teacher data reports Archives - The Jose Vilson

teacher data reports

Some of you might be asking, “But Jose, isn’t your data in the public view? Aren’t you afraid that your job is on the line somehow?” Sure. On Saturday, after seeing the report in the New York Post, I started to see the scores of my fellow teachers in the building and thinking, “This can’t be life.” Thus, Biggie’s Ready to Die played in heavy rotation on my iPod while I thought of ways to self-sooth, as if the deluge of misinformation would eat away of my healthy status as a contributing member of the education community. Without my fiancee’s intervention, I’d have a harder time jumping out of the temporary funk.

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t happy that the New York Post had published this erroneous data so liberally (see what I did there?). It’s par for course for a rag that consistently publishes soft porn and racist cartoons and puts hundreds of their papers at the doorsteps of our schools. Their nerve is only surpassed by an administration that shouldn’t have created the reports to start. Thus, it’s only right that the same Post decided to publicly humiliate a teacher with no rhyme or reason, possibly for their own shits and giggles.

Disclaimer: Here are five quick reasons why you shouldn’t believe any of it (besides the ones I stated on Thursday.)

Never mind that. You came to see some sort of testimonial on these numbers.

I’m leery about providing too many details on that here. On the way back from getting some Rockports for my teacher-weary feet, I realized something. If these scores have me judged against my peers of similar experience and demographics, I have some news for them: half my peers have already left the profession. Indeed, a third of my peers left by the first couple of years, and exactly half my peers left two years ago. In my seventh year, my peers have started to look for corporate jobs, jobs in third party vendors, or administration. Out of those of us who are left, we probably see our jobs as careers. These is the set of professional teachers that will teach children for the next couple of decades (2030, even).

How can we expect teachers to want to stay in a profession that doesn’t want to respect them or want them to be successful by a fair measure?

Why would you judge me on a fairer measure than a snapshot, knowing full well that only a third of my students have been taken into account for the scores? Why would you get at me so hard after I just started teaching and don’t believe in drilling my students with how to fill in bubbles? Why would you accost me with this after knowing I teach students who have learning disabilities, have special accommodations for learning, speak limited English, and have a myriad of issues I don’t excuse, but can’t control? If you really want your best and passionate teachers in the classrooms where we need them most, why humiliate the only teachers who would jump headfirst into this situations?

While certain people are in the business of education, I’m actually educating. Huge difference.

But people like Steve Perry or any of his acolytes might reprimand me by saying I’m just an adult looking out for my own job rather than educating youth. Sure, we’re speaking to the media, organizing with (and without) our union, developing our own blogs and radio stations, learning about social media, and asking for a contract (NYC teachers are working without one right now). Yet, we’re also about our kids. There is no contradiction there. Since so much of our job entails sacrifice, don’t we deserve the ability to negotiate some terms about our job?

Because that’s what professionals do.

Before the All Star Game started, Richard Branson asked Kobe Bryant about success in the latest installment of the “Kobe System” commercial series. Branson asserts that he had already achieved success at success. He had been underwater, in space, and everywhere in between, to which Kobe said, “You’re welcome.” Perplexed, Branson then asks, “What comes next? What’s after success at success?” Naturally, Kobe explains that there is a success at success at success. Disappointed in himself, Branson then says, “You’re right, I haven’t achieved that.” No matter where teachers are in the spectrum of success, we always want to do our jobs better and find the next level of success. Even if all of our students do well, we want to see if there’s another level where they can repeat that success.

In other words, we’re professionals. We don’t need the Post up our asses trying to find what drives us. I’ve only now begun to succeed.

Mr. Vilson, who can’t wait to get back to class tomorrow, despite myself …


Why The New York Times Is Asking Me To Validate Myself

by Jose Vilson on February 23, 2012

in Jose

Not sure if you’ve heard, but, against their own wishes -ahem-, the NYC Department of Education is releasing their infamous Teacher Data Reports, a set of papers ostensibly compiling a teacher’s student scores on English and Math scores from 3rd to 8th grade to determine their effectiveness, normalizing scores for effects like poverty and growth. For anyone that finds this as absurd as I do, you’ll know that not only is there a huge margin of error on using such a report to determine teacher effectiveness, it’s so narrow and limited that parents probably won’t get much information about the teacher they seek. If anything, it might obfuscate the debates that happen in principal offices and households when kids vouch for their teacher, but adults with no understanding of pedagogy point to the scales and rebuke opponents.

I said it. Twice. Diane Ravitch said it. Bill Gates said it. Yet, they’re being released in papers large and small.

Almost every outlet has salivated at the chance to put these reports out (except for Gotham Schools). At first, I thought we would just see the yellow rags like the New York Post and Daily News post these, as they proliferate the bad teacher framework. I’m sure the other media outlets like the Village Voice or Manhattan Times has some intention to do something with these reports, but by the time they do, the bomb will have already dropped on our industry.

However, the one rag that considers itself the vanguard for objective journalism is the New York Times. While I’ve shared my disappointment with one of their events in the past, I still understood their role in pushing forth the news of the day and the voices they’ve highlighted from Bob Herbert and Charles Blow to the inimitable ones, Stephen Lazar and Arthur Goldstein. I still read the Times a fair amount, and even when I disagree, I also get that they often set the table for certain discussions.

Thus, believe me when I say how disappointed I am in the fact that they’re asking teachers to justify their reports to them. From their website:

With SchoolBook’s partners at WNYC, The Times has developed a sophisticated tool to display the ratings in their proper context, a hallmark of our journalism.

But we want to take that a step further, by inviting any teacher who was rated to provide her or his response or explanation. We are seeking those responses now, so they can be published at the same time as the data reports.

If there were special circumstances that compromise the credibility of the numbers in particular cases, we want to know.

We plan to include those responses alongside the ratings themselves, so readers can consider them together.

No. I don’t want to justify or get validation for whatever the reports say about me. With this huge body of evidence and the growing backlash against such reports, why would any respectable publication diminish their own journalistic credibility by publishing them and systematizing them in their website? I have serious doubts about the validity of doing this insofar as asking teachers to contribute to the further deprofessionalization of teaching.

The logic is simple: if we give in to telling the New York Times about our data reports, then we’re actually responding, and by responding in the manner they’ve chosen, they’re actually telling us to defend ourselves in the court of public opinion.

I get that it’s the New York Times. I also get that the UFT chapter leader Michael Mulgrew encouraged us to give in to the process, probably as a form of protest. I respect that this is an opportunity to talk to the establishments that need our assistance in this matter. However, I just don’t think this is the right way to go about it.

All these intangibles I can’t quite calculate, and all these numbers I’d rather not validate.

Jose, who just won’t accept it …


I have exactly 5 days to prepare my students for the New York State Mathematics Test. 40+ multiple-choice questions, 8 short-response, and 4 extended-response. Cathie Black Dennis Walcott and Co. implicitly put the burner under our butts when they released our Teacher Data Reports a couple of weeks ago for us to peruse and look at the smooth graphics. Fully aware that these reports mean nothing, I can either go into these next 5 days with a kill-and-drill mentality, one I didn’t espouse all year, or get them to remember the more important topics that usually come up on the extended-response questions, and pray for the best. Instead of preparing for these next five days, I thought I’d give a great cheat sheet to all my fellow teachers going through the same struggle I am, and here goes. Here are five things for you to remember in case you’re really nervous about how your students will do on this exam.

5. It’s Not Your Fault

You’re not the only teacher worried. You’ve had 120+ days to teach students by any means necessary all the material you’re possible going to teach them. You think a few more days will somehow make everything click for them? No.

4. It’s Not Your Fault

As I recently researched, these Teacher Data Reports aren’t the end of the world. They’re actually laughable at best, monstrous at worst. They don’t prove your worth as a teacher. Your teaching is. Speaking of which …

3. It’s Not Your Fault

You’ve probably been collecting pieces of evidence showing that 2 hours doesn’t equal a lifetime of learning. All those grids, graphs, and portfolios you’ve been stressing about for the better part of this year? That’s the wave of the future. You’re so ahead of the curve. Fantastic.

2. It’s Not Your Fault

When you see the test, you’re probably going to point at it and say to the test, “Oh man! I knew it!” It’s like when you go out on a date, thinking you should have gone with the maroon sweater instead of the fuschia. If they call you back, great. If they didn’t, then that’s OK, too. At least next time, you’ll wear some black pants to offset your ridiculous sense of wardrobe. And you probably won’t have to wait another year for a date, either.

1. It’s Not Your Fault

What’s on the test tends to fluctuate year-to-year. The kids’ capacity for the material can, too. Frankly, their study habits do. Daily. The economy changes. The environment around them does. Your leadership probably does. The amount of sleep and breakfast they’ve had changes, too. How the state government grades the exam does (and will). Your personal life changes. While it’s great that everyone wants students to succeed on these tests (because I know I do), I know it’s not the end of the world.

Find peace in knowing that we have lots of opportunities to prove your mettle. Just as students need different forms of showing that they’re worth their weight in chalk (or magic marker, or pixels), teachers do too.

And if you didn’t do any of the things I described, then you have lots of cramming to do for the kids. Because as it turns out, it’s probably your fault.

Jose, who has a fancy e-mail button at the bottom of this post, just in case you know someone who needs this now …

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