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NYC To Release Teacher Evaluation Data Over Union Protests 557

Posted by Soulskill
from the modelling-hopelessly-complex-behavior dept.
langelgjm writes "Bringing a lengthy legal battle to a close, New York City's Department of Education will today release detailed evaluation reports on individual English and math teachers as a result of a request under public information laws. The city's teachers union has responded with full page ads (PDF) decrying the methodology used in the evaluations. The court's decision attempts to balance the public interest in this data against the rights of individual teachers. Across the country, a large number of states are moving to evaluate teachers based on student performance in an attempt to raise student achievement in the U.S."
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NYC To Release Teacher Evaluation Data Over Union Protests

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  • by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:12PM (#39148339)

    I think the teacher's union would have more credibility if teachers were ever fired for poor performance. If there appeared to be any kind of performance-based accountability, the public might not care about this.

  • by Slyfox696 (2432554) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:21PM (#39148467)
    I find it amusing so many people think that the only way to improve student performance is to critique the teachers. How come we don't make the actual student's data public? How come we don't create a list of parents whose children failed these tests? If we're going to determine teacher salaries by student achievement, why not asses fines to parents whose child doesn't do well?

    Of course, those are mostly rhetorical questions. The answer to all of them is because, "then people won't vote for me". If you want to improve student achievement in school, start with the parents. A teacher sees a high school student an average of 1 hour a day, or 5 hours a week. A parent (theoretically) sees their child 16 hours a day, or 80 hours Monday-Friday.

    Want to improve student achievement on tests? Critique the parents instead.
  • by badboy_tw2002 (524611) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:28PM (#39148555)

    Michelle Rhee tried to give teachers six figure salaries in DC if they would give up tenure. The union wouldn't even let it get to a vote. With the unions the crappy teachers get more invested in the union (it helps them be lazy, do nothing awful teachers) because they really enjoy working the system. They then reinforce the policies that keep the bad teachers in place. (You know, the kind that show up drunk on the job, etc). Good teachers are good teachers, and measurable systems will demonstrate that. Bad teachers and union leaders have it in their best interest to not rock the boat,, so any kind of incentive program or more pay in exchange for any kind of ability to rid the system of bad teachers will never happen.

  • by j33px0r (722130) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:39PM (#39148729)

    You make a fine point on the purpose of evaluations but did you look at the formula being used to evaluate the teachers? This is not a simple case of Teacher X's students averaged 95% on this years test and last year they averaged 93%. The final score in the NYC equation is influenced by factors such as "True Total School Effect" and "District Participation Indicator." The misinterpretation of proper statistics is difficult enough without introducing "magic math" into the equation. Many of the factors used in the equation are items that have no bearing on the instructional ability of the teacher or are completely out of their control. The other problem is that the method of evaluation is not consistent enough to be applied to all of the teachers in the district.

    Evaluations are always going to be subjective in nature. For example, a simple 1-5 Likert scale for "Classroom Management Skills" with a comment section could result in a score like: 4, Good skills, needs to develop ability to monitor off-task high-performing students. Just because it is somewhat subjective does not mean that it is not useful. The value-added score being used in the NYC situation reminds me of a poor attempt at developing a rating system comparable to professional sports, for example, the team is +5 when player X is on the floor.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:47PM (#39148843)

    No shit.

    Friend of mine worked in public education in Dallas. Was a great teacher, repeated teacher of the month and a couple teacher of the year ratings by the district, ESL certified, the works - but they were under the gun to hire more "native spanish speaking ESL teachers."

    Their solution? Stick all the troublemaker kids in his class, and REFUSE to give him a second adult to back him up for classroom discipline. We're talking the ones whose dads were in jail for gang violence, who would regularly start fights, who it was known their relatives were members of antagonistic gangs. Sure enough, one day, two of them went at it - one (black) kid trying to stab one (latino) kid in the eye over a fight between their older sibs' gangs. He got the class up, separated the kids, marched them down the hall to the principal's office, holding each by the arm so that they couldn't try to go at each other again.

    He gets put "on leave" and let go at the end of the year for - wait for it - "touching a student against policy" by breaking up the fight. And they would have run him off the other way if he'd let a kid get stabbed in his classroom.

    Teacher evaluations based on student performance or incidents? Fucking bullshit, there are a dozen ways administrators with an axe to grind or who decide they just don't like someone in an office-politics way can screw with the numbers.

  • by evil_aaronm (671521) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:57PM (#39149017)

    I got one for ya. I was subbing for a 7th grade class. Kid squeezes behind my desk and the wall - no reason to be behind me, anyway - and takes a mock swing at my head; I felt the breeze from his hand. I haul him down to the principal's office for punishment, restraining myself from knocking in his teeth. Later, momma shows up demanding to know why I'm bringing her precious child down to the office. Principal throws me under the bus. Last day I subbed, there.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:05PM (#39149113)

    I probably forgot to mention the weapon the kid was trying to use was a sharpened pencil. Not that I suppose it makes much difference.

    The point I am making is: IT DID NOT MATTER WHAT HE DID. If he'd allowed a kid to be stabbed, the question would be "why didn't you stop it" and they were planning to railroad him out for that. If he did what he did, they were going to railroad him out for "touching a kid." They set him up, they put kids into his classroom with a history of gang contact and being involved in fights... they were waiting and PLANNING for him to get stuck in the no-win situation. The moment he was out of the picture, they split the kids into different classrooms again.

  • by chrb (1083577) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:23PM (#39149375)

    Firing all the teachers in a teacher won't do a damn thing if the kids come from homes in poor neighborhoods with inattentive parents.

    Exactly. The next logical step is therefore to allow teachers to fire students. If teachers are liable for students performance, then they need to have the power to remove failing students. And if that isn't possible due to social reasons, then it is difficult to assign blame to the teacher for having a poor performing class.

    Imagine being the boss of a company, where the employees are unpaid, and often not motivated or interested in the work that you want them to do. Add to that the fact that you can't select the employees, and you can't fire them, but you *personally* will be judged on their performance. Oh, and all the employees are teenagers and many just plain don't want to be there... Does that sound like an appealing prospect?

    I like metrics, and I support the idea of improving teaching, but I don't trust that the government will implement either the correct metrics or the correct system to deal with the results of those metrics. For example, everyone is gungho about firing teachers, but the most effective solution may well be to spend more money and train the teachers better in the first place. More research is needed - for example, how come countries like Finland have the shortest hours per week spent on school teaching in the Western world, but also manage to get the best performing students? Do they have teacher metrics? Do they fire teachers who perform badly on those metrics? We should learn from the best in the world, instead of assuming that adopting some unproven system is going to magically make things better. Maybe firing poor metric teachers will put off people from joining the profession, and education as a whole will suffer? These things need to be considered before changing systems wholesale.

    What teachers make [youtube.com]

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday February 24, 2012 @01:36PM (#39149577) Journal
    You need to have a way to get rid of bad teachers.

    RIght now, in New York, it is so difficult to fire teachers, that even after demonstrable problems, (multiple DUIs, etc) the process can take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here is a chart that demonstrates the point [google.com]. I agree this is not the best way to handle this, and some good teachers will be harmed as a result, but it is a natural attempt to get around a system that makes it extremely difficult to get rid of bad teachers.

    Ultimately, any system for evaluating teachers is going to be somewhat unfair. But we need to remember that schools are there for kids, not for teachers, and there needs to be a way to get rid of the bad ones. Hopefully this will lead to reforms that achieve that goal.
  • by nbauman (624611) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:08PM (#39150905) Homepage Journal

    You're talking about racial hiring.

    One of the reasons tenure is so important to teachers is that without tenure, they would get fired and the school board, or whomever is responsible for hiring, would put in their friends, based on race, religion, politics, or whatever.

    One of the most dramatic cases was in Ocean Hill-Brownsville in Brooklyn, NY (where I grew up) several years ago. Under Mayor Lindsay, the local school boards had more control. This board came up with a plan that had the result of firing most of the white (mostly Jewish) teachers and replacing them with local teachers who were black. This was one of the most disruptive things that ever happened to New York politics. There are people who have hated each other ever since.

    Before tenure, teaching was part of the spoils system. When Democrats won the elections, the they would fire all the teachers and replace them with Democrats. When Republicans got in, they would fire all the teachers and replace them with Republicans. You think it's hard getting rid of an incompetent teacher? Try getting rid of an incompetent brother-in-law of a city councilman. Try getting rid of Mayor Giuliani's girlfriend.

    Tenured teachers can be fired in New York City. It's difficult and it *should* be difficult. Principals and administrators *do* play favorites. Do you want it to be easy to destroy a teacher's life with accusations that may or may not be justified?

  • by nbauman (624611) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:14PM (#39150965) Homepage Journal

    Union workers in the profitable VW and BMJ plants in Germany get $67 an hour.

    Non-union workers in the equally profitable VW and BMJ plants in the non-union American south get $17 an hour.

    That's what unions do.

    Of course, unions are no more perfect than any other American institution. Do you think employers don't sometimes bully and abuse employees either? If you want democracy, you have to work on it. Look up Eugene Debs on Wikipedia.

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