Tuesday, May 26, 2015


"Do not use student test scores to evaluate teachers." This line is taken from a report of a major Task Force on High Stakes Testing.  Can you guess what group it is from?

I read further and the Report said this about test questions:

The questions which really measure the students' prior knowledge and experience, what they bring to school, provide the best way to ensure a "proper" distribution of scores, and accounts for the subtle bias that many people find in these tests.  The test scores, then, do not measure only what happened as a result of instruction but also measure a host of other variables.  These scores are not valid measures of teacher performance.

And then further down it states:

Test scores are not accurate enough or reliable enough to justify serious consequences.  Consider how the incorrect reporting and scoring of standardized tests, as seen in the 2003 administration of the Math A and Physics Regents exams, as well as other city ad state tests over the past six years, affected students and teachers.  Diplomas were granted or withheld based on false scores.  Most recently, parents and educators raised questions regarding the validity of test items on the 4th grade ELA exam, pointing out that flawed test designs can yield flawed results.

Who is this radical group that issued this report in April of 2007 that I found the other day when looking for something else?  If you guessed the United Federation of Teachers, you would be right?

Fast-forward eight years to the Minutes of UFT President Michael Mulgrew's April 2015 Delegate Assembly report.  Our esteemed president now thinks quite differently from the UFT Task Force of 2007:

This year we have 16 teachers rated ineffective in Brooklyn even though all 16 were rated effective or highly effective on their student test scores.  The issue here was the 100 point system.  Under the matrix being proposed, student achievement would trump the principal's judgment.  The higher grade would trump the lower grade.  It's not a distinct percentage.  The purpose of evaluation is growth, development and support.  The job of the evaluation system is to have a constructive professional process.  It's the only way to move education forward.  Nothing will matter if this doesn't get done.

If the student test scores trump the Principal's judgment, then the flawed tests will account for 100% of the rating.  Principal and outside evaluator judgment can only get someone a developing rating at best according to the latest new and improved evaluation system coming soon.

The reality of the situation is Governor Andrew Cuomo and the well funded people who want to cripple and then destroy public education are looking for a teacher evaluation system where they can blame teachers for mediocre or poor test scores so they can fire the maximum number of teachers. Conversely, the UFT and NYSUT want to keep outsmarting the system so teachers can receive effective or at least developing ratings, even if the ratings are based on flawed tests.  The unions are trying to weather the storm of school reform.

Maybe this strategy succeeds or perhaps it doesn't. I don't foresee the deep pocketed people who want to destroy us giving up so easily.  If the members of the UFT ever put me in a position where my voice will actually be heard, I am going to recommend we dust off that 2007 Report of the UFT Task Force on High Stakes Testing and make it UFT policy again.

Union leadership should start from a position of trying to gain what we know is best for teachers as well as students and then mobilize around that position instead of trying to game a flawed system and call that victory.

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