Updated: My Blood, My Sweat, My Test Scores

After two years of court battles, it seems that the release of NYC Teacher Data Reports will happen any moment now.  For the life of me, I cannot understand the journalistic justification of publishing individual teachers’ results.  I would like to applaud Gotham School schools for choosing not to do so, and express my disappointment that the New York Times seems prepared to. I would further ask the Times why they are choosing to publish teacher’s scores when they have not published principal’s ratings in the past. I do not expect integrity from the Daily News or the Post.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on an advisory board for Gotham Schools, though was not consulted on this decision.  I also write for the Time’s Schoolbook site.)

I wrote the following piece over a year ago when the DOE first announced they would share the results, and stand by it today.  I would be willing to update results, but I do not have access to my students scores from 2011 (I believe about 60% of my students passed the Global exam. This was extremely disappointing to me, though the results can partially be explained by having to teach the two year Global curriculum in one year).  This past semester, I worked with seniors who had failed one or both of the history exams.  Of the twelve students I worked with on US History, six passed; for Global History, eight out of eight passed.

From October 20, 2010:

As you might know, this week the NYC DOE said it would release 12,000 teachers’ names and their students’ test scores on State ELA and math tests in grades 3-8. I teach high school, so I am not directly affected, but here are my students’ Regents test scores from my four years teaching in NYC, anyway. I put them out there in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who are about to be put under the microscope.

You can have the scores, just please remember they are almost meaningless. They tell you about 5% of what I do. Here’s what they don’t tell you:

  • They don’t tell you that last year I taught 100% of our juniors who are special education students and/or English Language Learners, even though I only taught 50% of our juniors. They also don’t tell you I requested these most challenging students.
  • They don’t tell you that last year I taught our 15 seniors most in danger of not graduating for two periods. In that time, I prepped them for English, Global, and US Regents, as well as helping them earn credits in a wide variety of areas.
  • They don’t tell you that I spent six weeks in the middle of the year teaching my students how to do college-level research. I estimate this costs my students an average of 5-10 points on the Regents.
  • They don’t tell you that when you ask my students who are now in college why they are succeeding when most of their urban public school peers are dropping out, they name that research project as one of their top three reasons nearly every time.
  • They don’t tell you which of my students had a home and a healthy meal the night before the test.
  • They don’t tell you that 20% of our seniors come to me every year for letters of recommendation because they feel they did their best work in my class.
  • They don’t tell you that my students went through a two-week-long veiled simulation of the Constitutional Convention, writing one that might be better than America’s.
  • They don’t tell you about the phone call I got from a student at 3am because he was kicked out of his home and had nowhere to go.
  • They don’t tell you about my work as an adviser.
  • They don’t tell you what I really want my students to learn.
  • They don’t tell you that I create a classroom where students who were on their way to Williams, Trinity, and Lafayette share tables with students who read at a second grade level, and that they all learn something daily.
  • They don’t tell you about the other teachers I coach or the department and grade teams I’ve led.
  • They don’t tell you if my students know anything about Native Americans or Latinos, since there are almost never questions on those two groups on the Regents.
  • They don’t tell you that my principal told me my first year not to worry about the Regents until the last month of the year. We learned that lesson together quickly.
  • They don’t tell you that I give some of my best students independent projects to challenge them through reading college-level texts – which means that they don’t “cover” as much material as is necessary for the test.
  • They don’t tell you if it was a good test or a bad test.
  • They don’t tell you whether I taught my students to write.
  • They don’t tell you whether I taught my students to think.

So as long as you keep that in mind, go ahead, take a look, and tell me what these scores tell you. But know that they tell me almost nothing of importance about what I need to know to do my job.

15 thoughts on “Updated: My Blood, My Sweat, My Test Scores

  1. Last year, after we did a mock Global Regents for the whole 10th grade, we looked at our results. The teacher who had the honors class found that almost all of her students passed. The teacher who taught the CTT class had more failures than passes. And the teacher who taught to the great middle had about half and half, or maybe 60%, pass. Not sure what more to add . . .

  2. Thank you for these inspiring words. Even though I just started as a student TEFL, I am already being sucked into fierce discussions (also with myself) about how to bridge the gap between government’s expectations and policy on one hand and every-day reality in the classroom and teachers’ dedication to their vocation on the other. Your list helps me to remember why I started this course in the first place! So, thank you for that.

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  5. You offer us all a vision of truly inclusive teaching. You remind us that what we can count aren’t usually the things that matter. This is an amazing piece. Thank you so much for your work. (BTW: what did you tell the student who called you at 3 a.m. with no where to go??????)

    • Thank you, Celia (and everyone else) for the kind and supportive words. As for the student, I invited him to my place, which he declined. I then helped him get in touch with another student who lived nearby, where he spent the night.

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  8. why don’t you buy your students a healthy breakfast and lunch everyday? that’s what we do at our school. it definitely works.

    • Breakfast and lunch are available to students at NYC schools. Many students refuse to eat the food, or miss breakfast because they come late. School Food is part of the central NYC DOE bureaucracy and schools don’t have control over it here.

  9. I’m a substitute teacher, so that means I usually see all those things on campus at their worst!

    However, the idea that teachers are so victimized by evaluations, and nobody else does ….. is just junk!

    At EVERY JOB, you are judged by things that are affected by outside circumstances!

    In retail (which I have worked in), you are judged by how well you reached sales goals EVEN IF

    - not many customers coming in because there’s a big game or event going on
    - not many customers coming in because a president in town, holding up traffic
    - you might’ve had some family issue that is a big distraction in your mind
    - you are assigned to a section selling stuff that you weren’t trained to sell
    - etc, etc.

    Same is true about coaches and athletes! WE ALL KNOW their win/lost records and other stats, even though those things NEVER TELL THE WHOLE STORY

    like
    -you had an illness the week of the big game
    - you had a brutal injury
    - your teammates skills and attitudes are not up to par
    - etc, etc.

    The point is EVERY JOB comes with evaluations based on factors that you can’t totally control!

    • Pablo,

      Can you show me the link or publication where the performance numbers for your retail job are published?

    • Of course every job comes with evaluations. I think you missed the point of the article, though. The point is that test scores are only a very narrow part of what teachers do, and should therefore only form a narrow part of teacher evaluation. Anyone who thinks that how students did on ONE test on ONE day determines the ENTIRETY of a student’s or teacher’s value is completely misguided.

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