Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Professional Conscience and the Quest for Data Consistency

Dear Colleagues:

Recently the principal sent us the following things to be mindful of:
- What are you best at?
- What are you deeply passionate about?
- What can you do better than anyone else in your department / in the school?
Additionally, make sure that your students can answer the following questions:
- What am I learning in class today?
- Is this information important?
- How so?

Good things to think about anytime; even with no quality review forthcoming. 

We also got our class grade passing rates and Regents passing rates by department and individual teacher. A local version of teacher data reports; a first for our school. If you feel "outed", don't. Because you are granting too much to such raw data.

As we can see numbers are all over the place. It's what I would expect from teachers exercising professional judgement, teaching different subjects to a diverse student population and different times of the day. 

What kinds of conclusions can we reach from such raw data? Not much that I can see. If the administration wants to see more uniformity across the board in scholarship and consistency between class grades and Regents passing, then you can expect more teaching to the test. 

If you are like me, you teach what you do because it's worth knowing, whether it's about supply and demand or civil disobedience. Why is this information important? Like everything I teach, "It's worth knowing", Because "Knowledge is power." Because, "The un-examined life is not worth living." These are the things I am 'deeply passionate about'

The problem arises then if we teach to the test in the quest of data consistency the answers become:

- What am I learning in class today? (whatever)
- Is this information important? Yes,
- How so? Because it will be on the Regents.

This produces an impoverished intellectual culture in the school. It's why I could never be an administrator in this system. I cannot administer a system that runs counter to my sense of professional ethics and purpose. I will continue to resist, to mitigate the damage on our students who have already been severely disabled by this pseudo system of accountability based on standardized test scores, social promotion and, with the new teacher evaluation system- the junk science of value added modeling.

I look forward to your sharing of what you can interpret by this data shared with us by the principal. 

In solidarity,


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