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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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  • Frist Psot! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:03AM (#39148193)
    I went thru the public skool sistum.
  • by flanders_down (2424442) <philfotot@gmail.com> on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:08AM (#39148275)

    I've taught in the military, public schools, and private industry. As a teacher, I know that evaluations of my technique can help me hone my skills and become more effective. The public teachers in NYC should take the critique and act upon it to make them better at their jobs.

     

    • by UdoKeir (239957) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:12AM (#39148335)
      Can you point us to your publicly-accessible evaluations?
    • by preaction (1526109) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:23AM (#39148499)

      I agree, except that parents of elementary and secondary students are notoriously overbearing and bloodthirsty, and school boards are notoriously spineless and completely unwilling to stand up to oversensitive parents. If the parents have a reason to try to get a teacher fired, that teacher will get fired.

      I see this causing more harm than good. With the way they get treated, it's a wonder we have any teachers at all.

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:36PM (#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.
      • I see this causing more harm than good. With the way they get treated, it's a wonder we have any teachers at all.

        That is exactly what a certain school of political thought desires. They already have most of the simple-minded, marching in lockstep and voting against their own interests; destroy effective and honest public education and you easily swell those ranks for generations to come.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by j33px0r (722130)

      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

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:59AM (#39149037)

      The public teachers in NYC should take the critique and act upon it to make them better at their jobs.

      You really expect us to believe these evaluations are accurate and unbiased enough to be taken as constructive criticism? Can it be guaranteed that nobody "fudged" the evaluations just because they had a personal problem with someone? As soon as someone's livelihood is trashed by way of false data, it's too late to undo it.

      If it must happen, the data should be anonymized an only be as granular as school district or school itself, not individuals. If a school/district is a problem let the local governing bodies figure out how to bring their scores up.

      • by TopSpin (753)

        You really expect us to believe

        No, I don't expect you to believe that. Further, I don't believe there are evaluations that are 'unbiased enough' for you to accept, because I don't believe your objections have anything to do with bias, or integrity, or any other legitimate rationale.

        Our edu-crats never hesitate to expound upon the importance of their role in our world. If we accept this argument as justification for sucking down 50% [ca.gov] of our state budgets then we have more than reason enough to scrutinize their performance. Indulging u

      • I don't expect public sector reviews to be any less unbiased than they are in the private sector. If your boss doesn't like you / writes a bad review, it is in your best interested to find a boss that does. Public sector employees are not exempt from this workplace reality.

    • As a teacher, I know that evaluations of my technique can help me hone my skills and become more effective. The public teachers in NYC should take the critique and act upon it to make them better at their jobs.

      Yes, good evaluations can do that, but these aren't it. In this case the Union is right. These "evaluations" aren't evaluations, they are results of multiple choice tests run through a regression. Anyone with two bits of understanding of statistics knows to take a regression result with a block of salt, and when you start with bad data that compounds the problem. It is widely considered among education researchers that multiple choice tests do not measure well what a student knows.

      If the NYC school system

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:10AM (#39148297)

    Rather than focus on actual learning, teachers will be tempted to just focus on getting their students pass various tests, going as far as actively cheating or encouraging/enabling students to do so.

    And here I thought everyone read Freakonomics...

  • Public Employees (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:10AM (#39148299)

    I think the job performance of any public employee should be public information as long as it doesn't included protected information such as health (which it shouldn't). The union has every right to protest evaluation methods, but then they should work on changing the methods - not hiding the information.

    • by cptdondo (59460) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:21AM (#39148473) Journal

      How would that work? I took over a dysfunctional engineering department at a public utility a year ago. In the year I've been here, our time to design a project has ballooned by a factor of 3, we have added a person, we have gone tens of thousands of dollars over budget, our vehicle fleet has gone from 1 to 4. By every metric I am an utter failure and would be perceived as such in any court of public opinion.

      The fact is that because we now spend the time to do engineering right, our crews have cut on average 10-20% off the construction time, we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in production due to just-in-time delivery and accurate estimating of raw materials, but those metrics are for other departments and they would be seen as great successes - even though they had little to do with their own success.

      So how do you evaluate a single person that's part of a team? I take big hits to my department because overall we are a success as a company. How do you measure success?

      • My husband once took over a warehouse that had been used by an unscrupulous manager to steal thousands of dollars of inventory. Needless to say, none of the records were accurate. My husband assessed the situation, contacted the central distribution group, and returned several months of the worst metrics they'd ever seen. But at the end, everything was fixed—and he got a promotion out of the deal.

        Numbers aren't everything. His bosses knew the story behind those terrible numbers, but just imagine if hi

      • By every metric I am an utter failure and would be perceived as such in any court of public opinion.

        Actually, not true - and the rebuttal comes from your own post:

        ...our crews have cut on average 10-20% off the construction time, we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in production due to just-in-time delivery and accurate estimating of raw materials...

        You tried to play it off as those metrics applying to other departments, but no department is an island. You only need to point to the success of your 'customers' (the other departments) as a metric showing your own.

    • Job performance?
      How is evaluating how students perform akin to how well a teacher taught their subjects?
      Using a standard car analogy, i guess we can relate car accidents to how well the road repair crews are doing their job, correct?

      You can't force students to learn. Until they devise a methodology for injecting knowledge directly into their brains the best teacher in the world cannot teach students who do not want to learn.

      • by yodleboy (982200)
        oh come on! We're not talking about a scenario where a teacher has bad luck one year and scores low. Yes, there are a lot of factors outside the school and some kids just don't care. However, if a teacher rates low in comparison to other teachers in the SAME school, year after year after year then something is wrong with the way they teach (or don't as the case may be). It's highly unlikely to for a teacher to get stuck with the worst case population of kids, every class, every year.

        That's what's so fru
    • by chrb (1083577)

      I think the job performance of any public employee should be public information

      Why not make the job performance of every private employee public information? Or, at the least, accessible to shareholders - which for publically traded companies is basically the same thing.

      I suspect many people here would not like their performance being evaluated by a metric and published for everyone to see. Lines Of Code, anyone? Of course, when it's your job in question, then there's always a reason why evaluating performance is more complex than a simple metric.

  • Interesting... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:16AM (#39148389) Journal
    While I detest the notion that a report of that sort would be kept secret from the people who are paying for, and entrusting their children to, those being reported on, I would be quite interested to know whether the evaluations are actually worthwhile, useless, or even worse than useless.

    As with the story about Australia pruning academics who didn't push papers fast enough that we discussed yesterday, there are a lot of bad ways to measure teacher effectiveness. Unfortunately, these include many of the easy ones and many of the popular ones.

    Teachers aren't mystically unquantifiable flowers; but in a world where people can, with a straight face, propose 'Hey, just tot up their students' scores on the standardized test! Now you know which teachers are good!' without any sort of correction for such minor matters as 'student demographics' it is hard to be uniformly optimistic about teacher evaluations...

    The other, broader, consideration is whether the teachers should feel justified in complaining about the level of public scrutiny that they are being subjected to relative to other state functionaries in positions of trust and authority... While there is a good argument to be made that teachers' job performance is a matter of public importance, I wonder if you could get a detailed evaluation of a NYC cop's record as easily as you could an NYC English teacher?
  • by pehrs (690959) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:16AM (#39148399)

    Before the rants start about over-entitled public employees I think it's worth thinking this situation through. How many people in the IT field would want their performance, as measured by some random measurement (such as the ever popular Lines-of-Code-per-Hour), published by their employer? For their clients and future employers and clients to see?

    There are major problems with this approach. It gives even stronger incentives for the teachers to try to game the system, which is generally detrimental to the quality of teaching. It frequently punishes teachers working in badly run schools, while it rewards teachers for working in well run schools (as their performance will in most cases be better when they work in a well functioning school). In addition to this the statistics are rather jiffy...

    There are much better ways to improve the educational system than this... Such as for example paying teachers a decent salary. The day an average teacher earns as much an average engineer you will start to huge improvements in your educational system. Of course it will take 20 years before that approach starts to really pay off, in having a better educated workforce.

    On the other hand, who am I to offer advice on the American educational system? It offers us engineers in northern Europe a great competitive advantage. Please keep destroying it! ;)

    • by Joehonkie (665142)
      Paying people more money automatically creates better work? It sure doesn't work that way in IT.
      • by cptdondo (59460) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:29AM (#39148569) Journal

        No, but chronically underpaying while at the same time heaping disdain on the profession and on the individual, and expecting them to perform miracles with snotty Johnny is not a recipe for success.

        Show me a profession that has as high a threshold to entry while at the same time being as low-paid and held in such public disdain, and I'll show you a profession where smart entry level people are leaving after a few years, leaving only the deadwood. You get what you pay for.

        • I went so far as to get a provisional teaching certificate in my local high school district; my starting salary, full-time, even in a "high demand" STEM field, was $26K/year, less than half of what I was making as a software engineer at the time. (And I wouldn't be working full-time initially -- only way in the door is subbing, and hoping something opens up). To put that in perspective, my mortgage plus utilities (in central Florida) run me about $18K/yr, leaving $6K for taxes, food, transportation, cloth

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by badboy_tw2002 (524611)

      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

      • by Loughla (2531696) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:11PM (#39149205)

        WHAT? [nytimes.com]

        ABOUT THIS? [thedailybeast.com]

        No, seriously. The people that claim that unions only protect lazy teachers have no idea what the current system of education in the USA looks like, except through what the major news organizations feed them. If your job required not just you to perform, but also to raise 30-40 humans because their parents won't, pay for your supplies out of pocket, and require 10-12 hour days 6 days a week, would you be willing to go with 'the next big movement'?

        The problem is that teachers are jaded. Everything 'good' that comes along is usually just a rehash of what has been done to them in the past, or an excuse to privatize education

        Oh, and Michelle Rhea was, in my opinion, just a shill for privatization, so her buddies could get their hands on that sweet, sweet Department of Education money. But, that's just my opinion

    • by DaHat (247651)

      Before the rants start about over-entitled public employees I think it's worth thinking this situation through. How many people in the IT field would want their performance, as measured by some random measurement (such as the ever popular Lines-of-Code-per-Hour), published by their employer? For their clients and future employers and clients to see?

      If you picked a better analogy... you might have had a point... evaluation based on LOC/hour is like evaluating a teacher on how many homework assignments they g

    • by chispito (1870390)

      There are much better ways to improve the educational system than this... Such as for example paying teachers a decent salary. The day an average teacher earns as much an average engineer you will start to huge improvements in your educational system.

      I am assuming it is easier to be a teacher than an engineer, based on the supply and demand for both.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday February 24, 2012 @12:05PM (#39149117) Homepage

      On the other hand, who am I to offer advice on the American educational system? It offers us engineers in northern Europe a great competitive advantage. Please keep destroying it! ;)

      I'm not sure precisely which country OP is in, but if it's Finland, he knows what he's talking about: Their education system is one of the best in the world, and way better than the US system. Most notable things the government does differently:
        - Provides information to parents about raising newborns as soon as the child is born.
        - Provides comprehensive day care / early childhood education starting at 8 months and going until 5 years. Alternately, the parents can choose to care for the child at home and receive periodic visits to ensure child safety.
        - At about age 16, students choose between an academic upper school or a vocational school, which will focus on college prep or occupational training.
        - Tuition is basically free at university / polytechnic. The difference is that university is more for theoretical and academic work, whily polytechnic is more for advanced practical skills.
        - Teachers are highly paid, highly respected, highly competitive, and always have the equivalent of a master's degree.

  • boo frickin hoo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yodleboy (982200)
    "decrying the methodology used in the evaluations" loose translation: "we don't like it because it's not rigged to make us look good". Cry me a river. Most of the rest of us in the corporate world have regular evaluations, sometimes against unrealistic metrics and could lose our job based on the results. Welcome to the real world where you have to prove you're worth retaining. I can't blame it on the parents, my boss, my coworkers, the weather, lack of funding. Just be glad you can't be outsourced. yet
    • Re:boo frickin hoo (Score:5, Informative)

      by timeOday (582209) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:21AM (#39148465)

      Most of the rest of us in the corporate world have regular evaluations, sometimes against unrealistic metrics and could lose our job based on the results.

      ...and those evaluations are publicly released for all the world to see, including your co-workers, friends, and families.

      Oh, wait, no they're not.

      • by yodleboy (982200)
        ...and my job is NOT funded by tax payer dollars, nor is it nearly as important as educating children. You can bet your ass the people that supply the money for my salary have access to the results. I gave up and moved my kids to a good school district and I pay higher school taxes (with no complaint) for that. I am certainly entitled to know that my money is being spent effectively. If there are teachers that are consistently below average and due to unions cannot be replaced, then maybe exposing the f
    • by gorzek (647352)

      So, your idea is to export shitty, unrepresentative quantitative measures to other fields even though you admit they suck? That's brilliant.

  • by r0k3t (1142151) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:21AM (#39148457)
    and start holding parents accountable. Oh, wait the culture of victimization says we have to blame somebody... The teachers, no the unions - If your kid sucks in school it is because you are a shitty parent, I know several people that went to Cleveland public schools and went on the get college educations and do well in the world, yeah - I am sure they had some good teachers some bad ones and everything in between but you know what they did have for sure? They had parents who expected and demanded no less they became educated and made something of themselves.
  • by Slyfox696 (2432554) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:21AM (#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 dculp (669961) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:24AM (#39148509)

    Full disclosure - I am a teacher at a public middle school in an area with a 90% free and reduced lunch rate, high unemployment and 85% poor minority.

    The problem is really how you evaluate teachers and schools, there are so many ways to take data and interpret that data. Do you give a standardized test and grade every student exactly the same and base a teacher’s performance off of the pass/fail ratio? If so, those teachers in buildings like mine which have traditionally low performing students will look bad. The cynics will say that it shouldn’t matter but I have many students who come to me from foreign countries who have had little to no formal education and do not speak English. Even after a few years in the United States their English is many time not proficient enough to pass a formal exam. The teachers in my building do a great job but I see more and more good teachers leaving our building for “better” students because the pressure is so high teaching traditionally low performing students and they don’t like being called a bad teacher when in fact they work their tails off to get the results they do.

    Do you base a teacher’s performance off of the progress made by students while in that teacher’s classroom? Take a baseline score and see how they progress through the year. Critics of this method will argue that a failing grade is a failing grade no matter how much progress the students have made.

    We have created a system in the US in which every child is treated exactly the same, assumed to be that same and assumed to be able to meet the exact same “high” standards. The realist among us realizes that this is far from the case. Because of this attitude that everyone is the same our high achieving students are being cheated because we teachers spend the majority of our time trying desperately to bring the low end up and ignore the high end while those in the middle are coasting along. We refuse as a nation to serve each student in the way they should be served. The trend in education today is to mix all students together in a classroom and this creates a nearly impossible scenario for a teacher who may have over thirty kids in a classroom (I know physics instructors in our district with over 40) in which they have to serve all levels of students at once.

    I will step off my soapbox now.

    • by jmottram08 (1886654) on Friday February 24, 2012 @11:51AM (#39148895)
      Read the study. They judged based on performance increases over the year, not absolute grades. Basically grade level of students coming in vs out, adjusted to only be compared vs similar starting conditions. (students)

      Is that perfect? No. Is that a good indicator? Yeah, especially when you have teachers that literally did nothing all year vs some that raised -all- of their students by several grade levels, in the same school with similar starting students.

      The study addresses all these points, and is very clear about saying that they are not trying for an absolute rank, they were trying to just use the data to identify teachers that were working vs those that were not.

      Yes, "teaching the test" is bad, but looking at the data, it is clear that some teachers werent even doing that, their students literally learned close to nothing in that year.

      Progress is all that matters. In your example of a "bad" district, it still matters that we teach the highschool dropouts as much as we can while we have them. -No- one is blaming teachers for failing students, especially this study. We (they) are blaming them when they fail to teach.

  • Rating teachers based on student performance is probably more accurate than rating students. The statistical base is larger.

  • There are at least 3 issues of note in this: how do you measure the performance of a teacher, how do you measure the performance of a system of education, and how do you improve educational outcomes. We want to do the third, but we seem to frequently get confused between individual teacher performance and systemic performance.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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