Teacher Ratings: We Blew It!

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.

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3 Responses to Teacher Ratings: We Blew It!

  1. KariKES says:

    So, how are you imagining said teachable moment could have played out?

    • Deven Black says:

      It could have played out in having news reporters who instead of playing up the ratings as gospel would have told the real story about how unreliable the ratings are because the tests were flawed, the mathematics used to determine the ratings are flawed, the samples used are too small to have statistical value, and the logical inconsistencies alone mean the ratings are useless and should not be taken seriously. At the same time, those reporters and their employers could have lobbied for more accurate measures because the public does indeed have a right to know the quality of teachers in the schools.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, I wonder if NYC’s billionaire mayor would base his investment decisions on data of the same quality that he believes should be used to rate teachers,

  2. The crisis in education is so complicated. The politicians are getting desperate because they don’t have the answers and resources to improve the state of education in this country. As long as they continue to take money away from education, we will not see some of the drastic improvements that they would like to see. I strongly believe one of the biggest problems in education is classroom size. I have so many students that need one on one and I can’t give them the attention they need to succeed, regardless how great my lesson plans are. They just keep packing them in if they can get away with it. Politicians need to understand this quote: “When you open a school, you close a prison.” I guess they don’t realize that prisons are much more expensive than schools. Grading teachers is not the solution to the problem. How about grading the parents. Without parental input, teachers have a serious uphill battle. Students need to take responsibility as well. You could have an awesome teacher, but if the students and parents aren’t doing their part, the results will be failure.

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