I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, March 7, 2011

How Corporate Reformers Are Killing Teaching

With the "new math":
You would think the Department of Education would want to replicate Ms. Isaacson — who has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia — and sprinkle Ms. Isaacsons all over town. Instead, the department’s accountability experts have developed a complex formula to calculate how much academic progress a teacher’s students make in a year — the teacher’s value-added score — and that formula indicates that Ms. Isaacson is one of the city’s worst teachers.
According to the formula, Ms. Isaacson ranks in the 7th percentile among her teaching peers — meaning 93 per cent are better.
This may seem disconnected from reality, but it has real ramifications. Because of her 7th percentile, Ms. Isaacson was told in February that it was virtually certain that she would not be getting tenure this year. “My principal said that given the opportunity, she would advocate for me,” Ms. Isaacson said. “But she said don’t get your hopes up, with a 7th percentile, there wasn’t much she could do.”
That’s not the only problem Ms. Isaacson’s 7th percentile has caused. If the mayor and governor have their way, and layoffs are no longer based on seniority but instead are based on the city’s formulas that scientifically identify good teachers, Ms. Isaacson is pretty sure she’d be cooked.
She may leave anyway. She is 33 and had a successful career in advertising and finance before taking the teaching job, at half the pay.
“I love teaching,” she said. “I love my principal, I feel so lucky to work for her. But the people at the Department of Education — you feel demoralized.” [emphasis mine]
But, but, but... she could get tenure, and then suddenly become a horrible teacher! And there's research to support that this is a big problem... somewhere.... I think.... uh....
In an e-mail, Matthew Mittenthal, a department spokesman said: “We are saying that a teacher’s tenure decision should simply be delayed (not denied) until that teacher has demonstrated effective practice for consecutive years in all three categories. The alternative is what we’ve had in the past — 90-plus percent of teachers who are up for tenure receive it. Do you think journalists deserve lifetime jobs after their third year in the business?”
I think any publisher who judges a journalist on a formula like this:

will lose his best journalists and watch his paper fold very, very quickly.


Mr. S said...

Has anyone considered just enforcing the tenure rules that are in effect now? I mean if a teacher is bad or ineffective just don't give tenure. Gee...that's not so hard is it?

Ron Amundson said...

The stat presented doesn't seem unrealistic, albeit the ranking coefficients could swing it from being a useful help to useless waste of time and money in short order.

As far as journalists ranking goes, I would expect most large papers use similar tools for determining raises/layoffs etc. Even 15 years ago when I was in manufacturing, the tools were similar.

Granted, no one in their right mind would present the data in summation, even though such is what actually occurs.

Secondly assuming some level in statistical rigor was used, and the error range ends up on the order of 42%... It makes the whole mess suspect. It appears someone got creative to sell an analysis package that provides near useless information, such that they could laugh all the way to the bank.

The base problem is that when you put garbage in, no matter how complex a statistical formula, you will end up with garbage out.