Friday, September 19, 2014

Peace, Love and DOENuts

Being an angry blogger doesn't make much sense these days. Since Bloomberg left office, and since our new mayor has arrived, every effort has been to make peace with the teachers of NYC.

The new teachers' contract is but one example. Although I worked pretty hard to oppose it, the fact of the matter is that every effort has been made to include teacher voice in the process of running NYC public schools. I have heard lots of complaints about the new contract, but when you peel away the money issues and peak around the loss of protection issues (issues that many knew were coming down the pike anyway), the main complaint I hear from teachers seems to be that there is too much PD and teachers are being asked to vote on things that have nothing to do with teaching. Too much PD and too many things to consider? While sometimes a pain, those are both good things. I have learned NOT to judge success by whether teachers complain, but to judge it by what they are complaining about. I judge complaints about these two things to be a good thing.

Another good thing is a reduction in paperwork. Gone are the days where I have to hand in a 45 page unit plan -including the CommonCore based essay with which I'll be assessing- for review. Here are the days where a one-page unit plan is acceptable and something I can grieve over if I'm pushed to do more.

There is other evidence that war against teachers in NYC has concluded. Several months ago, two activists visited the PEP and made two separate impassioned pleas to the chancellor. One pleaded for a reinstatement of her career. He had filed suit with the department in order to be reinstated before even going to speak that night and as these lawsuits can take years to settle, I guess he figured he had nothing to lose. Another -a life long activist- pleaded with the chancellor to bring racial and ethnic diversity back to New York's teaching corps. One suggestion he made was that the city settle a long fought suit claiming the LAST exam discriminated against African-American and Latino educators.

Before the summer ended -quietly and beneath the headlines- the department reached out for an amicable settlement of the teachers' lawsuit. And the Gullino case was brought to a respectable close.

Only one cnclusion can be drawn from these two occurrences: We have a chancellor who listens and who is willing to represent a department that acts in a manner that honors teachers who are willing to find a respectable way to make their voices heard -even at a PEP.  Cheers to Carmen FariƱa.

More cheers to her if she can find a way for ATRs to have an opportunity to find their way back into a classroom. I know there are some not so great ones out there -folks who probably shouldn't be teaching- but there are also amazing educators who are in the pool simply because the mania from the previous administration led to building leaders who went hunting for good people's careers. These ATRs are now lumped in -by stigma- with the 'bad' ones.

I've recently read a story on how the Global History Regents may no longer be required. That will leave social studies teachers -like me- in a bad position. With no required exam, many Global History classes may wind up being taught by non social studies teachers. If less positions are to be needed to teach these classes, then I -a passionate, 'love what I do' teacher- may well be left out of a job too. And If I am, I'll go into an ATR pool that will have this stigma of 'bad teachers' and, I fear, I won't ever be able to get out. I don't want my kid to grow up thinking I was ever a bad teacher.

Still more Cheers for her if she uses Tweed's beautiful building to celebrate teaching and learning. I'd love a chance to see the best practices this city has to offer in the headquarters of New York's Education Department. I'd love to be able to get together with the city's social studies teachers for a conference, hosted by the department, so I can get learned up some of the new awesome best practices (I'd bring my own donuts and coffee). I'd also love to see one of my own be celebrated by my new awesome chancellor.

Of course, those are pipe dreams. I think, maybe, it's enough to say; the war is finally over and that, much to my chagrin, this blog may have well outlived any importance it once had.

Which reeeallly stinks!!! This was such a cool moniker!!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

What Matters About Teacher Growth Scores

Reading the venerable NYC Educator's blog about today's release of teachers' "Growth" scores sent me on a rant in his comments section. Rather than do the right thing and put together a thoughtful blog about it, I decided to copy and paste the comment.

I don't think the growth scores themselves matter at all. Having said that, there are a few things that do matter. Some matter a great deal. Others, perhaps a bit less. But the general gist is this: Data that PREVENTS me from seeing how well my teaching helped a certain student is worthless data. Data that PREVENTS me from seeing which category of students I had the least amount of success on these test with, is worthless data. And data that cannot be verified -that does not treat the recipient of the data like an adult and offer the actual numbers is worthless data.

I accept my crummy Effective (87). Not that it matters, because it doesn't.

What matters is that I am not able to see how each of my students performed against the rest of the students of the state:

What matters is that I was not able to see their growth scores. I was not able to see how each one performed against other similar students across the state:

What matter is that I was not able to see how well (or unwell) my instructional strategies worked with, say, my ELL students, or with my Latin students who speak english as a first language but come from homes below the poverty line or with students who have test modifications, or with the ones who do not.

What matters is that I was not able to see which category each of my students was placed in by NYSED in order to verify that NYSED placed them in the correct categories.

I was not able to see what MY MGP (my Mean Growth Percentile; the average of all of the percentiles in which all of my students fell), nor am I able to see the MGP of all, like me, "US History Teachers" throughout the state

What matter is that I am not able to see the MGP for teachers in my district (all over NYC). Was my 15/20 and 15/20 the very highest score for all Chemistry teachers across the city? Was I "The Best" Chemistry teacher in NYC? What if I wanted to know (I don't)? But did my instructional practices lead me to be the worst in NYC? Sure, it's effective when measured against the performance of students all across NYS, but teachers from the city are THE BEST teaching corps in the state. It matters that I cannot measure against only that.

What matters even more is that it tells me nothing about how well my students are doing against other students in NYC (or how well my strategies helped my students succeed as opposed to the strategies used by  other teachers in NYC).

You see, without validating this information that I have been given, I am excluded from finding ways to improve (or even change) my instructional practices with the students who didn't find success. I'm also excluded from finding teachers whose best practices are, well. best-er than mine.  And do you know what that means? It means that NYSED has prevented me from finding further success at my job via improvement. They're not permitted to do that and it is causing damage to my property  which, in this instance, I identify as my ability to succeed and improve at my job). Because of this,  I'm thinking a lawsuit to recover damages lost (taken) by NYSED.

These things, to varying degrees, DO matter.

Update: They do promise some of these things by way of a 'detailed workbook;; sometime next week, or maybe the one after. But I have suspicions about their idea of detail.

I may just head over to the blogs and paste this in the comments section as well. Don't think ill of me if I do (Ok, I really don't care what you think of me. I was just trying to be nice).