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Thursday, May 17, 2012

ATRs On Their Way Out?

The UFT and the DOE are currently working on some kind of solution to the ATR problem. Before I give you what I believe to be "their" solution, first let's go to the problem.

The grievance procedure to undo U-ratings is broken, because Mayor Bloomberg, the NYC DOE and the UFT want it to be [broken]. If you are rated "U" for some reason or no reason, it doesnt matter. You will be denied any change in the rating when you go to your U-rating appeal. That's just the way it is.

Everyone knows that most of the teachers rated "U" who are tenured and have been teaching with only "S" ratings for 10+ years most certainly do not deserve a "U" handed out suddenly as Principals, APs and PIP+ observers are doing right now. When a second "U" is given also for any or no reason and the person is charged with 3020-a, due process is again denied because New York City has no school board and thus there is no filter for any charge. Anyone covered by the infamous "Delegation letter" can point to someone and get them removed, defamed, and terminated quite easily today. The great part about all of this is that the DOE and the Office of Labor Relations set up Gotcha Squad 2 in November 2007 to criminalize incompetency, but did it in an unlawful, incompetent way, at least in the eyes of this reporter. Dennis Da Costa, Attorney for the DOE and chief of this Gotcha Squad 2, believes that by screaming and threatening people he can get an employee terminated for handing in a lesson plan late, and other ridiculous claims. In fact, I notarized an affidavit for a teacher who was terminated at 3020-a and appealed the decision made by Anne Powers, one of the worst arbitrators still on the panel (after Leona Barsky was removed).

Tenured DOE staff are currently being charged with ridiculous charges that, when challenged by a good lawyer, dont hold water at 3020-a. However, NYSUT attorneys will not subpoena witnesses, thus do not protect anyone who comes in to 3020-a to testify against the DOE and for the Respondent. In fact, NYSUT is now telling their DOE clients that they cannot have an open and public hearing, they cannot appeal, and they should not testify. The NYSUT Attorneys are advising their clients not to have any witnesses come in except maybe a character witness, and, if the DOE wants to settle, do it. Or, you can always resign.

All of this is bizarre, because none of their advice is good for winning at 3020-a - and by winning I mean, exoneration. Employees given a NYSUT Attorney should, at the first (and only) meeting before the 3020-a pre-hearing with this person, ask him or her how many clients have been exonerated by their advocacy.

If the Respondent client of NYSUT is not terminated (most of all the teachers brought to 3020-a and represented by NYSUT are terminated or given fines for unfounded charges) and does not settle or resign, the decision is (1) suspension without pay for ___ weeks/months; (2) retirement at the end of [June/December,etc]; (3) payment of $_____ dollars as a fine. AND, here is the punchline - if the respondent is not terminated, 99% of them become ATRs!!!!!

But wait, ATRs means "Absent Teacher Reserve" and this title covers teachers and staff members who are excessed from a school, not found not guilty of the misconduct charged at 3020-a!

So, ATRs - you know, the people who went to 3020-a on trumped up charges and then were moved from their professional title - are not actually covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Or are they? The UFT says these people are covered, but where in the contract does it say that a teacher given an assignment outside of his/her license can be evaluated after one day, one week, one month?

My suggestion on how to deal with this is as follows: call their bluff. If you are given anything in writing that is untrue, derogatory, or in any way slightly wrong, immediately email a reply to the person who wrote it, and copy to all people involed, including the UFT, Superintendent, and bloggers. Be respectful even though you probably dont want to be, but clearly state what is wrong with the information. State what the correct information is, and request any reply within 5 days.

Keep all copies in your new Gotcha file at home, safe from hands that dont belong to you. And, view your personnel file!!!!!!!!!! make sure that you know everything in this file, and keep it up to date without any letters more than 3 years old.

Obviously the fact that there are ANY tenured people working in New York City public schools is not acceptable to CEO Dennis Walcott. Now, we see that people who have been given the made up title "ATR"  who are not yet out, must be removed as well:

“Merit”? My Experience With Arbitrary U Ratings by Peter Lamphere

Walcott: City won’t wait for evaluations to tackle teacher quality

Even without a new teacher evaluation system, New York City will ramp up efforts to weed out teachers who “don’t deserve to teach,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today.
In an early-morning speech to the Association for a Better New York, a business and political group, Walcott said the city would adopt new policies to insulate students from teachers deemed “unsatisfactory” under the current evaluation system. Under the new policies, no student will be allowed to have a teacher rated unsatisfactory multiple years in a row, and the city will move to fire all teachers who receive two straight U ratings.

“If we truly believe that every student deserves a great teacher, then we can’t accept a system where a student suffers with a poor-performing one for two straight years,” Walcott said. “One year of learning loss is bad enough — but studies indicate that two years could be devastating.”

The policies would go into effect if the city and union do not agree on new teacher evaluations by September, when the new school year begins. Under the existing evaluation system, two consecutive U ratings can trigger termination proceedings but do not have to. Two “ineffective” ratings on teacher evaluations now required under state law would automatically trigger termination proceedings.
Walcott also announced that the city would capitalize on a clause in its contract with the teachers union to offer a resignation incentive for teachers who have spent more than a year in the Absent Teacher Reserve, the pool of teachers without permanent positions. Buyouts would have to be negotiated for each teacher, and Walcott promised that the incentives would be “generous.” The move represents a shift in approach for the Bloomberg administration, which has previously sought the right to fire members of the ATR pool.

Walcott’s complete speech, as prepared for delivery, is below. We’ll have more on his proposals later today.
The following is text of Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott’s address as prepared for delivery at Association for a Better New York breakfast event on May 17, 2012
“Thank you, Mr. Mayor. It’s been an honor to serve in your administration for the last ten years. And thanks to Bill Rudin for your leadership and for making New York City a better place.
“Good morning. Let me start by thanking ABNY for hosting us today. It’s a pleasure to be joined by so many New Yorkers who share a passion for this great city, especially those who work hard on behalf of our students. I’ve attended my fair share of ABNY events over the years, so I am truly honored to speak to you this morning as your Chancellor.
“Today, I’d like to talk about the extraordinary work happening in our 1750 schools, and discuss some bold new ideas we believe will make a lasting impact on the lives of our students.
“Let me start with some perspective on the size and complexity of our school system. Everyone, please take out a piece of paper and sharpen your number two pencils. It’s time for a test. First, does anyone know how many meals we serve each day in New York City public schools? Eight hundred thousand. Other than the US military, no single organization buys more food than we do.
“Here’s another question: if our public schools were a large US city, how do you think it would rank compared to the population in other cities? 20th in the nation? 15th? The population of our public schools would make it the 10th – largest city in the United States, right behind Dallas.
“Think about this for a second: with over a million children in our schools, one in every 311 Americans is a New York City Public school student.
“I have one more question: how many languages are spoken by students in our public schools? Any guesses? By our latest count, it’s 184. Some of our fastest-growing languages include Punjabi, Albanian, Mandinka and Fon, to name a few.
“So with those facts in mind, let’s talk a little bit about how we got where we are today. I remember that summer day in 2002, at an East Harlem school, when I stood with Mayor Bloomberg to celebrate a pivotal moment in New York City history. State lawmakers had just voted to give control of New York City’s public schools to our elected Mayor.
“Remember that for decades, the quality of education in our schools was stagnant. Student performance was flat and high school graduation rates hovered at 50 percent. Only one in two students who started high school left with a diploma.
“In some corners of the city, jobs at schools were handed out as favors. A well-connected parent could make a phone call and get their child into a particular school. No one was held accountable. And I assure you, no one talked about a school’s college and career readiness rates.
“So in 2002, our first priority was to reform a broken system that didn’t serve our students. And that’s what we did. Under mayoral control, we have improved teacher quality and created schools that put students on a path to success. Instead of making excuses for those schools that graduated as few as one in four students, we took action.
“It wasn’t easy, but today, with higher standards, graduation rates are at an all-time high, and the dropout rate has been cut in half. We made our schools safer. Today, crime is down by almost 50 percent. Working together with the New York City Police Department, we have made our schools some of the safest of any large American city. We infused more money into our schools. Since 2002, the Mayor has increased funding for schools by more than $11 billion – that’s up over 100 percent.
“We created the best school choice system in the nation, as recently recognized by the Brookings Institution. Ten years ago, a child could be forced to attend his or her neighborhood high school, no matter how bad it was. This is no longer the case.
“We empowered principals to manage their own budgets and become the CEOs of their buildings. Before 2002, the school system was designed around compliance and following the rules, and that stifled creative thinking. Now, principals are encouraged to innovate, problem-solve, and make hiring decisions to help their students succeed.
“We instilled a culture of accountability throughout our organization. Today, the conversation in schools and across America is focused on student achievement – that simply wasn’t the case ten years ago.
“We created 535 new public schools, including 139 charter schools. Together, they would make up a school district comparable to the size of Philadelphia. We will continue this strategy into next fall, bringing the total number of new schools created to 613. And our new small schools work: students in these schools are graduating at rates 20 points higher than graduates at schools they have replaced.
“Some of our most exciting new schools are Career and Technical Education models, or “CTE”.  Just two weeks ago, TIME magazine highlighted the positive impacts of CTE schools for students, businesses and communities. CTE schools are perhaps the best way to train students for the jobs that exist today and those that will be created tomorrow. That is why I am thrilled that we will be opening 12 new CTE schools in the next two years, on top of 18 we’ve opened since 2002.
“We’ve also recently taken on a problem seen throughout the United States: the lagging achievement of students in middle school. In the next two years, we will open 50 new middle schools and embark on a citywide campaign to improve literacy in those grades.
“And we’ve doubled down on efforts to make parents our true partners and find new ways to communicate with them through surveys, meetings, and online tools. Next fall, we will launch a Parent Academy to help parents reinforce learning and help their children with homework. And we will begin a new series of webinars for parents on a range of topics.
“To those of us who work in our schools, it’s clear that lawmakers made the right choice in 2002. And they did so again by renewing Mayoral control just a few years ago. It’s important to take stock of what this means for our students – and, more broadly, for New York City. We would not have been able to give students and families more options, make schools safer, and improve teaching and learning without this authority.
“But it’s still not enough. In some areas, we continue to do things the ‘old-fashioned way.’ We know that teachers are the most important factor in helping their students learn and grow. The data is clear: during the course of a school year, a student can learn three times as much material from a high-performing teacher as they would from a low-performing teacher. Even more: an above-average teacher can help their class earn an additional $400,000 over their lifetimes. That’s the effect of just one year of great teaching. If you expanded that to our entire city, we are talking about adding billions of dollars to the city’s economy, just by improving teaching.
“The facts speak for themselves: teaching matters. That’s why we’ve gone to great lengths to make New York City a more attractive place for aspiring educators. Mayor Bloomberg has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, raising teacher salaries by 43 percent.”
“But if we can’t find a way to improve teacher quality even further, it will be impossible to ensure our students are being taught the skills to succeed beyond high school. Unfortunately, in many of our efforts, we have been unable to find a partner in our local teachers union, the UFT. In some cases, they have even stood in our way.
“But that’s no reason to stop trying. Today, I want to share a few key ideas that I believe will help greatly improve the quality of our teaching force.
“Right now, our teacher evaluation system is outdated. More than 97 percent of teachers get “satisfactory” ratings. The ratings offer no feedback to help teachers improve, and leave us unable to remove teachers who get low ratings in multiple years.
“The teachers union knows this. In February, the UFT committed to a new evaluation system that would allow us to identify great teachers and reward them accordingly, support those who are still developing, and allows us to remove those who are poor-performing. The UFT President celebrated this deal with Governor Cuomo in Albany, and I applauded him for it. Three months later, we have made little progress. As each day passes, we are still waiting for the UFT to return to the table and finalize this agreement.
“If you don’t know me, I’m an eternal optimist, and I am still hopeful we can complete this deal in time for next school year. But right now, the clock is ticking. Rather than come together on behalf of our students, the UFT takes every opportunity to stall, often suing us in court and complaining to a State panel when they don’t get their way.
“We don’t have time for stalling tactics. We need the UFT to finalize a citywide evaluation system before it’s too late. Until that happens, our 1.1 million students – the 10th largest city in the country – are stuck in this system. It is upon us to find another way.
“Early in this administration, we made a decision not to force any principal to accept a teacher they don’t want. We believe that principals should be empowered to make the best choices for their students. As a result, some teachers have ended up without permanent teaching jobs, and are placed in something we call the Absent Teacher Reserve, also known as the ATR pool.
“Unfortunately, we, the taxpayers, continue to foot the bill. If they can’t get hired by another principal – and even if they don’t try to find a job at all – we still have to pay their salaries. There have been over 3,600 teachers in the pool at some point this year, and that’s now down to 800.
“But those who remain will cost the city an estimated $100 million in salaries. That’s a huge, wasteful expenditure that doesn’t help our students succeed. More than a quarter of these teachers have been disciplined for bad behavior. Almost half of them have not even submitted a job application or attended a recruitment fair in the past year. That’s unacceptable.
“Think about that: when unemployment is still high and budgets are tight, we are spending more than $100 million on teachers who aren’t interested in teaching.
“Today, I am proposing an idea. If you’re a teacher who can’t find a permanent job in our schools after a year, we will offer you a generous incentive to resign and pursue another career. It would reduce a significant burden on our budget, allowing us to divert millions of dollars back to schools. Every dollar we save, we can use to benefit our students, instead of wasting it on teachers who probably chose the wrong profession. This buyout proposal will be more attractive than any we’ve seen across the nation—for teachers, and for the taxpayers of New York City.
“Of course, we can’t limit ourselves to focusing on teachers in limbo. We need to find a way to ensure every child has a good teacher right now, and support or remove those who can’t get the job done. But without a meaningful evaluation system that allows us to remove ineffective teachers, we are left with few options.
“Now, let me be clear: singling out bad teachers for the woes of education is a convenient, over-simplification of our problems, and I won’t stand for it. The vast majority of our teachers deserve our praise and support. Blaming them for our challenges is simply unacceptable. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t evaluate teachers based on how much our students are learning.
“When I think about the fact that a child’s future could be opened up to great opportunities – or closed off forever – by a single teacher in elementary school, I am both hopeful and worried. Teaching is just that important. Plain and simple: we need a way to ensure that no child gets stuck with one of the few teachers who are ineffective, especially in the early grades.
“So today, I am proposing a solution. If the new evaluation system isn’t in place by the beginning of next school year, I will implement a new policy that would protect these young students:  First, it would prevent any elementary school student from being taught for two consecutive years by a classroom teacher found to be incompetent.
“If we truly believe that every student deserves a great teacher, then we can’t accept a system where a student suffers with a poor-performing one for two straight years. One year of learning loss is bad enough—but studies indicate that two years could be devastating.
“Second, this new policy would set a trigger: after any teacher receives two consecutive unsatisfactory ratings for incompetence, we would remove that teacher from the classroom and seek their dismissal from our public schools. In my view, if you are one of the few hundred teachers who gets poorly rated two years in a row, you don’t deserve to teach in our schools and in front of our students.
“That’s the spirit of the new evaluation system—so we will move forward, whether or not the union decides to join us.
“The union and others would rather stay silent than cheer the progress our students have made since 2002. Some would even disparage the hard work of our students and staff these past few years.  So you have to wonder: with students doing better by every measure, who is the union trying to protect?
“We are focused on the students, and the reasons are obvious: The effects of these proposals will pay dividends now and well into the future. We know that higher levels of education lead to greater incomes for individuals and their families. And that’s true today more than ever.
“Over a lifetime, a high school graduate makes half a million dollars more than a dropout. And a college graduate makes even more than that. Only 11 percent of jobs today are available to those without a high school diploma—that’s way down from just a few years ago. And the fastest-growing industries – such as healthcare, engineering, and education – require college diplomas.
“So we’re not going to stop at high school graduation: in this economy, our students need to be ready for college and careers. That’s why we are hard at work introducing the new Common Core Standards in our schools. This year and next, students in every school will be exposed to more critical thinking, essay writing, and real world problem-solving.
“New York City is leading the way in these efforts. While most states are waiting until 2014, our work has been underway since 2010. Next year, we’ll expand it even further. Today, I am proud to announce that the GE Foundation has decided to renew their commitment to our students with a gift of $14.3 million. This gift will build upon GE’s previous investment and help give our students the tools they need for college.
“So, increasing graduation rates isn’t just about data—it means thousands of families being put on the path to economic-self sufficiency. And as more and more New Yorkers earn their high school diplomas and complete college, New York City’s workforce will become more globally competitive.
“Now, this is really personal for me. I am the son of a high school dropout, a city worker who enabled me to stand before you today. As many of you know, I am a graduate of New York City public schools. I still live approximately two miles from the elementary school I attended as a child.
“Every morning, when I see children in my neighborhood and across the city attending our public schools, I think about their futures. I know that the workforce and the economy today are far different than they were when my father dropped out of high school. If he was navigating today’s job market, his prospects would be bleak.
“So my message to you today is this: if we’re going to make college and careers a reality for all our children, we need to continue our bold approach to reforming education. I know that some adults might not like it. The teachers union may stand in the way. But the best interests of our students need to come first.
“We can’t rest until every family in New York City can send their children to an excellent public school. I believe, and I hope you do too, that a better school system today will mean a better New York City tomorrow.
Thank you.

And then there is this:

Dennis Walcott’s Stand for High-Quality Teachers and Children 


Few traditional districts have been as reform-minded as New York City under the mayoral control of Michael Bloomberg. From shutting down more than 100 failure mills and dropout factories, to allowing principals to keep laggard teachers from working in their schools, the mayor and his array of chancellors (including the legendary Joel Klein) have succeeded in turning the district around from being a Superfund Site of American public education. Although the Big Apple still struggles in providing all children (especially young black men)  in every corner of the city with a high-quality education, the district has reduced the percentage of functionally-illiterate fourth graders (as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress)  from 53 percent in 2003 to 39 percent in 2011, and improved graduation rates and has shown a willingness to not be servile to the American Federation of Teachers local that had long held the city under its proverbial thumb.
So the announcement this morning by current schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott that he would institute a series of teacher performance management policies if the AFT affiliate doesn’t agree to allow the district to use New York State’s new teacher evaluation system was definitely not surprising. But it was once again heartening to see a school leader move to advance reform and be willing to take a union far too concerned with defending the interests of even the worst-performing of its members at the expense of children.
Certainly the intransigence of AFT’ New York City local President Michael Mulgrew, whose opposition to using the Empire State’s new evaluation system is as much driven by is desire to succeed predecessor Randi Weingarten as head of the national union as by the opposition of the Baby Boomers who are a dwindling minority of rank-and-file members, is driving Walcott’s latest move. Within the past month, the AFT launched its third lawsuit against the city to stop the shutdown of failure mills (this time, without the help of the union’s fellow-travelers at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s New York State branch), this time all but admitting that the goal is to keep rank-and-file members (including those who probably should have left city employ years ago) on the job. The union has also taken to the airwaves and newspapers, paying for ads proclaiming that Walcott’s boss, Bloomberg, still “doesn’t get” that it doesn’t appreciate his efforts (and also reminding state legislators in Albany and those aspiring to succeed Bloomberg as mayor that they better not think of following his example).
But in declaring that the district would remove teachers who failed to improve student achievement for two consecutive years (and offering to buy out their continuing contracts), Walcott is making clear that Mulgrew and the AFT are merely avoiding discussion about one of the biggest challenges facing the Big Apple as it embarks on a second wave of reforms: Overhauling how it hires, compensates, rewards, and manages the performance of its teachers. Although the first round of reforms have helped improve student achievement in the city, New York City will need to take more-aggressive steps in this second step. Providing all kids in the city with strong, comprehensive college-preparatory curricula (an area which Walcott and his predecessors have tended to ignore) would certainly help, as would expanding charters, shutting down more failure mills, and allowing families to take over those schools they want to save through Parent Trigger laws. But none of this — even rolling out Core Knowledge’s strong reading curriculum — would accomplish little until the city takes stronger steps to remove laggard teachers and replace them with those who make the grade.
This was made clear by the city last year when results from the teacher performance management pilot it undertook revealed that 18 percent of teachers evaluated were deemed ineffective in the classroom. Based on the efforts that Washington, D.C., has undertaken with its pathbreaking IMPACT program, one can expect New York City to dismiss five percent of its teaching corps. For the AFT, which is dependent on having as many rank-and-file members in classrooms (and paying dues) to sustain its $205 million-a-year operation, more-stringent teacher evaluations equals lost dollars. And it will fight to oppose more-robust evaluations (and the use of objective student test score data in them) even if it means battling with insurgents representing younger teachers such as Educators4Excellence (which is demanding more-objective evaluations of teachers and the school leaders who supervise them), and, perhaps, even opposing the (slightly) more-moderate line now being taken by Weingarten at the national level.
Walcott has essentially forced the AFT into a rhetorical (and tactical) corner. If the union continues to oppose using the new evaluation system, it puts itself in the awkward position of talking out of both sides of its mouth. It can’t continue declaring that it wants teaching to become more-professionalized and then oppose efforts by New York City and the Empire State to do just that. On the tactical end, if Walcott goes ahead and begins dismissing teachers and buying them out, the union will then have to play by his ground rules (or accept an even worse deal) once it relents and strikes a bargain (and it will).
But for New York City taxpayers, Walcott’s moves would not only help improve the schools for which they pay a pretty penny, it would also get rid of laggards who collect sweet perks in exchange for riding the proverbial pine (and keeping out of classrooms). Currently, the city pays $100 million annually to keep 800 laggards out of classrooms (some of whom were not teaching since the days of the infamous rubber rooms); buying those teachers out would be better from both a fiscal and teacher quality perspective. For the city’s high-quality teachers, Walcott is effectively stating that they should be able to teach in schools with professionals who are their equals and not deal with those who don’t deserve tenure. And for Big Apple kids, Walcott’s declaration (and that of his boss) that low quality teachers shouldn’t be allowed to continue educational malpractice is an important stand for ensuring that all kids get the good and great teachers they deserve. All in all, not a bad move at all.

Carolyn Abbott, The Best "Worst" 8th Grade Math Teacher In New York State


Anderson’s Math Team is going to State!

posted Feb 7, 2012 9:00 AM by Marcie Shaw   [ updated Feb 10, 2012 2:12 PM ]


Anderson's middle school Math Team came in second place overall in the Manhattan MathCounts competition and will be moving on to compete at the state level! At the Manhattan competition, held on Saturday, February 4, 2012 Anderson also won the trophy for "Most Improved School", for moving from 11th place last year to 2nd place this year. Team coach Carolyn Abbott, Anderson 7th and 8th grade Math teacher, deserves major credit for getting the team in such incredible shape over the last few months! 

Individual results were impressive: Max Fishelson (8th grade) was #2 in Manhattan overall, Sophia Zheng (8th grade) was #10 overall and Julia Hou (8th grade) was #11 overall. Steven Litvack-Winkler (7th grade) and Joseph Gelb (8th grade) scored high enough to have made the Top 16. Team members Nala Sharadjaya (7th grade), Justin Kim (7th grade), Audrey Lang (8th grade), Emily Redler (8th grade) and Irene Brogdon (6th grade) all scored amazingly, too, doing the team and The Anderson School very proud !

Sophia Zheng also won 3rd place in the "Countdown Round", an exciting, challenging Jeopardy-style live competition in front of the entire crowd of 500 spectators at the end of the afternoon.  

Congratulations and we wish our team all the best at the state competition!

The worst eighth-grade math teacher in New York City

Eye On Education


For 10 months, Carolyn Abbott waited for the other shoe to drop. In April 2011, Abbott, who teaches mathematics to seventh- and eighth-graders at the Anderson School, a citywide gifted-and-talented school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, received some startling news. Her score on the Teacher Data Report, the New York City Department of Education’s effort to isolate a teacher’s contribution to her students’ performance on New York State’s math and English Language Arts (ELA) tests in grades four through eight, said that 32 percent of seventh-grade math teachers and 0 percent of eighth-grade math teachers scored below her.
She was, according to this report, the worst eighth-grade math teacher in New York City, where she has taught since 2007.
“I was angry, upset, offended,” she said. Abbott sought out her principal, who reassured her that she was an excellent teacher and that the Teacher Data Reports bore no relation to her performance. But, the principal confided, she was worried; although she would enthusiastically recommend Abbott for tenure, the Teacher Data Report could count against her in the tenure process. With a new district superintendent reviewing the tenure recommendation, anything could happen.
Using a statistical technique called value-added modeling, the Teacher Data Reports compare how students are predicted to perform on the state ELA and math tests, based on their prior year’s performance, with their actual performance. Teachers whose students do better than predicted are said to have “added value”; those whose students do worse than predicted are “subtracting value.” By definition, about half of all teachers will add value, and the other half will not.
Carolyn Abbott was, in one respect, a victim of her own success. After a year in her classroom, her seventh-grade students scored at the 98th percentile of New York City students on the 2009 state test. As eighth-graders, they were predicted to score at the 97th percentile on the 2010 state test. However, their actual performance was at the 89th percentile of students across the city. That shortfall—the difference between the 97th percentile and the 89th percentile—placed Abbott near the very bottom of the 1,300 eighth-grade mathematics teachers in New York City.
How could this happen? Anderson is an unusual school, as the students are often several years ahead of their nominal grade level. The material covered on the state eighth-grade math exam is taught in the fifth or sixth grade at Anderson. “I don’t teach the curriculum they’re being tested on,” Abbott explained. “It feels like I’m being graded on somebody else’s work.”
The math that she teaches is more advanced, culminating in high-school level algebra and a different and more challenging test, New York State’s Regents exam in Integrated Algebra. To receive a high school diploma in the state of New York, students must demonstrate mastery of the New York State learning standards in mathematics by receiving a score of 65 or higher on the Regents exam. In 2010-11, nearly 300,000 students across the state of New York took the Integrated Algebra Regents exam; most of the 73 percent who passed the exam with a score of 65 or higher were tenth-graders.
Because student performance on the state ELA and math tests is used to calculate scores on the Teacher Data Reports, the tests are high-stakes for teachers; and because New York City uses a similar statistical strategy to rank schools, they are high-stakes for schools as well. But the tests arenot high-stakes for the eighth-graders at Anderson.
By the time they take the eighth-grade tests in the spring of the year, they already know which high school they will be attending, and their scores on the test have no consequences. “The eighth-graders don’t care; they rush through the exam, and they don’t check their work,” Abbott said. “The test has no effect on them. I can’t make an argument that it counts for kids. The seventh-graders, they care a bit more.”
The state tests, she believes, are poorly equipped to assess real mathematical knowledge, especially for high-performing students. “They’re so basic; they ask you to explain things that are obvious if you’re three years ahead,” she says. The Anderson students “understand it at a different level. They want to explain with equations, not words.” But the scoring of the free-response items on the tests emphasizes a formulaic response, with the scoring instructions often looking for a single keyword in a response to garner credit.
“They’re not accepting answers that are mathematically correct,” Abbott notes, “and accepting answers that aren’t mathematically correct.” And the multiple-choice questions?  “Multiple-choice questions don’t test thinking,” she declares. Knowing how to answer them is “just an art.”
When she taught PSAT prep classes while on the faculty at the Bronx High School of Science, she realized that she was “teaching how to eliminate the wrong answer, not how to get to the right answer.” She didn’t mind doing that outside the classroom—but in her classroom, “mathematics is about deep understanding, and enjoying the process.”
How do her students perform on the content that she actually does teach? This year, the 64 eighth-graders at Anderson she teaches are divided into two groups, an honors section and a regular section. All but one of the students in the honors section took the Regents Integrated Algebra exam in January; the other student and most of the regular-section students will take the exam in June. All of the January test-takers passed with flying colors, and more than one-third achieved a perfect score of 100 on the exam.
“They did phenomenally,” Abbott said. “If they did so well, I don’t see how they can say I added no value whatsoever.”
In mid-February, the courts authorized the public release of the Teacher Data Reports, and they were published in print and online by major media outlets in New York City. “It was humiliating,” Abbott said. “To be published online, and stay there forever—it felt like an invasion of privacy.” She was terrified about the possible backlash from parents.
But of the parents of the 128 seventh- and eighth-graders she is teaching this year, only one wrote to her school principal—to express appreciation for a number of things she had done in her classroom. Anderson parents are a notorious bunch; they’re like helicopter parents on steroids. “I’d be more worried about the parents whose students haven’t had me—their preconceived notions that I must be a bad teacher,” Abbott said. “They have this idea that I’m the worst eighth-grade math teacher in the city.”
This summer, New York State will release the new iteration of the Teacher Data Reports, ranking English and math teachers in grades four through eight all across the state on their contributions to their students’ scores on the state tests. For Carolyn Abbott, the numbers will be little more than a curiosity. She has decided to leave the classroom, and is entering the Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.
“I love to teach,” she says. And she loves mathematics. Ultimately, she decided, the mathematics was more important than the teaching, although she envisions teaching mathematics at the college level in the future. “It’s too hard to be a teacher in New York City,” she says. “Everything is stacked against you. You can’t just measure what teachers do and slap a number on it.”


This, like so many evaluations will fail.This one will fail with a big thud. In time, very soon actually, it will show it doesn’t work. Calm down teachers, this nonsense will drive everyone crazy for awhile, but this will change again. Let your voices be heard, but don’t get yourself crazy, like the people who send you these articles in the first place.
Write letters to all involved people, be heard!!! But don’t get yourself sick over this. After the load of lawsuits that will be filed all over the state, a more realistic evaluation system will be done. Sadly, we have to watch this one crash and burn first.
Wow. Just wow. And another fabulous teacher goes down in flames, leaving the students to suffer through some teacher next year who will bring them from 25% to 40% competency, thus “adding value”.
I had the pleasure of mentoring Carolyn for a few short months at the beginning of her career – she is a fabulous instructor and it is a testament to the tragedy of the way this education system is set up that she has been forced into another career.
First, she was the victim of harassment at Bronx Science by a vicious AP (who didn’t want her being mentored by the union rep) who was never punished by the DOE despite the findings of a neutral arbitrator… Now, she has been victimized the testing Teacher Data Reports.
The city has lost a wonderful teacher.
[...] BY Aaron Pallas posted May 15, 2012 at A Sociological Eye on Education [...]
UW-Madison has an excellent math ed program.
Aren’t there ways to correct for these kinds of circumstances? What do value-added methods about ceiling effects?
I teach at a high-achieving elementary school in Park Slope and we have the same problem — the most brilliant math students are penalized because they know how to use equations to represent complex math, and the test wants them to use words to describe very easy math. I’ve scored these tests, and the high achievers, who do computation in their heads, are at a huge disadvantage. “Explain your thinking” makes no sense when the kids are just identifying a geometric shape or doing basic subtraction or identifying an ABAB pattern. Their frustration is written all over their faces as they take the test. No one is even tracking the really difficult math they ARE capable of, so as a teacher I am penalized for “wasting time” pushing my high achieving students to excel. Before this system gets changed, a lot of NYC teachers are going to flee the schools.
[...] Pallas, Aaron.  ”The worst eighth grade math teacher in New York City.”  A Sociological Eye on Education.  May 15, 2012.  Retrieved from: [...]
This is an amazingly informative window into the insane testing world in which our public school kids and teachers now reside. It’s surreal to think that high achievers are being penalized by the testing system that was put into place in order to raise achievement! I wish Carolyn all the best in her future career, and lament the loss to the talented kids here in New York who need her and others like her.
[...] at Teachers College, Columbia University. He writes the Sociological Eye on Education blog — where this post first appeared — for The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, non-partisan education-news outlet [...]
We had a similar problem in our school district. All sophomores were given the geometry test to determine growth from 1st to 2nd semester. All juniors were given the Algebra II test. The problem is all of my sophomore and junior students are in Precalculus/Calculus honors class. Not only are they being judged on something they did two years ago, but my evaluation will be based on the growth they have shown, even though I do not teach the geometry in my Precalculus class. If the test does not measure what you actually are teaching in the class, how can you be marked down?? On the other hand we have some juniors who are still in Algebra I or Geometry, but they had to take the Algebra II test to determine growth and teacher effectiveness!! Who decides these idiotic measurement tools??