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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

UFT Goes To Court To Keep Teacher Data Confidential

Here is the problem with the release of teacher data: what if the scores are false? Not all of them, but enough to say that teacher data cannot be accurately reported because there is too much cheating, and other misconduct going on in the public school system to reflect true performance of anyone.

What if principals routinely placed teachers that they wanted to get rid of, in classrooms where most of the kids were known to have behavior issues?  Or, let's say you are a middle school science teacher and you are assigned to teach english as a second language. You have no license or degree in ESL. You have to teach. What do you do? You go to the bookstore, learn the curriculum, and do it the best you can.

But it really doesnt matter, because the principal will give you an end-of -year "U" (for "unsatisfactory) rating anyway. You grieve the position as outside of your license area, but you lose, as 99% of grievants do. No one at the UFT will help you get a job in your subject area. You fail.

The score that you get for teaching this class is not good, but does this reflect your teaching ability as a science teacher? Nope. Only no one will help you get this off your record, and before you can get it removed from your file three years from now, I betcha you will have another U and maybe even a couple of disciplinary conferences in there for various kinds of misconduct that you dont know anything about.  This means re-assignment if you are tenured, and termination if you are probationary. Bye bye.

Getting rid of an excellent teacher is not hard if you follow the Gotcha Squad formula. Your score in the teacher data released to the public? Not really about you, it's about the system. I have graded this sytem: F

I also suggest that as the staff of the United Federation of Teachers have done nothing to help members placed in classes that are outside their subject area, permitted a clause in the UFT contract in 2005 that denied all members their right to grieve a letter in their file, and have assisted in 99% of all teachers losing their U-rating appeals, the UFT staff is an accomplice in creating and maintaining the false teacher data that they so want to hide. The grade that I give them: F

Here are the papers in the lawsuit as of yesterday, Dec. 7, 2010. Submission of papers for the intervenors is today
Betsy Combier

Article 78
Notice of Motion To Intervene

Showdown Nears On Release Of NYC Teacher Ratings

by The Associated Press, December 7, 2010
UFT President Mike Mulgrew

A dispute over whether to release performance ratings for 12,000 New York City schoolteachers is pitting the public's right to know which teachers are making the grade against teachers' fears that they will be unfairly subjected to ridicule based on student test scores.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday in a state court after the United Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit seeking to keep the data confidential. The union called the ratings "unreliable, often incorrect, subjective analyses dressed up as scientific facts."

The teacher ratings controversy follows a scandal in Los Angeles in which a teacher committed suicide after the ratings were released. It comes during a transition period for the nation's largest school system, as publishing executive Cathie Black prepares to take over from outgoing Chancellor Joel Klein.

Black, the chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has not spoken publicly about the teacher ratings since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced her appointment as schools chancellor on Nov. 9. Klein made the case for releasing the data in an Oct. 24 op-ed piece in the New York Post.

"It's a quantitative way to show what many of us have argued for years — not all teachers are equally effective," Klein said.

"We aren't naive about the impact this release could have on our teachers," Klein added, "which is why we hope that no one misuses the data or views it as an opportunity to scapegoat teachers."

Opponents say such scapegoating is inevitable.

"I fear the humiliation that teachers will face when these scores are released," said Martha Foote, who organized a petition drive against the release of the teacher ratings at Public School 321 in Brooklyn, which her son attends.

The planned release of the teacher ratings comes after The Los Angeles Times published similar data, known as value-added analysis, for 6,000 Los Angeles teachers in August.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles protested the Times' publication of the teacher ratings and has blamed the suicide of fifth-grade teacher Rigoberto Ruelas on being listed as a sub-par teacher.

"Seeing himself outed as an ineffective teacher was the straw that broke the camel's back," said union president A.J. Duffy.

Following the publication of the Los Angeles scores, several news organizations filed Freedom of Information Law requests for similar data for New York City teachers.

The city planned to release the data in October before the union filed its lawsuit.

Value-added analysis is a method for calculating teacher effectiveness based on how the teacher's students perform on standardized tests.

Used by hundreds of districts around the nation, value-added scores are designed to measure whether a particular teacher's students performed better or worse than expected on statewide math and English tests.

The statistical model that New York City uses to calculate value-added scores takes more than 30 factors into account including the students' ethnicity and whether they are poor enough to qualify for free lunch.

"Value-added scores level the playing field by enabling one to compare the effectiveness of teachers who teach different populations of students," city Department of Education official Joanna Cannon said in an affidavit filed with the court.

Cannon said the scores are "specifically designed to take into account factors outside of a teacher's control so that teachers are not rated ineffective simply because they teach lower-performing or disadvantaged students."

But the United Federation of Teachers argued in its lawsuit that the value-added scores cannot account for all the factors that affect student performance on tests, such as whether a teacher is assigned to a more difficult class one year than another year.

The union said value-added scores are intended as confidential data to be used by principals in conjunction with other measures including direct classroom observation and the quality of student work.

The union that represents New York City principals is supporting the teachers union. Council of Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan said the value-added model "has too many bugs in it."

Experts who have studied value-added methodology agree it's difficult to control for all the factors that can influence student performance.

"Is the school counselor good?" said Jeffrey Henig, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University. "Is the principal good? Is the building condition conducive to learning?"

Jon Cohen, senior vice president and director of the assessment program at The American Institutes for Research, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said test scores could be affected by "whether a friend got beat up in the neighborhood that week."

"The random component is large," he said.

Many New York City parents will no doubt want to see the scores.

"It has some value," said Daniel Monte, who was dropping his first-grader off at Public School 33 in Manhattan. "I don't see how it could be a bad thing — except for the teachers."

But Robert Margolis, who has a sixth-grade son at the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, said he is "not a big believer" in standardized tests.

"They measure something but I'm not sure what," he said.

Los Angeles Unified School District spokesman Robert Alaniz said that after the Times published the scores, the district briefed principals on how to explain them to parents.

Alaniz said the district feared that droves of parents would demand to have their children moved to teachers with higher scores, but that did not happen.

"We're hoping that parents understood that the value-added is not a total tool for all of a teacher's effectiveness," Alaniz said.