Monday, February 27, 2012

Why public shaming of teachers is exactly what the corporate reformers want -- with nationwide implications for our public schools

The NYC teacher data reports were released on Friday; and it’s no surprise that Rupert Murdoch's  NY Post was the first out of the gate to name and shame a teacher with a low rating.  Sunday’s Post featured a photo of teacher at a Queens school, naming her and the school, with the headline, “The worst teacher in the city,” based on her TDR.  They also interview a parent at her school who says she should be fired.  

Expect this sort of thing to go on for weeks if not months – as the Post tries to publicly shame one teacher after another, plastering their photos in the paper, pursuing a virulent propaganda campaign to attack the union and eliminate teacher tenure. The only question remaining is how many other papers will follow suit and participate by naming names.  

A restraining order might be the only way to stop this -- given that teachers are not public figures and it is widely recognized that huge margins of error exist for these ratings.   

According to reporter Yoav Gonen of the NY Post, the DOE admitted at a press conference last week that the “average” error rate for a teacher's percentile ranking was 35 in math and 53 in ELA, with a maximum margin of error of 75 in math and 87 in ELA -- out of 100 points!  

And this does not even address the fact that with a different class of students, on a different day and/or a different test, the results could be significantly different; or that (of course) improving test scores only are one facet of what good teaching means.

Moreover, despite claims now from Walcott and other city officials that they had no choice but to release these unreliable ratings, this does not seem to have convinced reporters.  In fact, the DOE seemed eager for this exact scenario to occur.  See what Gonen tweeted about what the DOE said in court, arguing for the release of the TDRs: 

Beth Fertig of WNYC recounts what Joel Klein said, right before he left office to work for Rupert Murdoch:

Joel I. Klein, actively led the charge to release the ratings to the public when he was chancellor. Mr. Klein told WNYC during an “exit interview” in late 2010 that the teacher data reports were a valid measurement, despite the objections of educators.

Also check out the back story about the release of these ratings, from Anna Phillips of NYT/Schoolbook:

… Joel I. Klein, championed the reports’ release, telling reporters that he supported their publication by teachers’ names.

The Columbia Journalism Review reported that the Education Department’s press office went a step further, encouraging reporters to file Freedom of Information requests — known as foils — for the individualized reports. According to the Review article by Lynnell Hancock:
But the Department of Education had privately dropped hints to some reporters that their competitors had already submitted foils, some journalists countered. Suspicions had been raised when the department responded to the foils with uncharacteristic speed. Normally, such requests took months, with layers of negotiations, said Maura Walz, a reporter for, an independent online news service. This time, it was service with a smile. “The Department of Education wants this out,” said Ian Trontz, a New York Times metro editor. “They have a lot of faith in these reports. They believe they are trustworthy enough to educate and empower parents.”
Still, empowering parents had not seemed to be a top goal in the past for this administration. To the most skeptical reporters, it appeared as if the city was using them. 

And when the rankings were first created in 2008 as part of a pilot program to evaluate teachers, a then-deputy chancellor, Christopher Cerf, said it would be a “powerful step forward” to have the teacher measurements made public, arguing, “If you know as a parent what’s the deal, I think that whole aspect will change behavior.”
Though Bill Gates wrote an oped against the public release of the TDRs last week, it was too little and too late.  In fact, he and Arne Duncan supported the LA Times release of similar unreliable ratings in 2010, which named teachers with low ratings,  with Duncan saying,  "What's there to hide?" 

Indeed, he and Duncan have pushed relentlessly for states to create numerical teacher rating systems based at least in part on value-added student test scores.  The feds made this condition for states to be considered for Race to the Top funds and now,  in order to obtain a waiver from NCLB.  

So far at least 33 states are in the process of developing and implementing such systems – including NY state -- and more are caving in every day.  This Gannett article explains how the NY state teacher ratings will likely be FOILable and published for every public school teacher in the state – and the same may be true of nearly all public school teachers in the nation.  

Gates is also creating a national database to hold confidential teacher and student information, without their consent, to be operated by Wireless Generation -- owned by Rupert Murdoch of the NY Post. 

The Gannett article contains a quote from Andy Rotherham, leading corporate reformer and a member of the advisory board of the new Gates database center, arguing in favor of the release of the TDRs in New York City:
"....public ratings would level the playing field for parents who aren’t plugged in on the best and worst teachers. And districts might have to address community desires when making personnel decisions.'Would it help create more incentives to address personnel if you had this sort of pressure?' [Rotherham] said."

As a result of this public shaming, which does not exist for any other profession, teaching in our public schools may become even more a temporary way-station for recent college grads, who will teach for only one or two years until they decide on a career with more stability, more income, and more respect from society.  

Anyone with a real interest in the profession long term will likely opt  to teach instead at a charter school or private schools, which will be free from having to implement these highly unreliable and reductionist teacher evaluation systems and/or make them public.  

In this way, the corporate  reform crowd will have achieved their goal, while fatally damaging quality public education in this country – with our public schools will in future become the repository for only those students who cannot get into private or charter schools, especially those with special learning needs, physical disabilities, or  recent immigrants.   

Someone, please, tell me why I am wrong!  Quick!


Anonymous said...

oh let the suing begin..they deserve it..the way they disparaged that teacher in the NY Post ( I also saw the article but refuse to link to this comment).

I know some attorneys who specialize in these kinds of situations..

Anonymous said...

I mean the teacher suing due to this horrible slander. I certainly did not mean the other way around..

Anonymous said...

I think it is time for all people who care about education in NYC to boycott the teacher hating and union busting new York Post. Their reporting has become so anti-public school teachers it is beyond any form of objectivity.They no longer care about people in their attempt to build up charter schools and tear down our public schools.
I hope teachers can find lawyers to handle multiple slander cases against the city and their allies in the media.

Anonymous said...

The actual data is at

Anonymous said...

As was stated in the past. When the country experiences a catastrophic teacher shortage, then and only then will they wake up. Then again it doesn't take much of a reading level to understand the N.Y. Post these days.

Anonymous said...

The rich don't need social security, so they're all for getting rid of it. The rich don't need medicare, so they're all for getting rid of it. The rich don't need public schooling so they're all for getting rid of it. All they want is their tax cuts and to have other peoples children go fight foreign wars to protect their stash. I don't want to paint all the wealthy class with a broad stroke, but there's enough of them that feel this way and they have the money to buy their way into getting what they want eventually.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, put bluntly, kids can be little shits, we all know it and we've all been there so don't try and deny it. We all say the worst things and take things out of proportion when we don't agree with a teacher or when the teacher tries to discipline us or make us do work we don't want to do... let's face it... we all hated having to actually do anything but socialize at school. These kids and parents should stop badmouthing the teachers who want to educate our population... and think of how much they are taking for granted.. how much children and parents in less developed parts of the world would give absolutely anything to be given a piece of homework... Ungrateful little shits. that is all.

Anonymous said...

you aren't wrong. but the uft sold teachers down the river on VAM in May, 2012, for a Race to the Top booby prize. even our own "protectors" willingly lead us to the firing squad (excuse pun).

Anonymous said...

The truth is I've been teaching in NYC for seven years, and have done a good job. The TDRs don't effect me, but I know they will eventually. For the record my students have always performed well on standardized tests, as proven by the cities report card system. The primary argument made about this new evaluation system is that it will help teachers improve who have struggled. Publicly shaming them does not help them improve. It makes them feel as if they should give up. The problem is with how flawed the TDRs are, good teachers can look like terrible teachers. Not a good thing. They give up. They are replaced by a college graduate, who gets poor scores as they find themselves working in a new job that has almost no training and requires experience. Great.
All of this is designed to do is control costs. The goal is to demoralize teachers to the point that the attrition rate is so high that no one will want to stay long enough to collect a pension. This is working. I am hoping to start another career. I have never dreaded going to work more. It has nothing to do with students. It has everything to do with the climate of schools. Way to reform our education system.