Teacher Ratings: We Blew It!

02/27/2012

We blew it.

By ‘we,’ I mean the entire NYC education community. 

Teachers, administrators, chancellor Walcott, we all blew it.

We were handed a very teachable moment on a silver platter. And we blew it. Big time.

We knew it was coming: we should have been prepared.

We had the opportunity to nail it, but we blew it.

I’m talking about what everyone involved in teaching in NYC is talking about: the release of teacher ratings based on standardized tests given over the past few years. The ratings release my union, the UFT, spent lots of time and money trying to prevent when we should have embraced it, embraced it because it offered the teachable moment to end teachable moments.

Here we were given everyone’s attention, a focused and huge student body, and we didn’t take advantage of it.

We should have done what we claim to do best: teach.

We should have taught the lesson on what statistical validity means, or the lesson on how a large margin of error renders data useless.

We could have taught the lesson about how one test on one day does not necessarily – okay, doesn’t at all – show what any one student or any large group of students know, don’t know and are or are not capable of doing.

Or the one about how the findings of a test designed for one purpose, even if it does that purpose really well, are not capable of determining the causality of those initial results. That’s an easy one: a thermometer can measure how hot it is (what a student knows) but doesn’t tell you anything about the efficiency of the sun (what the teacher does).

We could have done so much to make our community smarter, more capable of determining when something they are being spoon fed is BS, more able to know what is and isn’t true.

But we didn’t.

We blew it.

Maybe we really are bad teachers.

All of us.

Even the chancellor.


Please, son, be anything else. Anything.

02/20/2012
English: teacher

Image via Wikipedia

I love my son.

He is a high school senior about to decide what college to attend. One of his criteria is which school to which he’s been accepted has the best program to prepare him for his chosen professional goal.

I very much want my son to be happy in his work because if he is it will not seem like work.

He wants to be a high school English teacher.

I am trying very hard to talk him out of it.

My son loves to read and read at a high school level in fifth grade.

His current English teacher has him co-teaching a couple of lessons in the class. No other student is doing that.

Another of his HS English teachers told my wife and me “the greatest gift I could give my profession would be for your son to become an English teacher.”

Heady stuff, indeed.

My son could possibly be a very good English teacher. That is why I am trying to talk him out of it.

These days, very good is not good enough.

That’s the illogic of the new teacher assessment deal that NY Governor Cuomo pushed for and that the spineless NYSUT (NY State United Teachers) agreed to. Under this plan a teacher rated excellent by his principal and by other local teacher assessments would be rated as ineffective if his students did not show growth on the one day state tests are administered, even though those tests are only supposed to be 40% of the teacher’s rating.

How are we supposed to teach math when our governor and the state teacher union agree that 40% of X is larger than 60% of X?

No matter what else the teacher does, no matter how good he is on the other 179 days of the school year, he cannot be rated as anything other than ineffective if the test scores don’t go up enough. If that happens two years in a row he can be fired, even if he has tenure.

Indicted murderers are presumed innocent until judged guilty by a jury of their peers.
Tenured teachers are presumed ineffective, despite acquittal by their administrators.

How can I let my son become a teacher under a system that is as illogical and as unfair as the one his father will be working under starting next year?

Oh, wait. I’m a librarian. I don’t have students whose test scores can be compared year-to-year. No matter. The school’s total overall test scores will affect my job rating, whether or not most or any of the students come into the library and whether or not I have any influence on their performance on those one day exams.

More logic. Impressive.

Kid, I love you.

Become a mortician, a lawyer, a barber, or an accountant.

Pick rags for a living.

English: Jewish rag picker, Bloor Street West,...

Just don’t become a teacher.

It just isn’t a good job anymore.


Ever Wonder What a School Librarian Does?

02/02/2012

This is the list of librarian duties in a current posting for a six-month contract at a private school in NYC, with the possibility of it becoming a permanent position. I am not going to mention the school If you want to apply for the job, email me: educationontheplate@gmail.com.

University of Michigan Library Card CatalogPosition Summary: Under the supervision of the Executive Director, the librarian will establish and maintain a comprehensive library cataloging and tracking system for the _______

School. (Six Month Assignment with the possibility of becoming a regular position).

Duties and Responsibilities:

Administers the library media program, developing policies and procedures to assure efficient operation and services.

Administers set up and maintenance of automated catalog and circulation system.

Selects, purchases, and processes new materials to assure a current and balanced collection representing diverse points of view.

Classifies catalogs, and circulates library material and instructs students and staff in the use of the library system.

Maintains circulation and collection records; provides regular reports as needed.

Establishes an on-site mail, email and fax reference assistance system used by staff and volunteers.

Establishes a circulation program for the children’s collection.

Coordinates, develops, publicizes children’s collecdtion and story time program.

Establishes a process to assist teachers in selecting books to incorporate into classroom discussions and coordinates story

time readings for school group.

Assists with development and management of library systems; books, periodical, catalogs, slides and othe special collections.

Establishes protocols and policies to train, coordinate, supervise and manage volunteer assistants.

Conducts orientations; assists with managing book sales, art previews, benefits and other special events.

Assists in management of online catalog and other electronic resources.

In conjunction with the Reading and Language Specialist, actively promotes reading, library use through such activities as storytelling, booktalkd, display, publications, reading programs and special events as needed.

Develops bibliographies, display, bulletin boards to support school thems, extend classroom learning and to promote interest in reading.

Participates in library planning and implementation processes.

Acts as the information leader in the school.

Info symbol

Image via Wikipedia

Performs other duties as assigned.

Qualifications;

Masters Degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from an American Library Association (ALM) accredited program.

New York State (NYS) certification as school librarian.

Proven work experience in library science.

Experience with technical services procedures using Windows-based computer systems, databases and electronic resources,

Some experience working with children services and programming.

Ability to interact with staff and volunteers in a busy environment and shared space.

Strong organization, problem-solving skills and attention to detail.

Excellent verbal and written comunication [sic] skills. (ed. note – presumably including spell checking)

Physical demand include loading, lifting and carrying boxes of books for sales; moving furniture to rearrange reading room for library events and regular moving of books and periodicals in routine management of library collections.

I’m tired just reading that. Of course, I’ve already put in a full day as a school librarian.

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