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NYC teachers, they are watching your scores

August 1, 2008 am31 9:30 am

Well, not yours. Your students. The New York City Department of Education intends to rate you based on your students’ test scores. But getting the data is not as easy as they had hoped. You see, in each school, you can look up what Mr. Hooper’s kids did. But Mr. Hooper is not part of some database – labeling a class “Mr. Hooper” doesn’t link it with his other classes, or with him.

So they want his e-mail. They want it linked to class lists. And they are threatening and bullying and lying to principals and programmers to get it done.

Last year they pushed and cajoled the programmers to link class lists to teacher employee id numbers (through their DoE e-mails), through something called the “Teacher Reference Screen” or “Teacher Reference Table.” They claimed this would help teachers track their kids.  Stop giggling. They forgot we have gradebooks.

But they were serious. The UFT had to fight off their attempt to evaluate teachers using test scores.

But apparently last Fall’s cajoling was insufficient. This summer they sent a new round of demands, this time to principals:

To ensure accurate data for accountability and instructional tools like periodic assessments and ARIS, HSST will now require that you complete the linking of teachers, courses, and students via the “Teacher Reference” screen…  Instructions for completing the process are available …. Please share these instructions with your program chair, data specialist, or school staff member in charge of scheduling in HSST…. If you do not complete this step, you may not be able to finalize your schedule and enter marks or grades in HSST.

OK, we don’t laugh, because they are serious and dangerous.

  1. Periodic assessments need students. Why should teachers need to be linked? (we know)
  2. Courses and students don’t get linked to each other at the “Teacher Reference” screen (duh)
  3. “…you may not be able to finalize…” (doubtful, and only if they block schools intentionally. Has nothing to do with function)
  4. “…and enter marks or grades…” (we know this is made up)

UFT Central knows, and shouldn’t be caught napping on this one. As long as we assume bad faith from Tweed, conniving, scheming, and a general hatred of teachers, then we won’t be unprepared.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. just my .02 permalink
    August 17, 2008 pm31 5:22 pm 5:22 pm

    I hate to say it but I have always been proud of my students scores on the state exams. I have always touted this in interviews and on my resumes.

    Having said this, it gives me an uncomfortable feeling when I know that DOE will be looking at these scores.

    For first thoughts are: Why are they looking? What are they looking for? What will the results of their search cause? If the reason for such scrutiny is merely to find which teachers to remove, then obviously everyone should be opposed to such a practice. If the goal is to identify teachers and students that are in need of help,and this is in good faith, then I have no problem with it.

    Assuming good faith on the part of the DOE, (I know this is a risky proposition) if we are truly professionals, shouldn’t we be looking at data in order to inform how we teach in the classroom? Shouldn’t we be open to having others look at our data in order to identify areas that are in need of improvement?

  2. pbpcbs permalink
    August 17, 2008 pm31 8:38 pm 8:38 pm

    The core assumption is that the tests measure something of interest. I recently saw (but can’t put my hands on it at the moment) a report showing the correlation between ELA and math NYS 8th grade test scores was statistically identical to the test-retest correlation for the math test alone. The two tests can be seen, in effect, as testing the same thing…and since there is no math on the ELA, we have to assume the thing that was tested on the math test wasn’t mathematics. All the good faith in the world does no good if we aren’t measuring the nominal object of our consideration.

    NB: My assumption is that the ELA and math tests should be testing different skills and that those skills are, relatively, uncorrelated. If you assume, as the NYCDoE does, that they are highly correlated, then these results are not surprising. The argument here is that schools that prepare students well for ELA also prepare them well for mathematics, and, of course, the inverse. But then, what the tests are measuring is test prep, not, necessarily, skills or knowledge. From a purely mechanistic perspective, ELA and math skills use very different parts of the brain, so, I believe, they should develop and demonstrate different levels of capability over a large sample population. Again, others take the other side of the argument.

    Bottom line: Does data generated by these tests really reflect what we would like to believe they reflect. And, more practically, do they measure skills and knowledge at the micro level — which is where most teachers have to work.

  3. August 18, 2008 am31 9:19 am 9:19 am

    All very interesting.

    But the short answer is, they want to be able to track your students’ scores, associated with you, because they plan on using it.

    They will try to tie scores to tenure and salary decisions.

  4. pbpcbs permalink
    August 18, 2008 pm31 12:04 pm 12:04 pm

    Yes, I agree…and the “merit pay” movement is even more likely to be successful if we have a major recession and politicians have to prove they are getting more value from declining tax dollars.

    My obscure point is: the yardstick is likely very flawed, so the desired results (improved education of the students) and the actual results (rising test scores) are unrelated. Many/most teachers will respond to the incentives to create rising test scores. Let us hope we have tests that measure the desired skills. I’m pessimistic on that one. (On the plus side, NYS’ incentive to game the system by manipulating test scales is likely to increase our students’ performance and help us achieve that next level of merit incentive. Can you imagine the impact on merit performance measures if the IA Regents used a straight 90/80/70 percent correct scale?)

  5. just my .02 permalink
    August 18, 2008 pm31 5:54 pm 5:54 pm

    Merit pay isn’t likely to become a reality until the union and most teachers support it, which is equally unlikely. As far as tying tenure to scores, this can’t happen realistically until all schools are annualized.

    Actually, I am a bit torn on this issue. It is clear to me that results can’t be placed solely on the shoulders of students or their parents. We are kidding ourselves if we actually believe that what we do in the classroom has no effect on test performance. If we believed this, then why would we prepare lessons or give an earnest effort to ensure that the lessons run smoothly? Effective or ineffective teaching definitely plays a role in student performance on exams. If we believe this, and clearly most of us do, then why are good teachers afraid to be evaluated?

    That being said, in principle, I am not opposed to having someone evaluate my effectiveness as a teacher vis a vis test scores, provided that ALL the data is evaluated properly–which would include additional demographic data.

    I think once it is clearly spelled out HOW and WHAT KIND of data will be used, then we will have a better idea of whether we need to be concerned or not.

  6. August 19, 2008 pm31 8:02 pm 8:02 pm

    We got a watered-down form of merit pay (school-wide bonuses). I just spoke to an elementary school chapter leader who voted for it last year, but will oppose it this year, because it really turned out to be merit pay. And that is the first place they will want to make the data available.

    What teacher is afraid of being evaluated? We all are already – but not by test scores. The tests themselves are a problem. And how much does the current teacher have input into student performance? If you do math, you know that the 8th grade test now covers two-thirds of eighth grade material, and one third of seventh (and likewise in other grades)

    Finally, I have no confidence in the DoE to correctly use any data. There are issues of competence, and their are issues of intent. It would be irresponsible to assume good from these people on either count.

  7. just my .02 permalink
    August 19, 2008 pm31 11:50 pm 11:50 pm

    I agree with the question of competence but I do believe the DOE would make a good faith effort to evaluate the data. The lack of confidence is understood is well founded. But let’s face it, there are some teachers that are afraid of evaluation. We both know this.

    And yes, we are already evaluated. But how much can you really tell about a teacher’s ability after 1-3 45 minute observations, especially when the observation time/day is known by both parties?

    Just to understand your point, what percentage of students performance would you say depends on their exposure to a particular teacher?

  8. August 20, 2008 am31 3:00 am 3:00 am

    The numbers aren’t for principals. They already have the data, in school, by teacher name. The links to teacher e-mail are to confirm EIS numbers, so that we can be tracked directly by Tweed, or to anyone they share the data with.

    Are you trying to assign credit for what the kid learns? Or how the kid performs on a standardized test? (and a badly written, NY State one, at that)

  9. just my .02 permalink
    August 20, 2008 am31 3:13 am 3:13 am

    To say, “assign credit” is a bit too strong for what I am saying. But clearly, the teacher has some effect on whether students learn or not. Isn’t this what we believe? Or do we?

    Though they may be poorly written, a good teacher with enough experience has the ability to prepare students for any standardized exams. So at least on this level, teaching can have a positive or negative effect.

    But the success one has in preparing students for these exams depends on the foundations that were laid from day to day.

    This has always been my experience.

  10. August 20, 2008 am31 8:45 am 8:45 am

    But look, I focus on content, and just enough prep (a few days at the end of the course) to ensure that kids pass the test. I get the definite feeling that’s what kids, admins, and especially parents like about my teaching.

    I don’t think I can answer your question without agreeing in principle that straight up test prep is good. And I won’t do that.

  11. just my .02 permalink
    August 21, 2008 am31 2:35 am 2:35 am

    The bottom line is, the test results may become our bread and butter. This is the game (and yes, test taking is a game) DOE et al is forcing us to play. Why not play it well? The state says the test is valid and reliable. Obviously this is debatable. But, there are clear consequences for student who pass or don’t pass the state exams. Shouldn’t we to some degree make sure the students have the tools necessary to pass the test, especially when there is so much riding on it?

    I too focus on content but I make sure a good portion of my content includes likely testable skills. And like you said, students and parents like it. So do administrators, expecially so.

    At some point you start to realize that if you want to survive and prosper in this field, you teach to your strengths and to what is likely to keep those above you happy. It sounds a bit like being a politician but as you already know, teaching is VEERY political.

  12. August 21, 2008 pm31 3:48 pm 3:48 pm

    1. “The bottom line is, the test results may become our bread and butter.”
    But they haven’t, and I don’t want them to. Do you?

    2. “Why not play it well?”
    I’d prefer not to concede without a fight. And I think we can win. But if we roll over, there is no chance.

    3. “The state says the test is valid and reliable. Obviously this is debatable.”
    Then why mention it? Better, you could believe me. The math regents are neither.

    4. “Shouldn’t we to some degree make sure the students have the tools necessary to pass the test, especially when there is so much riding on it?”
    No one has argued against that. Complete straw man.

    5. “And like you said, students and parents like it.”
    I expressed myself poorly. They like the emphasis on content.

    In the end, they want to break the contract. But they are smart, and they are patient. Dividing off little bits at a time is fine with them. And they are counting on most of us to roll over and accept what they dole out.

    Sometimes our union plays along. And sometimes not. Just a few months ago we came out for the first time for dumping NCLB. Progress.

    In our schools we have to protect ourselves as individual teachers. But just because a teacher has individually had to make concessions to test prep mania, which is understandable, does not make it okay for that to teacher to advocate that all of us do the same.

  13. just my .02 permalink
    August 21, 2008 pm31 6:21 pm 6:21 pm

    “I expressed myself poorly. They like the emphasis on content.”

    Parents SAY they like teaching more content. But what else are they supposed to say? But if their kid fails the regents or worse, can’t graduate because of it, I will be your head on a platter they’ll be clamoring for. And the bigger the property tax bill, the greater the clamor.

    “I’d prefer not to concede without a fight. And I think we can win. But if we roll over, there is no chance.”

    Actually, you are choosing not to fight or even play. :) High stakes testing isn’t going away anytime soon. (SAT, MCAT, LSAT, GRE, NYSTCE, etc) This is the world we live in and there is usually big money riding on these exams. Or maybe not the NYSTCEs so much. :) As everyday teachers, we have the opportunity to do a combination of extensive content coverage together with significant test prep. You have to incorporate standards based test prep into every lesson. In teaching as many years as you have, I am sure you know this. To do less is a disservice in my opinion. If we are doing that, then we should be successful, within reason.

    Doctors, lawyers, police officers and practically all professionals are judged on production. Should we escape scrutiny? I have a hard time on this one if I am being true to myself. What other objective proof of content mastery do we have other than a standardized exam?

    Concerning the math regents: Obviously there is some problem with the math regents in particular. I have heard math teachers grumbling for the last 3 years about Math A and B. I have noticed some anomalies. I don’t find the same is true to the same degree in other disciplines. I have been basically satisfied with the exams in my discipline. But if the math regents is fixed, then would you be open to having the results looked it?

    “But just because a teacher has individually had to make concessions to test prep mania, which is understandable, does not make it okay for that to teacher to advocate that all of us do the same.”

    At this point, we all have to accept that we are being judged, not just individual teachers. This has been true at the school level for many years now. Of course, we have never been pressured about regents results (or maybe I am just speaking for myself) in the past, but believe me principal and APs have been looking. My mother didn’t raise no fools. I know how to protect myself. :)

    Anyway…I am sure we could debate this forever. I am just saying with or within test scrutiny, I am ready for the fight! :)


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