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Jersey Jazzman Tries to Make Sense of Cuomo’s Teacher Evaluation Law

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Across the river in New Jersey, teacher-scholar Jersey Jazzman watched the shenanigans. Perhaps he saw one Democratic member of the Assembly after another stand up to recount his sad feelings, her heavy heart, his misgivings, and then vote “yes” to a cockamamie scheme that will be a nightmare to implement and that will be an enormous unfunded mandate, all meant to discover, identify, and remove those BAD TEACHERS who are dragging down test scores. He refers to the controversy as “New York’s Absurd Debate about Teacher Evaluations and Test Scores.”

 

That’s putting it mildly.

 

Governor Cuomo, he says, has made a bad system worse.

 

He writes (and this is only a small part of his analysis):

 

APPR, like New Jersey’s AchieveNJ, is predicted on the idea that the educator — and only the educator — is responsible for the “growth” of his or her students. It ignores the impacts of funding inequities or district-level curriculum decisions or inadequate facilities or non-random assignment of students or any of the many factors that impact student learning that are completely out of the control of teachers and/or principals.

 

In New Jersey, the test-based components of AchieveNJ also ignore student characteristics, even though SGPs — Student Growth Percentiles, the test-based measures of student achievement used in teacher evaluations — are clearly biased against teachers who work in high-poverty, low-resourced schools.

 

New York’s growth model at least attempts to account for differences in student characteristics. According to the state’s Technical Report, the bias against teachers and schools serving high-needs students has been significantly reduced compared to earlier versions of the model.

 

But that doesn’t make New York’s growth measures any less statistically noisy or invalid. According to the Technical Report, one-third of New York’s teachers changed ratings from 2012-13 to 2013-14 (p. 43). The report crows that this is relatively stable compared to other growth measures, but in reality, it only means that the measures are merely the best of the worst.

 

Think about it: does it make any sense whatsoever that a full one-third of New York’s teachers significantly changed in their “effectiveness” within the span of a year? Should a high-stakes decision be compelled by a measure that is this unstable?

 

Here are the Technical Report’s growth ratings for teachers in “tested grades” over the last two years. If we add together all of the teachers who had at least two consecutive “Developing” or “Ineffective” ratings, we are only dealing with the bottom 5 percent of the teaching corps.

 

I know that the reformy line is these 5 percent are keeping us from competing with Singapore and Finland, but let’s get real: this small number is not worth Angry Andy’s disproportionate response. Yes, we need to remove bad teachers from classrooms, but does anyone really think the vast majority of these teachers couldn’t be identified through their classroom practices?

 

Angry Andy doesn’t think so; he is convinced that large numbers of administrators are, for reasons known only to Andy, fudging their observations so they can retain poor teachers. That’s why Andy wants to impose a huge unfunded mandate on school districts and require them to bring in outside observers to evaluate teachers.

 

It never occurs to Angry Andy that it may be possible administrators retain less-than-optimal teachers simply because there are not enough qualified candidates standing ready to replace them. Angry Andy has actually helped to create this situation in his own state, imposing “financially crippling” exams on teacher candidates (more on this later).

 

Even more foolishly, Angry Andy Cuomo thinks his demonization of teachers won’t have an effect on the number of bright young people willing to enter the profession. He believes his own inability to properly fund New York’s schools has no effect on the quality of teachers; no, it must be all these deceitful, lazy administrators, handing out phony high marks to lazy, ineffective teachers.

 

 

 

 

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