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An appeal on “Teacher Data Reports”

April 21, 2011 am30 9:51 am

This letter started making the rounds yesterday via e-mail and listserve. I have not yet seen it published. The writer is a Brooklyn elementary school teacher (5th grade).

Dear Mr. Mulgrew,
    I am a veteran public school teacher of 33 years and have taught a variety of subject areas and grades during my tenure. I began as a middle school special education teacher  and am currently a licensed teacher for the Gifted and Talented Program, grade 5 .  I have an exemplary record and have contributed in a positive way to many, many students most of whom I still keep in contact via that technological wonder, Facebook!
    I received my Teacher Data Report on Wednesday, April 13 and was demoralized beyond words. I was rated an “average” teacher in both E.L.A. and Math and “below average” in one area of the math. I sat and stared at the computer screen reading through tears of frustration insisting that someone made a terrible mistake. I am NOT “an average/below average” teacher!
    In June of each school year, parents line up outside my principal’s office begging to have their children in my class. If I was such an “average/below average” teacher, why would parents do that? Over the years many of my fifth grade students have been accepted into such prestigious middle schools as DeLaSalle Academy, Medgar Evers Prep School, Mark Twain Middle School for the Gifted and Talented, Philippa Schulyer Middle School and the Prep for Prep Program. I prepare all my students to take these entrance exams as well as introduce them to the interview process. I don’t think an “average/below average” teacher’s students would be able to pass such rigorous entrance exams.
    My principal told me to rip up my Teacher Data Report as she does not give it any merit, especially in my case. As a teacher of the Gifted and Talented, many of my students enter my class with perfect E.L.A. and Math scores. Where can I move them? What if my principal leaves and I am at the mercy of some Tweed Operative who only deals with statistics?
    I hope my Union, one that I have supported and believed in since the days of Albert Shanker, will alert the public to the offensive nature and inaccuracies of these Reports. Fight their release and get rid of them! My livelihood is being challenged on the basis of two exams, which are administered over four days. Three hours of testing can measure a teacher’s worth?     
    My evenings and weekends are consumed with paperwork. My preps? My lunch periods? I coach the Oratory Team and am the coordinating teacher for The Stock Market Game. I also coordinate many of the senior activities at my school. Should I give this all up and focus on test-taking? Teaching in Brooklyn certainly has it advantages. I have taken my class on many school trips to concerts, plays, museums and art galleries, all related to various areas of the curriculum. Should I stop and just focus on test-taking activities? Should I stop molding my students into becoming well-rounded young men and women and just focus on test-taking skills? If the answer is yes, then I fear I may have to retire.
    Please Mr. Mulgrew. Get the word out that Teacher Data Reports are flawed, inaccurate and do not measure the worth of a competent, motivated teacher. These Teacher Data Reports do not take into account students who have to overcome incredible obstacles just to make it to class every day. What about students who, through no fault of their own, arrive at school late, hungry and unprepared? A teacher can only do such much in the course of a day, a week, a month and a school year.
    Many of my colleagues are reconsidering teaching the testing grades and are applying for lower grade positions or out of classroom positions.  
    I do not deserve such abuse. I have dedicated my life to the children who have passed through my classroom door. Please help me.
14 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    April 21, 2011 pm30 11:27 pm 11:27 pm

    Imagine if you were teaching 5 years, instead of 33 years. Imagine if your students were of mixed abilities, in an oversized class, with 3 truants, 3 ESL students and 4 students who you suspect of having undiagnosed ADHD – in other words, a typical classroom. Imagine if you were then called average or below average. You KNOW you have been a good teacher. What is going on in that teacher’s head, knowing she/he has done all she could and now some statistics say it’s not enough?
    My answer – I haven’t viewed my results yet – but I just don’t put any validity on that judgement of me. I’m not buying it. And I think that soon, they will think differently too. At an international meeting a few weeks ago, Michael Mulgrew and Arne Duncan sat near each other, while the countries leading in education explained that they respect, not berate their teachers. They focus on learning, not data. In general, these things we are doing, starting with NCLB, has brought us down, and allowed other countries to educate better than we do in the US. Hopefully, Duncan will get the message.
    The next problem is that administrators have become hooked on data. It’s easy for them, and they can intimidate teachers by requiring more after more data. At our school, we were recently told that anything you grade should have a rubric attached, homework, spelling tests, etc.. That is ridiculous, but wouldn’t it make it so easy for the administrators if teachers did it? Please don’t buy into this nonsense. Instead, speak up for the sanity of teaching and learning ( your essay did a good job of that), the quality of which denies data management.

  2. Miss Eyre permalink
    April 22, 2011 am30 10:53 am 10:53 am

    Another teacher who really ought to be cloned, not “counseled out” of our glorious profession, reduced to tears over this TDR? Not the first and certainly won’t be the last. What a shame. To this teacher, all I can say is that you are lucky to work for a principal who knows your work to be exemplary; she will do whatever it takes to keep you, should it ever come to that. And know that your students and their families obviously value you highly. To them you are ultimately, in a moral sense, accountable, and you are clearly doing right by them.

    • susannunes permalink
      April 22, 2011 pm30 8:03 pm 8:03 pm

      The trouble is principals cannot EVER be trusted, so even if this “good” principal is good for now, once there are pressures from above, that principal will do a 180.

      The letter writer says: “Should I stop molding my students into becoming well-rounded young men and women and just focus on test-taking skills? If the answer is yes, then I fear I may have to retire.”

      That is the whole deal. You are supposed to retire, even forced to, and not be the expensive deadweight a 33-year-teacher is. If you don’t you WILL be targeted and fired by your “good” principal. You can take that to the bank.

  3. Just A. Teacher permalink
    April 22, 2011 am30 11:59 am 11:59 am

    Dear Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Walcott, and Mr. Mulgrew,

    As a middle school math teacher with almost 25 years experience I would like to offer the following advice. Please take the TDR and place them in a large metal dumpster. Cover them with lighter fluid and then set them ablaze. I have absolutely no intention of taking this lunacy seriously. Ret assured that any attempt to use this worthless garbage to remove me from my teaching position will be met with an aggressive litigious response against you individually, against the DOE and the UFT, and will include wrongful termination, ageism, and harrassment charges.

    Have a nice day!

    • April 22, 2011 pm30 12:21 pm 12:21 pm

      Against whom individually?

    • susannunes permalink
      April 22, 2011 pm30 8:10 pm 8:10 pm

      You seem to think you have more rights than you really do. For shame, for shame.

      You will be like me (from a different school district) and be just another “dismissed” statistic.

  4. Paul Rubin permalink
    April 22, 2011 pm30 5:46 pm 5:46 pm

    I’ve had the opportunity to view a number of Teacher Data Reports over their 3 years. I’ve seen more than one teacher go from as little as 15th percentile to as high as 90th (or the reverse) during those three years. Other teachers have held steadier. I’ve seen teachers I know to be solid in the classroom score between percentile zero and percentile 20. I’ve seen some teachers I would think twice about teaching my own children score in the 80th percentile or higher. No doubt that the only way to view this data and have it mean anything is likely to be taking the results of say 5 years and dropping the two extremes and averaging the remaining three years. Anything less is giving your garbage statistics. I also have complete disregard for the entire value added system. I do not believe the current variables do anything to remotely predict the results of students who fall outside say one standard deviation from the mean in terms of being average students whatever that even means.

  5. Archie permalink
    April 22, 2011 pm30 6:35 pm 6:35 pm

    They’re asking the wrong person for help. The only thing Mulgrew is helping to do is further carry out Randi’s union self destruction. I’m ashamed that sell out claims any Irish ancestry at all.

  6. April 26, 2011 pm30 5:07 pm 5:07 pm

    Here in Dallas ISD it’s the CEI, or “computed efficiency index,” or some other bafflegab.

    Bottom line, since I left Irving ISD I’ve picked up a couple of points on the state tests — just under 95% of my kids pass. Last year I picked up ten points on “commended” ratings. We’re five years ahead of plan in social studies on the scores on the state tests. We do well, and I do well, in all demographics. Some of my SpEd kids got commended ratings.

    But according to the CEI, I’m bottom of the barrel.

    NEA and AFT push constantly to get someone from the district to explain the ratings, but they can’t be explained to the satisfaction of any statistician who has looked at them.

    It’s just one more weapon administrators and “policy makers” have for the War on Education, and especially for the Battle Against Classroom Teachers. These ratings are like neutron bombs — they take out the people, but leave the buildings standing.

    These ratings are made by people who think a school is a building, and a child is a “raw score” on a test.

    Folks, not only are teachers in trouble. America is in trouble.


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