The study involves almost 18,000 teachers in all 5 boroughs of NYC. To put in in a few words: There was no evident relationship found between teacher “quality” and student achievement. Bad teachers (according to the tests results) were teaching in both high achievement and failing schools. Similarly, good teachers, graded in a similar manner, taught everywhere as well. The tests used a value added system where previous years data was used as a cumulative baseline to determine the progress. There was a correcting factor for race, poverty, etc.
The margin of error of the ratings is so wide that in any serious scientific research, the data would be discarded as useless and un-supporting of the theory to be proven. Some teachers were evaluated with as few as 10 students. Some teachers only taught the students the subject for a portion of the year. Only 35% of the math and 53% of English findings met confidence limits (that is what percentile means in this case). Nonetheless the teachers’ names have been publicized with tag of value now.
The data is so inundated with randomness that it is essentially useless except for the most biased researcher.
Regardless of such lack of reliability, the report has been made public after the teachers union exhausted all its legal avenues to prevent the disclosure. Despite of the warnings of the Chancellor of Schools of NYC that the results should be taken with a grain of salt, there is no doubt that this will have a devastating effect on teachers, on their morale, and on the inclination of current college students to pursue a career in education. It is also evident that the data will be used to justify further privatization of public education.
Pointing to the latter is the fact that the push to release the individual rankings began in August 2010, when New York City education officials contacted the reporters who most closely cover the city’s public schools and encouraged them to submit Freedom of Information Act requests for the teachers’ rankings.
Of the activities that I contemplated in late 2009 for my post-retirement years, one was to teach chemistry in NYC where the need for math and science teachers is always high, notably outside of Manhattan. The work would involve teaching and at the same time following a fast-track certification process through New York University. With a son living in Manhattan, spending a few days of the week in NYC was not a problem.
With the current rumblings, there is no way I would set a foot in a classroom in NYC or anywhere for that matter.
Nonetheless the NYT writes in Teacher Quality Widely Diffused, NYC Ratings Indicate – NYTimes.com today (page 2) that: “However, the teacher data reports tended to be highly correlated to the schools’ grades. Last year, 79 percent of high-performing math teachers worked in “A” or “B” schools, according to the Education Department. But there was no relationship between a school’s demographics and its number of high- or low-performing teachers: 26 percent of math teachers serving the poorest of students had high scores, as did 27 percent of teachers of the wealthiest.”
But how were the A’s and B’s determined? Were they determined through the same standardized tests included in the published data? In such a case it is obvious that there would be a correlation of teacher quality and grades because the A’ and B’ were the data used to evaluate the teachers in the first place. It is like if I tell you that X equals Y because Y equals X; I have not proven anything – independently of X and Y.
Or were the A’s and B’s determined through other means, say, the regular final examinations at the end of the academic years, when the exams are not standardized?
The entire enterprise of education reform has such an increasing stench of sham that I can not help but to be more and more suspicious of hidden designs and its ultimate consequences.