Aaron Pallas is one of the most insightful commentators on education in the nation. He teaches at Teachers College and if I were a student there, I would want to study with him. Not only is he smart, he is fearless. His regular columns in the Hechinger Report are “must” reading. His latest is about a teacher who was identified by New York City’s “teacher data reports” as the absolutely worst eighth grade teacher of math in the city. (http://eyeoned.org/content/the-worst-eighth-grade-math-teacher-in-new-york-city_326/).
Pallas shows how her rating has nothing to do with her performance as a teacher. She teaches gifted students and was a victim of her own success. Her students did so well last year that they did not meet the scores that the city’s computers predicted for them this year. But every one of them took and passed the state’s Regents exams.
The teacher, Carolyn Abbott, makes the interesting point in the article that the tests are high-stakes for the teacher, but not for the students. These students are so far advanced beyond the expectations of the state tests that the tests are almost a joke for them. But not for her. She is leaving teaching and going to work on a doctorate and then probably into college teaching.
Pallas writes, quoting Abbott: “I love to teach,” she says. And she loves mathematics. Ultimately, she decided, the mathematics was more important than the teaching, although she envisions teaching mathematics at the college level in the future. “It’s too hard to be a teacher in New York City,” she says. “Everything is stacked against you. You can’t just measure what teachers do and slap a number on it.”
When will the authorities in New York City and Albany and Washington, D.C., and in state education departments across the nation recognize that they have created a monstrous, counterproductive and utterly harmful means of evaluating teachers? Are they wise enough to recognize the errors of their ways?