Report Cards for Teachers

I've always been much more willing than a lot of teachers to give the DOE and the larger cohort of reformers the benefit of the doubt with regards to accountability. I believe that education, like any job, especially one that involves public money and the development of public resources (i.e. children) must develop a better system of accountability. This is why, in spite of flaws and more than a few catch-22's, I believe in a lot of the ideas behind testing, quality reviews and report cards. Now, I have to put my money where my mouth is.

According to the NY Post and Gothamschools, the DOE is expanding an initiative to grade teachers. I had my own experience with this the day after we came back from Midwinter Break when I sat down for a meeting with my principal to review my goals for this year. At the end of the meeting I was handed a packet. It was my report card. This is part of a new initiative to hold teachers accountable through the use of reports of "value added" to their students. Groups of students are given predicted performance scores. These scores are compared to their actual results, and the teacher is rated on the basis of these scores.

Now I only have one year of teaching experience, and as anyone who's been reading since the beginning knows, that first year was, ahem, rocky. So, I wasn't really expecting a great report. What I didn't expect was how low my percentile score would be, even after my rating was adjusted for years of experience. And while it was a blow to my self-esteem, it was also a way to focus my expectations for this year. I know I've come a long way since last year, so I expect a big improvement on the next report card I see.

That said, the whole thing has to be taken with a grain of salt. As much as my job has been overwhelmed by testing, I refuse to judge my performance on test scores alone. Ultimately
my job is to prepare my students for a life of learning and success. Tests that measure students' academic performance is one way to assess my own performance. But I'd like to believe that there are intangible aspects to my job - for example instilling a love of learning and proper work ethic - that can't possibly be measured quantitatively. I think any attempt to rate teachers without accounting in some way for these aspects of teaching will be fatally flawed.


jonathan said…
But when we open the door to this sort of evaluation, it will become in many cases the only evaluation.

There is nothing easier than picking a number out of a report.

Qualitative observation, qualitative evaluation, would take work.

skoolboy said…

Would you be willing to share your report? If you've only been teaching for a year, it's very likely that the information is extremely unreliable -- i.e., your percentile location in the experience-adjusted distribution might be due to chance.

Aaron Pallas
Many teachers say this, and I have to believe it will be true

"When they measure teacher performance on student test scores, every kid will get an A."

And really, does anyone believe the DOE would have an effective way of figuring out whether teachers are fudging grades or not. After all, high scores make them look better. Just look at the abortion the Regents exam has turned out to be.
Ruben Brosbe said…
I don't remember the exact numbers but I believe my ELA percentile was 58 and my Math was 33. I already knew that math was a weak area for my last year though, and I expect this year's scores to reflect a big improvement. To NYC HS Teacher, I agree partly, but in the case of the ELA and Math scores, I don't assign them, so it's impossible to "give every student an A" to raise my grade. That doesn't mean however, that teaching to the test becomes the standard practice.
skoolboy said…

One of the things that worries me about the teacher data reports is that teachers might focus on their percentile ranks -- 33 and 58 in this case -- without considering just how much uncertainty there is in the data that go into those percentile ranks. The report displays the range of percentiles which might be a teacher's "true" percentile rank, but we're drawn to the single number that is the best single estimate.

I think it's quite likely that estimates such as the 58th and 33rd percentiles represent broad ranges of possible values, to the point that the 58 and 33 are statistically indistinguishable. What appears as better performance in ELA than in math may simply be a matter of chance.

I don't know how useful these reports might be. Teachers who take their work seriously are going to be striving to improve regardless of what the teacher data report says. But if you find it useful, that's great.

If any other readers would be willing to share the information in their teacher data reports -- and anonymously is fine with me -- I'd very much like to see them.

Aaron Pallas
Ruben Brosbe said…
To be clear, I think the report cards are far from perfect, and yes, more than a little annoying. But I've always cared about grades, even if I'm had problems with the teacher or their grading system. Even in these cases, I'm the type who will strive for an A. So if nothing else good comes of this report card, at least maybe I will improve my practice to the point where all my students will achieve beyond the predictions of the system.
jonathan said…
But achieve what? Is your job limited to maximizing their scores on the state ELA and Math exams?

If you strive to increase your "grade" you will be working to master test prep. Is that the kind of teaching you want to learn to do? What would you be neglecting?


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