This is a letter from Arthur Goldstein to his colleagues at Francis Lewis High School in Queens, New York. Arthur is chapter chair of his school, where he teaches English language learners. He also had a terrific blog called NYC Educator.
This is what he told the staff about the new teacher evaluation system:
Today our Measures of Student Learning Committee met to decide precisely how thoroughly invalid junk science measures will be used to rate teachers in Francis Lewis High School. We had several choices. We based our choices on the information available to us, which was very little.
Our first choice was whether to use goal or growth measures. We were told that goal measures entailed inventing tests or projects. These tests or projects would then be sent to the insane ideologues at the NYC Department of Education who would set goals. The goals could have been different for individual students, which could mean ringing 170 different bells.
Were you to disagree with the goals set by the DOE, you would have the option of submitting reasons and appealing to the principal, who would either deny your appeal or submit your reasons and appeal to the DOE for reconsideration.
Given the tremendous amount of work we have ahead of us this year, we opted for growth models, although we have little or no idea how they will be calculated. For state measures, some were mandated to reflect individual classes of teachers. In those cases, we opted to have department results reflect the local measures. In other words, your department Regents results could be the local measures. This would reflect not only the exams in areas you teach, but those given by your entire department. For example, if you teach algebra, the results in geometry and trigonometry will also be part of your local measures.
We aimed, in general, to make measures as broad as possible. Wherever possible, we tried to avoid competition between teachers and groups of teachers. We do not want teachers to feel they would be hurting themselves by, for example, tutoring students of their colleagues.
If there was a state exam and individual class results were not mandated, your department results were your growth measure. In those cases, we opted to have the local measure be your department results. In this system, if the state measure was also department results, local growth would be measured by the lowest third of your department results. Because there is no logic, rhyme or reason to this system, we were prohibited from using the same standard twice.
If your subject, like music, art, or physical education, does not have a state assessment, your evaluation would be based on schoolwide state tests. Your local evaluation would be based on the lowest third of schoolwide state tests.
We did not have the option of evaluating what teachers actually do, as the geniuses in Albany and DC, many of whom send their children to private schools where this nonsense does not apply, appear to have determined that teachers teach tests rather than students.
We will discuss this further when we meet on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m afraid I have no more details than these on this system. However, we will revisit it next year, by which time we’ll hopefully have a better idea on what does and does not work in our school.
Let me be clear—I hate this system and virtually everything about it. But as our union leadership had a hand in writing the law imposing this on us, and as John King had carte blanche to impose pretty much whatever reformy nonsense he saw fit, we are stuck with it.
We will make the best of it, and work to bring sanity in education back to our city and state soon. Sadly, that won’t be happening this year.