The 99%: We Can Hold Our Heads High!! Only 1% of NYS Teachers Are Ineffective, and, Why Did We Waste Three Years?

Effective teachers are the key to student success. Yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.
The Widget Effect, TNTP, 2009 (Read Executive Summary here)

The New Teacher Project Report, “The Widget Effect” found that most teachers, from 94% to 99% were rated satisfactory in a study across a number of school districts that employ 15,000 teachers. Using anecdotal evidence the study concluded that teachers acknowledge that there are colleagues that are unsatisfactory. Anecdotal research is “junk science.”

The “Widget Effect” findings became a core principal of the reform movement – states must development data-driven teacher evaluation plans with real consequences; based on sloppy advocacy driven partisan so-called “research.”

The Obama/Duncan administration, dangling Race to the Top dollars, required a teacher evaluation plan as a prerequisite to apply for the federal dollars.

The New York State plan was crafted by then Education Commissioner David Steiner working with UFT President Michael Mulgrew. The plan evaluated teachers using three tools – 60% principal evaluations using one of six rubrics approved by the state – New York City chose the Danielson Frameworks. 20% of the score is driven by student progress on state tests (grades 3-8), teachers are compared to other teachers in the state with “similar” students and 20% a locally negotiated tool, could be a pre-test/post-test or Student Learning Objectives (SLO), a rather dense piece of data (watch video here)

Each of the 700 school districts in New York State negotiated plans and submitted to the state for approval, almost all the plans were filed and approved within the deadlines, except New York City. A last minute agreement was scuttled by Mayor Bloomberg and months after the deadline Commissioner King imposed a plan.

Teachers feared that if their students did poorly on State tests their job was in jeopardy.

On August 7th the state released the results on the new Common Core-based grades 3-8 exams,

31.1% of grade 3-8 students across the State met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 31% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

Almost 70% of students “failed” the exam – a 30% drop over previous years.

In the “big four” upstate cities the results were far worse.

In Rochester, 5.4% of students met or exceeded the ELA proficiency standard; 5% met or exceeded the math proficiency standard

How could students who were “proficient” each and every year suddenly fail the State exams in huge numbers?

Teacher fear accelerated – teachers presaged dramatic numbers of teachers rated as “ineffective.”

At the October UFT Delegate Meeting a teacher asked/reported to UFT President Mulgrew that the teachers in his school feared that if kids did poorly on tests they would be fired, no hearings, no nothing, just fired.

After a long, long day at the October 21st Regents Meeting, at 6:30 PM, Chancellor Tisch announced that she was calling an 8 AM meeting to announce the first year scores on the teacher evaluation plan (APPR). (See press release here)

Chancellor Tisch,

“The purpose of the evaluation system is not to create a ‘gotcha’ environment ….. The goal is to improve teaching and learning by targeting professional development to make sure every student receives quality instruction. We want to highlight and reward excellence, ensure those who are struggling receive the support they need, and provide continuous feedback to all educators.”

Commissioner King,

“The results are striking. The more accurate student proficiency rates on the new Common Core assessments did not negatively affect teacher ratings. It’s clear that teachers are rising to the challenge of teaching the Common Core. It’s also clear that it’s time to put aside talk about a moratorium on the use of state assessments in educator evaluations and focus on ensuring all students receive the rigorous and engaging instruction that will help them to prepare for college and careers.”

Roll of drums, blare of trumpets,

The preliminary statewide composite results, based on data submitted by school districts and BOCES as of the October 18 deadline, found that 91.5 percent of teachers are rated Highly Effective (49.7 percent) or Effective (41.8 percent); 4.4 percent are rated Developing; and 1 percent are rated Ineffective.

The results do not reflect New York City who entered the APPR process a year later; there is no reason to believe that NYC scores will be any different than the scores in the rest of the State.

The Commissioner announced that a detailed analysis will be forthcoming in the “late fall/early winter.”

At this point there are many more questions than answers.

Was there any correlation between teacher composite scores and the student scores on the Common Core grade 3-8 exams?

Do high achieving districts have higher percentages of high achieving teachers and visa-versa?

Do high wealth districts have higher concentrations of highly effective teachers and the converse?

Districts chose different observation rubrics and the training of supervisors, if any, was local, is it possible to compare district to district on the 60% observation section?

Can we learn anything from the location of the “developing” and “ineffective” teachers?

We spent three years, untold millions, distracted ourselves from the real work, building effective teaching/learning systems, perhaps Macbeth was right,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Arne Duncan, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Tisch, Commissioner King pushed, cajoled and tried to convince teachers that a teacher evaluation system was a “good thing,” that it could fairly differentiate teacher quality, that it would remove bias from the rating system, that exemplary teachers would be rewarded and those who didn’t belong could be removed.

Do you remember the day as a teenager that you came home after the dance, hardly anyone danced with you, you hated it, you felt ugly, awkward and embarrassed, and your mother said, brightly, “You’re always beautiful to me.”

It’s a good feeling, after all the “slings and arrows” the millions of dollars in test design, the dense algorithms, the work of the psychometricians, we find that we’re pretty good at what we do.

Thanks Mom.

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