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A ‘data’ agreement that benefits no teachers

October 2, 2008 am31 6:07 am

This evening the New York City Department of Education released a letter explaining new “Teacher Data Reports”

The reports will link the teachers who taught a child with that child’s standardized test scores. The initial group of reports will be for 4th through 8th grade teachers, but the DoE intends (and the UFT consents) to reports being generated for all of us.

Readers of this blog knew that this was coming. You read it three weeks ago, you read it over the summer, you even read it last fall.

The UFT’s response has been to attempt to block the use of the data for tenure decisions. They got an agreement to that effect last winter. And now we, all teachers in NYC, will be getting a letter in the next day or two, jointly signed by Randi Weingarten and Bloomberg’s chancellor saying, among other things:

We wish to be clear on one point: the Teacher Data Reports are not to be used for evaluation purposes. That is, they won’t be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process.

On EdWize, Leo Casey blogs this. When he says what the data should not be used for, he also indicates its value:

…this data has the potential to enhance education by providing teachers with new tools to understand the educational needs of our students and to fashion our instruction to meet those needs…

That is, essentially, bunk. These reports will provide new a ways to discipline teachers, and new tools to bend all of our teaching to ‘the test.’

There is a lot that needs to be said, but later. Short form:

  • the data is no good. the tests not reliable
  • the data cannot be reasonably disaggregated by teacher
  • the data was already available to each teacher, and to each principal through normal, in school reports. These new reports make it readily available downtown, which is likely the real point
  • some of our chapters are strong and will howl the first sign that the DoE is abusing the agreement (which it will); but many of our chapters are weak or non-functional. We should be concerned, very concerned, about the members we have left in harm’s way.
  • the DoE has shown clearly that it cannot be trusted. Look what the DoE has done with the ATRs. They twist, distort, lie, and cheat. There is no reason to assume that this behavior is aberrant for them.

The UFT negotiating for the use of data in this way – shameful. Yelling and screaming at our leaders right now might make us feel better (it would make me feel better), but how can the damage be mitigated? That’s a much better question.

  • The agreement does protect us on tenure. We need to make use of that protection.
  • We need to watch for abuse, and report it, and tell our chapter leaders and members to watch for abuse, and report it.
  • The agreement doesn’t mention the merit pay bonuses. We should ask for clarification that these reports cannot be used for awarding merit pay (formally known as “school-wide bonuses”)
  • The agreement does not mention counseling memos. We should seek to expand the understanding to counseling memos.
  • The agreement does not mention the items that are later used in rating a teacher. We should seek to expand the understanding to prevent items from these reports from finding their ways into formal observation reports.

There is more to say. In particular, the joint DoE/UFT fetishization of data may put us at deeper risk than most of us realize. But for now,

  • let’s make sure all teachers are aware of the “Teacher Data Reports”
  • let’s make sure that teachers are aware of the danger,
  • let’s make sure that teachers and chapter leaders know about the limited protection the current deal offers, and
  • let’s get the above points clarified in our favor.
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. proofoflife59@gmail.com permalink
    October 3, 2008 am31 5:11 am 5:11 am

    I don’t understand why we were not allowed to vote on this bull. I know for a fact that scores will be linked to the merit pay scheme because my school participated (much to my dismay) and test scores were mentioned as a means to award bonus monies. This plan takes the cake! I want a full refund of my union dues!

  2. October 4, 2008 am31 2:44 am 2:44 am

    I reject out of hand any discussion of cutting dues. We’ve been poorly represented in this instance. The correct response is to improve that representation.

    But defunding the UFT, or worse, that cannot help us in any way. A weaker UFT can only be worse for us.

    I am livid that we signed off on this. But think about this: what would the agreement look like if the UFT wasn’t there? We both know, tenure would be directly tied to scores.

    And then think about all the things in the contract that we have, even if they are not honored in every school. Without the UFT, none of us would have duty-free lunch. Six classes in high school would quickly become the norm, etc, etc.

    I respect calls for our dues money to be better used. But I cannot and will not stand with a call to withhold dues.

  3. Anonymous permalink
    November 22, 2008 pm30 10:51 pm 10:51 pm

    Where are these reports?

  4. November 23, 2008 am30 10:13 am 10:13 am

    I have no idea. We won’t see them in high schools for another year. And since I haven’t heard about their release, I am assuming (for the moment) that the elementary school versions have not been released yet.

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