Teacher Data Reports and Tenure: A Valuable Tool Is Corrupted By the “Terror Alert Phenomena,” Crass Politics Trumps Education in the Depths of Tweed.

  Michael Mulgrew has a theory: the Department, abetted by their co-conspirators at the News and the Post, release anti-union stories for the express purpose of tamping down bad news for the Department.

As the NAACP-UFT school closing lawsuit began to grab the attention of the public the chancellor announced that student test scores will be used in the tenure-granting process. Is this an example of a “terror alert phenomena,” pushing “bad” news off the pages of the press and setting the public against teachers?
The Bloomberg/Klein strategy, to pit the public against the union, two constituencies that have been critical of their administration is within the philosophy of our founding fathers. James Madison, the primary author of the constitution wrote to his mentor Thomas Jefferson in October, 1787,
Divide et impera (“divide and conquer”), the reprobated axiom of tyranny, is under certain qualifications, the only policy, by which a republic can be administered on just principles.
Upon return from the mid-winter recess teachers in grades 3-8 (with the exception of cluster and speciality teachers in elementary schools and non-English and Math teachers in middle schools) will receive their Data Reports.
The report matches pupil achievement/progress over time with individual teachers in similar schools/classes and places each teacher on a bell curve. The chancellor and the union president jointly signed a letter in 2008 assuring teachers that the reports will not be used to rate teachers,

The reports are based on your students’ performance on last year’s New York State math and ELA exams. If applicable, you will also see information for the two prior testing years. The reports isolate individual teachers’ effect on student learning by controlling for more than 35 different factors outside of a teacher’s control, including class size, students’ prior test scores, and the percentage of students with disabilities and living in poverty in each class. Even with these statistical controls, reports like these can never perfectly represent an individual teacher’s contribution to student learning.

We wish to be clear on one point: the Teacher Data Reports are not to be used for evaluation purposes. That is, they won’t be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process. Administrators will be specifically directed accordingly. These reports, instead, are designed to help you pinpoint your own strengths and weaknesses, and empower you, working with your principal and colleagues, to devise strategies to improve.

Can the chancellor simply change his mind? Well, can the mayor “suggest” that the chancellor change his mind?

While he can change his mind, he also has to abide by Article 20 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement,

With respect to matters not covered by this Agreement which are proper subjects for collective bargaining, the Board agrees that it will make no changes without appropriate prior consultation and negotiation with the Union.

All existing determinations, authorizations, by-laws, regulations, rules, rulings, resolutions, certifications, orders, directives, and other actions, made, issued or entered into by the Board of Education governing or affecting salary and working conditions of the employees in the bargaining unit shall continue in force during the term of this Agreement, except insofar as change is commanded by law.

The chancellor’s determination to use Data Reports as a rating tool immediately was lauded by Tim Daley, leader of the New Teacher Project,

 … in 2009, fully 93% of eligible New York City teachers earned tenure, including a majority of teachers who had previously received an unsatisfactory performance rating. This kind of carelessness creates a culture of low standards, demeans hardworking teachers and leaves the education of students to chance.

Daley, conveniently ignores the fact that half of all teachers depart within five years, for some, the job was too hard, not what they expected, for others they were urged to leave by their supervisor.

How many teachers, taking into account those who leave voluntarily, receive tenure after three years? 40%, 50%, 60% … an important piece of data that the Department and Daley chooses to ignore.

Data reports are important tools, school leaders and teachers need to be in a feedback loop, to be able to adjust school and classroom goals and practice. Teachers, working in teams, should play a major role in hiring colleagues and reviewing the performance of new colleagues, peer review is the essence of professionalism.

In a recent letter to staff Shael Suransky, the Accountability guy tells us,

This year’s School Survey, which begins next month, will have an increased focus on two critical indicators of school quality: how well schools create opportunities for teacher collaboration and how well schools prepare students for postsecondary success.

Shael is proposing a range of changes in the accountability process that are quite positive, unfortunately the headlines/counter-headlines steal the ink and poison the air.

Teachers, whether in their first or twentieth year have an obligation to constantly review their practice: the interaction of teaching and learning (value-added), discussions with colleagues (critical friends), sharing resources, and self-reflection. Traditional supervisory observations are rarely useful, they are rituals. Enlightened school leaders are constantly in classrooms and initiating a dialogue around practice, with the ready availability of whiteboards with web-cams and Skype teachers can share from their own classrooms.

Unfortunately some probationary teacher, with previous satisfactory ratings and positive observations, who falls in the lower 5% will be fired by his/her principal who doesn’t want to endanger their own job. And, you better believe if I’m defending a fired teacher with poor attendance who teaches while standing on his head while spitting wooden nickels and ends up in the 99th percentile,  I’m waving the Teacher Data Report!

The lack of faith in the structures that govern relationships between the governed and the governors has been disdained from our earliest days, John Quincy Adams reported to his mother Abigail,

While the idle, and extravagant, and consequently the poor, complain of its being oppressive, the men of property, and consideration, think the constitution, gives too much liberty to the unprincipled citizen, to the prejudice of the honest, and industrious.

Class bias and race dominate the political landscape, while teachers and their union are well equipped to fight the good fight the kids will just have to wait … and too many will be lost.


One response to “Teacher Data Reports and Tenure: A Valuable Tool Is Corrupted By the “Terror Alert Phenomena,” Crass Politics Trumps Education in the Depths of Tweed.

  1. advice to for the new chancellor; you will not believe how teachers are abused unless you run a total investigation. Please some please help our teachers! I will stand up for them. teachers are in the mids of the use of power and the chanllenges of academic sucess with not enough time to teach the innocent children who look up to teachers for everything they need. I hope it comes to an end the unnecessary paperwork and the lack of time for planning. Please talk to teachers and experience for youself the silent reality of how emotionaly and physically teachers are forced/exploited in some schools. Please help!


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