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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

War On Women = War On Teachers, Part II

I seem to have struck a nerve with my last post on how the War On Women runs parallel with the War On Teachers. Let's go a little deeper.

My premise is straightforward: because conservatives feel comfortable in fighting against the empowerment of women, they will naturally gravitate toward "reforms" in education that disempower teachers. After all, three-fourths of the teacher workforce are female, so bashing teachers is, for all intents and purposes, the same as bashing women.

But let's break this down even further: are there specific "reforms" these people are proposing that target female teachers more than males?

Let's consider the latest uproar over the value-added model (VAM) ratings of New York City teachers, based on student test scores, that have been published by the press this past month. We'll leave aside the many, many, many, many problems with the ratings themselves. We'll even leave aside the truly shameful behavior of the media during this sordid affair.

Let's instead ask if there may be a gender bias against female teachers in the use of VAM. Start by looking at this:
The data here is presented by Dr. Bruce Baker at Rutgers, who my long-time readers will know is one of the foremost authorities on school finance in the world. Bruce has access to data that isn't available publicly, and produced this chart showing the breakdown, by gender, of the NYC teacher corps in each grade.

Those of you who are teachers will hardly be surprised: elementary schools are staffed primarily by women. There's more balance between the sexes as the grade level rises; the upper classes in high school have nearly equal representations of men and women on the faculty.

How does that relate to VAM? Well, the entire model is predicated on standardized test scores, which are administered in third through eighth grade. Since you need a pre- and post-test to calculate a teacher's score, only fourth through eighth grade teachers - and only in math and language arts - are subject to receiving a VAM rating. And, looking at the distribution above, it's clear that those teachers are overwhelmingly women.

Wait - it's gets worse. Here's Bruce's second graph:
Not every teacher who teaches in Grades 4 through 8 can be judged by VAM. Middle school history, science, fine and practical arts, and PE teachers are all exempted from VAM (for now). Resource room, reading specialist, gifted, and other elementary teachers may also not be VAM-able.

The blue bar in Bruce's graph shows the percentage of the total grade level teaching staff that is female; the red bar, however, shows the percentage of female teachers out of the total who are VAM-able at each grade. In other words, 86% of fourth grade teachers are women; however, 92% of the fourth grade teachers who would get a VAM rating are women.

In every grade, there is a greater percentage of women who are VAM-able than the percentage of women in the total staff. In other words: if you are a Seventh Grade female teacher, you are more likely to have a VAM rating published for you than if you were a Seventh Grade male teacher.

Let's say this again, so we're absolutely clear: female teachers are far more likely to have to suffer the humiliation of having a VAM rating published than male teachers.


I find this incredibly disturbing, but I can't say that I'm surprised. As Dr. Catherine Lugg points out:
And here's a bit of historical context: In 1933, the father of educational sociology, Willard Waller opined in standard his college text,

"Education is a profession for second rate men and unmarriageable women."

Duke, you're correct. With public school teacher bashing, it's all about gender. But that's always been the case in the US. *SIGH!* 
SIGH! indeed. This is the latest strain of a particularly virulent disease that has plagued our country for far too long. But it's an especially nasty mutation this time around, because this push for "accountability" is threatening to destroy both the teaching profession and the reputations of many more women than men.

I'm no lawyer, so I sincerely hope someone takes a look at this from a legal perspective (Bruce has already looked at some other legal matters related to VAM). I can't believe it's legal to impose a system that has built into it such an obvious gender bias. I'm sure the reformy-ists will try to pass this all off as a mere coincidence, but no one should buy into that crap.

In any case, I hope this opens a few more eyes about what's really happening in the corporate "reform" movement. Teacher, parents, administrators, and citizens - both women and men - should be pissed off. This kind of gender discrimination - and, yes, that's exactly what it is - is unacceptable in modern America. It needs to stop.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. Imposing accountability on public employees doing an important task has nothing to do with their gender.

If there were huge problems with trash collection -- with trash regularly not getting collected at all, trash getting dumped in people's yards, etc. -- lots of people might want greater accountability for trash collectors. Protesting that trash collectors are 99% male (hence: discrimination!!) would be quite the desperate move.

Duke said...

And if trash collection were evaluated on tests that measured how OTHERS collect trash, and had huge error rates, and yet were still published publicly, that would indeed be ridiculous.

Further: if the proportion of male trash collectors that were subject to the evaluation was much higher than the proportion of females, that would also be ridiculous.

And if trash collectors were evaluated by inaccurate measures (VAM), but other DPW workers like secretaries were not, that would be even more ridiculous.

By the way: there are not any "huge" problems with NJ education. The problems are limited to high-poverty areas, and no one has proved those problems are solely - or even partially - with the schools.

Anonymous said...

Your closing paragraph about no problems in "high poverty" ((read: African-American/Latino) is part of a recurring theme here that smacks of racism or at least a lack of concern for the people who are NOT being served by the current system.

And the women angle, truly, is desperate sexism, Duke.You could look at it as women teachers, for some statistical reason that to me seems within the chance of error, will be evaluated more. Good for them, they have a chance to shine more. It is the men that should be griping.

Anonymous said...

Whatever beef you have with VAM doesn't make it discrimination against women.

VAM is aimed at grades 3 to 8, reading and math, for the following reasons: Those are the main grades and subjects that we test.

Why is that? Some conspiracy against women?

No. We don't test first and second-graders as much, because it's not as reliable. We don't test 9th grade on up quite as much (except for certain courses or exit exams) because the subjects and courses aren't as standardized for every child -- some high schoolers are up to calculus while others struggle with algebra, etc. I suppose we could draw up standardized tests for every conceivable high school subject, but I don't know that you'd find that an acceptable solution.

Likewise, why test reading and math? Because those are foundational to every other subject, not because we're trying to discriminate in favor of the jock PE coach or the middle school history teacher.

Anonymous said...

Who are "we"?

Do have your own "sheeple"? Or are your still living on "Planet ME?"

(yeah, I heard that last one on AM radio.)

Yeah, it's racist to be liberal; it's hip to be square; and as Nick (and Hamlet) said you must be cruel to be kind.

Poppycock!

Anonymous said...

That's "you" not "your" And sorry about my heated language. Meant to say horsefeathers!

Anonymous said...

There is clearly a discriminatory situation with VAM and in order to remove it, then all subjects in all grade levels must be tested. This includes music, art, PE, technology, ESL work, basic skills work, library (media), science, social studies, and even guidance and administrators. Yes, make a VAM for every single teacher and school entity that is in anyway responsible for students. As a non-VAM teacher, I'm shooting myself in the foot, but I firmly believe that EVERY teacher must have skin in the game. Let us test and test and teach testing and buy testing materials and test test test more and make those VAM numbers change absolutely nothing about real poverty, language, health care, and social issues.

Anonymous said...

Vam Bam, thank you . . . uhh how does the rest go?

This is ground control to Major Troll, you've really made the grade . . .

Step outside your tin can, man!

That Other Anon said...

I feel like Bill Maher's "news from the bubble" is happening on your blog right now, Duke. No matter how much we speak about what's happening, none of it penetrates Major Troll's bubble.

And VAM anon, I'm with you there. I'm pretty sure the cost of developing and administering a test in every subject and every grade is well worth the money we'll save by firing all those bad teachers!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Cerf talks about high performance and accountability. So what are the salaries and benchmarks for his department heads? How are they to be judged?

jcg said...

To Whom it May Concern:

Given the critical need to eliminate incompetent public service workers, I'm available to complete accountability evaluations in the summers. As a public school teacher, I am in need of supplemental income to counter 30 years of health insurance increases, 50% loss of retirement contributions in my 401K, 0% raises in 23 years relative to inflation, and no salary for 3 months of every year.

My qualifications:

I was trained to rate teachers using the NIET evaluation model which assigns a 1 (lowest competency level) to 5 (highest competency level) on 12 indicators. The 1 to 5 Likert Scale is the same metric used in many women's magazines for determining your soul mate, what colors attract men in bars, and if redheads really are unfriended on Facebook more often than blonds.

In TN we call it the TEAM evaluation, though in other states it is marketed under other titles. Developed by the Milken brothers of Wall St. felony fame, our TEAM trainer assured us that the 1 -5 rating scale is always reliable and valid and is sensitive enough to identify 85% of incompetent teachers. I am proud to have been trained on an evaluation tool that has a better hit rate than any other assessment ever developed by assessment experts in the last 100 years.

Who Should be Accountable:

Given my strong background in evaluating job performance, I am highly qualified to complete competency evaluations for all government employees in the following positions:

police, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, military officers in every branch (5 star generals and lower), FBI agents, CIA agents, NSA employees, homeland security equipment contractors, mayors, state legislators, governors, congress, senators, judges(e.g., supreme court,federal,state,and local levels) the presidential cabinet, particularly the economic team.

I am not certain if NIET has created an evaluation system for these male dominated positions (just a coincidence, I'm sure) since the Milken Foundation's R & D material is not open for peer review. Their lobbyist will alert the press as soon as it is available.

I'm aware that some males may be susceptible to under-perform when they are evaluated by women. Therefore, I will perform two of the six required observations unannounced.

Thank-you,
jcg