Sunday, September 06, 2009

Greasing the skids: UFT participation in a teacher evaluation study

Marjorie Stamberg to ICE-Mail listserve:

Any "teacher measurement project" funded by the Gates foundation should start ringing alarm bells. What on earth is the UFT doing participating in this "study," as UFT president Mike Mulgrew just announced?

The UFT's "participation" reminds me of the" time-motion" study guy coming to the factory assembly line, and you're asked to help him out as he measures arm movements and clocks your bathroom breaks so they can use it for speed-up. No way.

What makes an effective teacher? We do not accept the premise that individually evaluating teachers' "techniques" is relevant to improving education. The whole emphasis on "teacher evaluation", tied to students' test scores, is part of the corporatization of American education.

The UFT Teachers Center is an excellent resource that works with teachers to be more effective in the classroom. They do some excellent PD, workshops, cooperative modeling and team-teaching. This is NOT what the Gates foundation study is about.

We need good professional development, and we are committed to teachers' lifelong learning, and use of the most modern technology and methodology in the classrom. But that is very different from what is going on here.

The education "business" aims to "cut costs" in the classroom. Beginning in the 1980s, nationwide the education budget as a percentage of the GNP was sharply reduced. These corporate chiefs wanted to get more bang for their buck. This means attacks on teacher tenure, getting rid of senior teachers to drive salaries down to the level of teaching fellows. It means, not "spending time" in the classroom on enrichment activities, on general topics, reading, discussion that goes anywhere except how to pass standardized tests so kids can be useful for the employers. Now, it means the proliferation of charter schools which by getting rid of union contracts sharply increase teacher time, and regulated salary increases.

How do you "measure" a good science teacher? I've seen superb science teachers teaching high school kids in the Bronx, without a science lab, without the most minimal equipment, standing up on a chair in the hallway and dropping a ball to demonstrate gravity! If you want to measure what makes a good science teacher, how about giving him or her a decent science lab and then comparing the results before and after? If you want to help kids learn, have decent equipment in every high school, smart boards in every classroom, give every student access to computers that don't belong in a junkyards.

Coming from Mike Mulgrew, as with Randi, this offer to "collaborate" on a "teacher measurement" paid survey is typical of how they now operate. Instead of just saying "no", and opposing something outright, they cooperate with it and try to "make the best of a bad situation." Then we're stuck with the bad situation, and they say, "Well, it could have been worse."

The same thing happened when seniority transfers was given up in 2005. Instead of holding on, they traded it for a raise and the result ...... up to 2,000 teachers now in the Absent Teacher Reserve.

The answer is a union leadership that demands massive new investment in school facilities, training, and resources. Can't do it because of the economic crisis? Wrong, this is exactly when they ought to be investing. They find trillions to "rescue" the banks. Right now, a quarter of NYC schools don't have gyms, and 70 percent don't meet state requirements for hours of physical education' Of all schools in the Bronx, 22 percent don't have outdoor physical education activities at all?

Where are the art and music teachers? In the ATR pool or on the unemployment line.

--- On Wed, 9/2/09, Michael Mulgrew - UFT President <> wrote:

From: Michael Mulgrew - UFT President <>
Subject: Seeking volunteers for a teacher evaluation study
Date: Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 12:16 PM

UFT E-mail

Dear Colleagues,

Only an educator can truly understand what we do every day inside of our classrooms to help children, and it has become clear to me that we need to be involved in research that looks at education from an "inside" perspective. With so much debate going on about the future of education, it is imperative that we engage those who want to change our profession but do not truly understand what it takes to educate a child.

Instead of debating people about how they are wrong, I believe it is in this union's best interest to be proactive and find new ways to validate what we know to be true about the complexities of teaching and learning.

With this in mind, I am pleased to announce that the United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education are participating in a two-year research project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We are asking teachers on a voluntary basis to participate in this research, which is being conducted by independent third-party researchers.

We all understand how our work is so very important to the children we serve and we have to show people what effective teaching and learning is all about. The letter below provides further details about the project and teacher eligibility. We hope you will consider participating.


Michael Mulgrew

September 1, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Department of Education (DOE) are looking for volunteers to participate in a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study to help develop fair, accurate, and useful guides to what really makes effective teaching and learning. This two-year research study is premised on the principle that good teaching is multi-dimensional, and that teachers and their schools need consistent and reliable information in order to identify and support good teaching.

Both the United Federation of Teachers and the Department of Education will be collaborating with independent researchers on this project because we all recognize that the work of teachers must be measured in ways that are fair and valid. Nationally, current measures of teaching rarely take into account the full range of what teachers do (no single measure really can), or the context in which they teach. The Measures of Effective Teaching project, on the other hand, begins right in the classroom and will explore a broad array of teacher measures: video observations, surveys, and student growth. It will compare these measures to each other, and to nationally recognized standards, and it will look at their inter-relatedness. It will be informed by actual teacher practice.

In other words, the real work of real teachers in real classrooms will be central to every aspect of this project. That’s why both the UFT and the DOE have looked forward to working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: we want to support student achievement with solid research based on what our teachers do in class.

To that end, together, we are inviting eligible teachers to join us in this project. Participation is completely voluntary, and those teachers who volunteer will be allowing Gates-funded researchers to collect information about their teaching from a broad variety of sources in order to answer two basic questions: what is our common understanding of the teaching and learning process, and how do we measure it consistently? To answer these questions, researchers will video classrooms; collect surveys from participating teachers and students; assess teacher knowledge of content and pedagogy through a brief test; and collect information on student academic growth through specially administered standardized tests. Researchers will look at the videos through the lens of several different sets of nationally recognized teaching standards to see which work best. And, teachers will also provide their own reflections on the lessons that have been videotaped.

As you can see, Gates hopes to capture the full range of what teachers do by gathering multiple sources of information, including information on the context in which the teachers teach. The goal is to use this information to create multiple, reliable measures of good teaching.

And that is important to all of us. We all know that teachers teach best when they know what the standards are for their teaching, have been supported in reaching those standards, and feel assured that no single, snapshot measure will determine the course of their career. If you volunteer, you will be joining us in a project that will help us understand what works when it comes to assessing teachers. We hope this will lead to fairer guides for all of us, and raise the level of achievement in our schools.

To acknowledge their contribution over the course of the two years, teachers will receive a $1,500 stipend. And of course, they will also have access to their own videos as well as student test results.

Finally, let us say clearly at the outset: this is a research project, and it assures full confidentiality to the teachers who volunteer. That means that principals and other DOE employees will not receive copies of your videos, surveys, or assessments. And, teachers will be able to opt out of the program at any time. This project is not about the evaluation of the 1,000 teachers we hope will join us, and it cannot be used by the DOE to evaluate them; rather it is about evaluating the multiple evaluation measures that are used across the country in order to ensure that they are fair, transparent, and consistent. Schools need a better understanding of these measures. To that end, the researchers do hope to share aggregated data with the central DOE and the union, which could prove helpful in supporting teachers.

Schools and teachers will have opportunities to learn more about this study in the coming weeks through borough meetings and other communications. More information, including important details about which schools and teachers are eligible and the requirements of the study, can be found at the DOE Web site.

We hope you will join us in this project; it may turn out to be among the most meaningful projects of your career. And, thank you, as always, for your work on behalf of our students.


Joel I. Klein Michael Mulgrew
Chancellor UFT President
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1 comment:

Mobile-phone-blog said...

I was at a briefing about this plan at the UFT this afternoon and I think this story misses the mark entirely. This project is designed to get away from using test scores in evaluations and instead look at the broader spectrum of what we do in classrooms. That’s the point. Also, the line about teachers being guinea pigs is offensive. We want more people to realize that you cannot evaluate teachers just on test scores.