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UFT seeks temporary restraining order against release of Teacher Data Reports

October 21, 2010 am31 7:36 am

A bunch of media, papers and at least one TV station, sued to get individual Teacher Data Reports released, and the DoE is planning to hand the stuff over. The UFT will be in court today looking for a temporary restraining order.

At last night’s Delegate Assembly this was the biggest order of business, getting delegates to support a resolution that says we will support members, we’ll try to keep the reports from coming out, etc, etc.  It was a fine resolution, which I supported. There was an irrelevant amendment, which was defeated with maybe less than a dozen votes. And now we want to block the release, and we want to find mistakes in the reports that will support our claim that they are inaccurate. We are doing, at the moment, absolutely what we must.

There were two major problems: one omitted, the other willfully ignored:

We have a letter from two years ago, signed by Chris Cerf (then of the DoE), promising not to release the Reports. On the basis of that promise Randi Weingarten and her lieutenants sent DRs and Chapter Leaders into schools, and guaranteed that the data would remain anonymous. None of our leaders should be telling members that we believe that the DoE acts in good faith. We now have DRs and CLs who will need to speak to members who they lied to. They didn’t know they were lying. They trusted in Randi, who trusted in the DoE. Putting our field level reps in a position where they might betray (albeit unknowingly) members’ trust is unconscionable. Breaking that trust does damage to our union that will not easily be repaired. We can’t fix that this happened – but we can be clear going forward that this will not happen again.

Or we could have been. The point was glossed over in Mulgrew’s 80 minute report. It is not good enough to say that the DoE reneged on its deal with us. Or that they betrayed us. We should expect that. We should have expected that. But our leadership didn’t, or didn’t prepare our members for that likelihood. Have we drawn the lesson? I hope that we don’t put our DRs and CLs in the position of telling members to trust the DoE again.

The second point was not glossed over. Mulgrew hammered at the tests being inaccurate, and the value added formula being lousy. He trotted out a chart with the DoE’s current value-added formula on it.

Just a side note, making fun of math is cheap anti-intellectualism. The formula IS lousy, but not because it is complicated, certainly not because it had a Greek letter in it (that sideways M? It’s a sigma. It means that a bunch of things, probably including “student effects” need to get added together). The value added experts that we have? They write formulas with sigmas, too. No one should laugh when a person says “I can’t read big words” – and no one should laugh or be encouraged to laugh at harder-looking math.

So Mulgrew took pains to say that the current tests are no good, and the current formula is no good. But why did we jump into a project when we knew the tests were no good?  I don’t think we need to ask.  Mulgrew’s letter to members says:

“The Teacher Data Reports are significantly flawed in their current form due to the problems with state tests and inaccuracies within the data that the reports are based on…

What’s more, education experts agree that existing value-added systems such as TDRs are not yet reliable or valid, and they also agree that test scores by themselves can only represent a small segment of the complex work that you do…”  [emphasis added – jd]

Wrong. There is no evidence that these reports can ever be made good. There is no evidence that there is a future report that will work. There is no evidence that these reports can become reliable or valuable. And there is no evidence that these reports represent any segment of what we do.

There’s a whole lot of evidence that this value-added crap has been generated by the anti-education reformers, by the hedge-fund billionaires, Gates, the charter crowd, the people who want high teacher turnover, TfA, the New Teacher Project, and a host of others who want urban poor children to get test-prep instead of education.

It is time to junk the effort. Our “partners” at the DoE are liars. They are untrustworthy. The project was never a good project, but now is nakedly just another piece of anti-teacher reform. Enough.

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