Today’s NYTimes had an article with this headline:
New York City Teachers Score Highly Under New Evaluation System
The lead paragraph trumpeted the good news:
Nine out of 10 New York City teachers received one of the top two rankings in the first year of a new evaluation system that was hailed as a better way of assessing how they perform, according to figures released on Tuesday.
This came on top of recent reports that only .4% of the teachers in the state were rated “ineffective”. One would think that politicians, education leaders, and parents would be thrilled with this finding… but instead here are the responses:
“Two percent (of the teachers receiving “ineffective” ratings in NYC) is worrisome,” Sandi Jacobs, the vice president and managing director for state policy at the National Council on Teacher Quality, said of the number of teachers found to be “developing” in the rest of the state. The council has pushed for states to do a better job of identifying ineffective teachers.
Timothy Daly, the president of theNew Teacher Project, an education reform group that advocates more rigorous teacher evaluations, said, “Many districts appear to have completely botched this.”
The New York State education commissioner, John B. King Jr., said in a statement: “I’m concerned that in some districts, there’s a tendency to blanket everyone with the same rating. That defeats the purpose of the observations and the evaluations, and we have to work to fix that.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he wants to strengthen the evaluation system. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, said, “As the governor previously stated, stronger, more competitive, teacher evaluation standards will be a priority” for the next legislative session.
The “reformers” could “prove” students were failing by rigging the cut scores and will subsequently be able to use the cut scores to “prove” reforms work. But when it came to teacher evaluations, the only conclusion the “reformers” seem to reach is that the independent evaluators MUST BE WRONG because WE KNOW THAT BAD TEACHING IS THE REASON STUDENTS FAIL TESTS! And we will continue pounding that message home and massaging the evaluation system until we can prove it! To paraphrase the t-shirt slogan: “Evaluation “reform” will continue until we prove teachers are failing”…
Truthdig reported today on the practice of “sweeps contracts” whereby a NON-profit charter school is paid a flat fee for providing services and then ostensibly sub-contracts all it’s work to a FOR profit organization who’s detailed report is exempt from review by auditors. This funding mechanism is allowed in most States and has led to some charter chains making huge profits at the expense of taxpayers.
I can see now that the distinction I’ve made in this blog between for-profit charters and non-profit charters is insufficient because some “non-profit” charters are in effect fronts for for-profit organizations and, based on this report, those “non-profit” front organizations are intentionally opaque in their financial accounting and intentionally anti-democratic in their operations.
As a superintendent for 29 years I encouraged boards to consider outsourcing non-instructional functions. Whenever school boards outsource a function (like payroll, transportation, maintenance, cleaning, food services, etc) they lose direct control of that function. In exchange, however, they got lower costs for these functions which frees up more funds for the classroom. More importantly school boards no longer had to debate business functions, busses, buildings, and lunch from their agenda giving them more time to focus on instruction. Principals, too, liked the freedom from overseeing bus drivers, food service staff, and custodial staff. While not all outsourcing was advisable– custodial services and payroll provide to be especially problematic— when it worked will it accomplished the goals outlined above.
What’s happening today is different from the selective outsourcing I recommended. As the article indicated, when a school board outsources an entire school it is effectively abrogating its oversight responsibility for the children in that school and abrogating its responsibility to taxpayers to ensure their money is being wisely spent. For some elected school boards, that may be seen as a feature and not a bug: they may be willing to trade savings to taxpayers for loss of control and loss of oversight for the quality of the school… and when the quality of the school is reduced to a test score the savings are MUCH easier to achieve.