In April the ICEUFT Blog published a piece in which we publicly admitted that for the 2013-14 school year state data showed that 88% of the teachers at the phasing out Jamaica High School were rated either developing or ineffective. At the time we stated sarcastically that we must be "the worst teachers on the planet." The blog also said these ratings were meaningless.
We concluded the post by making a not so bold prediction that for 2014-15, when teachers from Jamaica were sent to other schools where the student populations did not have as many needs as those at the phasing out Jamaica, we would see much better teacher ratings.
The data is now in for 2014-15 and another ICEUFTBLOG prediction has come true. This year there were no adverse ratings from the 2013-14 Jamaica teachers who were still in the school system. We were perfect. That is correct. 100% of the teachers who were at Jamaica in 2013-14, who became rotating Absent Teacher Reserves or were assigned to a school in the 2014-2015 school year, have been rated either effective or satisfactory. The only people who didn't receive these positive end of the year evaluations were the three who were fortunate enough to have retired.
How is it possible that we went from 88% of us receiving adverse ratings to 0% in just a year? We were the same teachers. I can only speak for myself here as I did alter my teaching style a bit in the progressive Middle College High School at Laguardia College environment but I didn't change it that much yet I still had a double digit increase in the amount of points I received on my Measures of Student Learning rating compared to my final year at Jamaica.
Was I that much more of an effective instructor compared to last year? The answer is no I was pretty much the same teacher but the students in front of me were different.
As was stated in the April posting:
The pupils we were teaching at Jamaica High School in the final year of phase out were a mix of a few honors students and regular kids combined with a high percentage of special education, English language learners, students with interrupted formal education and overage pupils who fell behind in credits. We started the year with under 100 pupils and four and a half rooms in the huge building that we shared with four other schools.
Those kids in the last graduating class at Jamaica were wonderful and a pleasure to work with, even though we knew it was going to be next to impossible to help many of them graduate. Some pupils were programmed incorrectly because we didn't have a sufficient number of students to give them classes appropriate to their levels. These students were lost. Many were pushed out of the school while others were compelled to sit in front of a computer to make up classes with a teacher who had students taking several different subjects in the same room. Students complained to us that they wanted real classes.
Jamaica had great kids who were placed in a preposterous situation as were their teachers. At Middle College, the students were placed in appropriate settings. For all of us who went to different schools in 2014-15, we were able to become effective again by just having students in front of us who were better prepared to succeed. Either that or there is magic in those Teacher Improvement Plans. If you believe it was the TIPs, then you should get a position on Chancellor Carmen Farina's staff.
In reality, the teacher evaluation system is a complete farce. If a teacher is teaching a challenging group of students like we had during the final year at Jamaica, then the chances of the teacher receiving an adverse rating are much higher.
The evaluation system doesn't work for teachers who teach students with the fewest needs either as the Sheri Lederman lawsuit is showing. She couldn't do much for growth for kids who started out at the top of the class already and the state test portion of her rating in three years went from 14 to 1 to 11 out of a possible 20. The evaluation system is flawed for teachers who work primarily with students with high needs and low needs. My guess is it isn't much better for teachers who teach students in the middle also.
Any portion of teacher evaluations based on student test scores must end. We need to do whatever it takes to change the law. That is the only way out of this mess.