were 
happy with their present teachers, the parents seemed satisfied also.
Michael Dawidziak: 
Parents have for years been trying to get their 
children switched out of classes of teachers that either they or their 
children don't like or don't think is effective.  The school principals 
have been dealing with this for as long as there has been schools, 
so this possibility is not caused by the new evaluation system.
Arnold Dodge: 
Yes, they will line up to have their children removed.  
And how else would we expect a concerned parent to behave?   My 
experience as a superintendent in a Long Island school district that 
parents are very demanding - as well they should be.  Quite frankly, I 
do not know what I would say to someone who asked for his/her child 
to be removed.  One more reason why this new system must be looked 
at from all sides before it is implemented.  Remember that the ratings 
are unstable measures and a teacher who is labeled ineffective one year, 
may very well be labeled effective the next year.  But will a parent really 
buy that answer?
Comment From jennie 
Why are so many teachers against this evaluation system?
Michael Dawidziak: 
Almost anybody would avoid being evaluated if 
they could get away with it.  The bottom line is that teachers are working 
in a system that is based on evaluation and preparing children for a 
world where they will be evaluated.  If the teachers themselves had 
come up with a better evaluation system years ago, we wouldn't be 
here talking tonight.  The taxpayers are the end users footing the bill 
and they are demanding accountability.  This is a public system.  It's 
not a private railroad where you can take a "the public be damned" 
kind of attitude.
Arnold Dodge: 
My experience with teachers over a 40 year career 
tells me that the vast majority are dedicated and sincere folks who 
care very much about their students.  When they see an evaluation 
system that is so capricious being used to bludgeon them as professionals 
(and maybe even publicly denounce them) they are shocked and 
overwhelmed.  How can you get up each day and work in a craft 
that requires sensitivity when you yourself are being treated so 
insensitively.   This is not accountability, but as David Weinberger, 
a business writer says, this is "accountabilism."
Comment From Tom 
Here is the real question. Why is Long Island education being 
dragged into this mess when if taken by itself and not with the 
rest of the state our education system is very solid?
Michael Dawidziak: 
Nobody disagrees with the fact that Long Island 
has some of the best schools in the country. That does not mean that 
the voters of Long Island don't support teacher evaluation.  They do in overwhelming numbers. Teachers like to tell me that they have the most 
important job in the world - educating our children. Let's say I agree with 
that. More important than a doctor or a U.S. Senator, whatever. If it really 
is the most important job in the world, now defend to me not getting a 
bad teacher out of the system. That's what the voters feel needs to 
be addressed.
Arnold Dodge: 
And here is another fallacy exposed about the new 
system.  One could ask why is the entire country faced with this 
issue?  The answer is that we have a federal role in education that 
has gone way beyond the original intent of support for the states.  
Race to the Top is a boondoggle that is sure to be the next train wreck.  
Long Island is faced with having to succumb to the dictates of remote 
policy that does little to respond to its individual regional needs.   
If this entire scheme is a smokescreen to get rid of "bad" teachers, 
then we are wasting enormous resources , time and talent on the 
scope and size of this federal initiative that creeps into the lives of 
each school classroom in the country.  There has got to be a better 

MOD: John Hildebrand: 
Well, our time’s up. Thanks for participating, 
and please keep checking Newsday and for more news on this 
important subject. This chat will be posted on Please continue 
to comment!

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