The Negative Ratings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Rochester teachers just received their “ratings” under a new state-mandated program called APPR (“Annual Professional Performance Review”):

While a small percentage of teachers received the “Ineffective” rating, altogether too many dedicated and excellent teachers were rated as “Developing.” Even some teachers who received a perfect (60 points) or near perfect score for their Professional Practice were dismayed to find out that they were “developing.” […]

Apparently the “Professional Practice” score is one determined by the teacher’s principal. The APPR score is based in part on performance on standardized tests and on other not-so-clear factors:

Michael Occhino was among the teachers rated “developing.” The All City High science teacher has been teaching in the district for 23 years. He is one of only about 60 nationally board-certified teachers in the district. He’s a lead teacher and mentor. Occhino is also a visiting instructor of education at the University of Rochester. He’s now been labeled as needing help and must come up with an individualized improvement plan.

“For me, it is impossible for me to tell how my scores were computed,” Occhino said. “It’s thoroughly opaque. I don’t know how my pre and post tests were utilized.”

Rochester City Schools have terrible outcomes for students as measured by standardized tests and graduation rates. I’m sure a few of the teachers have issues, but they’re teaching students who enter schools with 1/10th the vocabulary of their suburban counterparts. Unfortunately, our political establishment has a long history of falling for blame-the teacher snake oil, so I’m guessing teachers will be subject to fresh, new humiliation as another school year begins.






43 replies
  1. 1
    negative 1 says:

    Obviously this is the fault of the union. What baffles me is that people will say that they like their kid’s teacher, like their kid’s school and then agree with this crap when they read it in the paper.
    Cognitive dissonance is a maddening foe. Perhaps they could teach how to avoid it in school… oh never mind. It’s not on the test.

  2. 2
    Emma says:

    A friend of mine who put in 20 years in Catholic and public schools before going on to her PhD and an university career used to tell me that American education was in general geared towards producing factory workers and consumers, and that the elites would do whatever they needed to do to keep them ignorant and easily manipulated. I accused her of being overly cynical.

    Wherever you are, BK, I apologize.

  3. 3
    Matryoshka says:

    Eventually no one will want to teach any more. There are other ways to make $35,000 a year.

  4. 4
    Belafon says:

    @Matryoshka: Actually, what they count on is that some people want to teach so much that they’ll work for $30K. There has to be a Bible story somewhere about evil people taking advantage of good people. The money changers is close, but not quite what I’m looking for.

  5. 5
    jonas says:

    but they’re teaching students who enter schools with 1/10th the vocabulary of their suburban counterparts.

    More privately-run, non-union charter schools certainly seem to be the solution for this…

  6. 6
    RosiesDad says:

    Great to start my Wednesday with another tale of American exceptionalism.

  7. 7
    gelfling545 says:

    My sister is a certified mentor for a local school district. Last school year she got a call to mentor a teacher & help develop an improvement plan. She spent time in his class, talked with him extensively, reviewed his lesson plans & found …nothing. That is to say nothing that would raise concerns about his teaching or professional development. Naturally we can all improve in some way but that is generally not considered a cause for concern. Her conclusion was that the administration was being pressured to show that a certain # or % of teachers had been referred for mentoring under their district plan since otherwise this was a real waste of resources (including my sister’s time away from her own classroom).

  8. 8
    Suffern ACE says:

    They are grading on the curve and are probably only allowed to have 2-3 teachers per district with the highest rating. What we don’t know is the slot rate. My guess is that if you’re a good smoking buddy with the superintendent of schools, you get a slot.

  9. 9
    kbuttle says:

    What about that woman who turned around the D.C. public schools – you think she could help?

    (ducks)

  10. 10
    blueskies says:

    This type of dysfunctional employee rating goes on everywhere now. IMO, it is intentionally disconnected from reality. If even the best of the best are rated as wanting, it keeps everyone on their toes, right?

    There is a class of administrator that has figured out that the way to personal career advancement is to create these harmful, disruptive evaluation processes, and then “manage” the ensuing chaos.

  11. 11
    rikyrah says:

    teacher ratings are a SCAM

  12. 12
    blueskies says:

    @gelfling545:

    Her conclusion was that the administration was being pressured to show that a certain # or % of teachers had been referred for mentoring under their district plan…

    Exactly. The very low-level administration is being pressured by administrators who have figured out that the way to get raises and promotions is to solve problems. If there are no problems, then they must be created.

  13. 13
    scav says:

    @blueskies: That’s where my mind went too. Constant fear of right-sizing, never getting complimented or officially recognized as competant. Kept anxious, lean and compliant.

  14. 14
    Shakezula says:

    Of course the ratings are driven by unclear and arbitrary factors. Setting clear goals and spelling them out requires competency and no one wants that in a school administrator.

  15. 15
    Gin & Tonic says:

    In every public school system in the country, these issues are discussed and the relevant decisions are made in public meetings. They have to be. How many of you go, ask questions and speak? How many of you can even name the members of your district’s school board? If the public doesn’t speak up, you get what you get.

  16. 16
    lol says:

    @Belafon:

    You see this happening with video game Q&A. Horrible working conditions, low pay, long uncompensated hours, no job security, constant humiliation… and a steady stream of kids coming out of college who want to “play video games for a living” and think this will be a brief stepping stone to a better video game job. Spoiler alert: it won’t be for 99% of the kids doing it.

    I’m sure there are other superficially desirable industries that take advantage of people the same way.

  17. 17
    Feudalism Now! says:

    The APPR fiasco is set up to show public schools as failing. The roll out of new testing standards and Core Curriculum roll out ensure that most teachers, ~80% will need a TIP, Teacher Improvement Plan. Gov. Cuomo has already said we need a ‘death penalty’ for these failing schools, especially the Big 5 city school districts. The answer is obviously cut aid and change standards every other year. If you are found to be in need of improvemnet 2 years in a row, the district can dump you. Great way to cut costs, if you can force early retirement on teachers with 20+ years.

  18. 18
    cvstoner says:

    My father-in-law just retired after 30+ years of teaching because he was just tired of dealing with crap like this. Not a good way to keep your top talent.

    However, the school admin is not really interested in top talent. Like everywhere else, they just want a compliant workforce of interchangeable widgets that they can replace at will.

  19. 19
    Corner Stone says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    In every public school system in the country, these issues are discussed and the relevant decisions are made in public meetings. They have to be. How many of you go, ask questions and speak? How many of you can even name the members of your district’s school board? If the public doesn’t speak up, you get what you get.

    I’m afraid not all ISD’s do it this way. Yes, I regularly attend even when I have no intention of asking a question or introducing myself in any way.
    But most meetings, the overwhelming majority by far, are closed meetings with the board and/or their selected presenter giving info and no Q&A is allowed. You can sign up to speak after the meeting is “over” but they only give five slots for a statement.
    The only remedy is to fully back a candidate running for the board with everything you’ve got. Even then, and especially where I live, it’s not usually enough.

  20. 20
    Scotty says:

    Cuomo isn’t putting together a good ‘education has improved in New York under my governance’ talking point for his presidential run. He’s actually giving plenty of ammunition to his opponents who can point out how inept he is through his own unforced actions and policies.

  21. 21
    Face says:

    My guess is that if you’re a good smoking buddy with the superintendent of schools, you get a slot.

    Perhaps if the teacher “loans” her “slot” to the principal, that may improve her slot a lot.

  22. 22
    👾 Martin says:

    He’s now been labeled as needing help and must come up with an individualized improvement plan.

    Clearly he needs to articulate a strategy for tax cuts and reductions to public services.

  23. 23
    mai naem says:

    But nobody talks about the elephants in the room. Parents and their either willful lack of involvement in their kids’ schooling or whatever other reason(just plain tired after working 3 part time jobs, don’t have the ability to help their kids etc.) Income disparity. Low incomes which has all kinds of consequences. But, hey, I’m sure the cuts in headstart because of the sequester are going to help the situation! Amirite?

  24. 24
    Zifnab says:

    He’s now been labeled as needing help and must come up with an individualized improvement plan.

    Isn’t this the shit the Chinese Communists pulled in order to cow political upstarts and rivals into submission? “Self-criticism”. Tell us what you think you are doing wrong, so we can chastise you for it. And if you can’t find anything wrong, then clearly you are too prideful and should be chastised for it.

    A lose-lose game, if ever there was one.

  25. 25
    Tyro says:

    You see this happening with video game Q&A. Horrible working conditions, low pay, long uncompensated hours, no job security, constant humiliation… and a steady stream of kids coming out of college who want to “play video games for a living” and think this will be a brief stepping stone to a better video game job.

    Working for a gaming company is essentially a luxury good that people pay for in the form of poor salaries and working conditions. And it is not something strictly necessary or important. They could just as easily do software QA for a defense contractor.

    By contrast, there is basically no salary at which I would be willing to be a public school teacher. Teaching has to rely on finding people who actually WANT to teach while at the same time offering salaries and benefits that such people would choose to teach rather than do something else.

    Honestly, I don’t see what value proposition teaching is offering. During the Great Depression, it offered steady work for the college educated, with a pension and a long term job in a world where there were few other alternatives. Nowadays, if you want poor pay, a hostile working environment, and an insecure employment outlook, there are lots and lots of places willing to offer that.

  26. 26
    negative 1 says:

    @Corner Stone: The teachers’ union doesn’t have preferred candidates? Ask a teacher, even if it’s not published anywhere (campaign speech laws) the union is probably telling them who has their back.

  27. 27
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Emma:

    A friend of mine who put in 20 years in Catholic and public schools before going on to her PhD and an university career used to tell me that American education was in general geared towards producing factory workers and consumers, and that the elites would do whatever they needed to do to keep them ignorant and easily manipulated. I accused her of being overly cynical.

    Actually, that is exactly what the objective was at least until the 1960’s when integration upended that apple cart.

    Now, schools enforce class divisions.

    Look at the teaching and discipline styles you see in a low income urban school, then a middle class school, and then a school at, say, Gross Pointe.

    The low income schools use Skinnerian hand signals for silence that the children repeat and obey (the teacher signals with two fingers up and the children all immediately mimic her gesture). Walking outside of class is done in pre arranged line-up order in silence. Lunch time is often enforced silence. Often, there is no library or recess time for play, as all available school time MUST be used for mandated test preparation. Class rooms have minimal decoration. In one particular heart breaking example I read about, the teacher had assigned all children a “manager” position of some sort of responsibility (IE chalkboard eraser manager). When asked about it, she explained that the children are being taught that even after having an arrest and prison record, they can still be a “manager” at some sort of business.

  28. 28
    fuckwit says:

    @blueskies: Cisco did this in the 1990s, may even have started it (or maybe the idea came from Neutron Jack’s GE in the 1980s? I dunno). It was a Thunderdome management style: you were required in your review cycle to promote your top 5% performers and fire your lowest 5% performers. A way of culling the herd, if you will. A zero-sum game. Fucking brutal.

    Now it seems to be everywhere, even public schools. Welcome to Glengary Glen Ross Nation.

  29. 29
    fuckwit says:

    @Tyro: If we had a just society, the best teachers would be getting CEO-level packages, and good teachers would be making executive level salaries. Teachers should be the highest valued people in a civilized society, because they are a “force multiplier”: they manufacture more competent people who then go out and do great things for the society. So one great teacher can help accomplish many many valuale things for society over the course of a career. Society should reward them accordingly.

    My great-grandparents were public school teachers in a little town in Old Europe, and they made what would today be considered executive-level salaries. They had large homes, many servants, were well-dressed, had many luxuries, and were highly regaded in the town.

  30. 30
    Origuy says:

    @fuckwit: Carly Fiorina had the same policy at HP. The managers had to rank the employees and lop off the bottom. I was in a division that had come with the Compaq merger; they’d already gotten rid of the dead wood. Some good people got laid off because everybody couldn’t be at the top.
    Say what you will about Meg Whitman’s politics, she knows better than to do something like that.

  31. 31
    Corner Stone says:

    @Origuy: Enron did the same thing with quarterly “metrics”. Bottom 10% went buh-bye. Lots of people found that invigorating. Mainly the ones it didn’t effect.

  32. 32
    Corner Stone says:

    @negative 1: It’s not enough. I live in wingnutville, TX. Believing in God and that the DoE should choke to death on a dry, leather bone chew toy are what get you elected here. Not *GASP* a union backing.

  33. 33
    Kay says:

    The teacher rating systems will fail. I keep hoping someone will realize that it probably wasn’t wise to outsource education policy to 6 billionaires, but I think we’re going to have waste a boatload of money on it first because media can’t even get the basic facts of public schools right.

    It makes me sad, because I don’t think this is how one develops great people. I don’t pretend to be a wonderful manager, but I have had some success treating the people who work here like human beings.

    I had a teacher in to testify in court this morning. A young man, first grade teacher. Really bright, really knew this kid he had last year, and just someone who should be a teacher. I would want him for my kid.

    I have no idea what his “rating” is, nor do I care. If he’s treated poorly he won’t stay, and that would be a tragedy.

    Oh, well. It’s just first graders. Maybe Bill Gates will have another innovative cage-busting idea that will supplant this horrible idea in a coupla weeks. I hear the Walton heirs, Campbell Brown and Oprah Winfrey are education experts too. Bring them in! Let’s experiment on some more first graders.

  34. 34
    Kay says:

    You know the worst part? They won’t use the numbers even if they get them.
    This is Bob Somerby on how the NYTimes can’t read test scores.
    Read them yourself! We collect them, and have been collecting them for decades. It doesn’t really matter, because no one in media reads them.
    There are now two people, two individuals, in media who can read test scores. Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum. That’s it. The rest focus exclusively on collecting them, not reading them.

  35. 35
    Kay says:

    “For me, it is impossible for me to tell how my scores were computed,” Occhino said. “It’s thoroughly opaque. I don’t know how my pre and post tests were utilized.”

    Oh, just can it, peon. You’re supposed to teach critical thinking, not use it yourself. When we want the opinions of non-billionaires, we’ll ask.

  36. 36
    YellowJournalism says:

    Ratings like “developing” are an easy way for administrators to keep teachers in a neutral, limbo-like category so the blame can be placed on the teacher if they “fail” and the administrator can take credit if the teacher “improves” and “succeeds.”

  37. 37
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Scotty: He’s great on gay marriage, you’ve got to give him that. And if he runs for president places like DKos will embrace him with open arms…

  38. 38
    James E. Powell says:

    @Matryoshka:

    Eventually no one will want to teach any more. There are other ways to make $35,000 a year.

    Really? Can you direct me toward some of those other ways? I am 58 years old and I am running out of ideas.

  39. 39
    James E. Powell says:

    @Scotty:

    One doesn’t need to improve the academic lives of students to get a positive check mark for education on one’s candidate resume. It’s a bit like the budget/entitlements check mark: you don’t do it for the people, you do it for the donors.

    Arne Duncan didn’t make Chicago schools any better, but look where he is. Antonio Villarraigosa did nothing for students with his program for LAUSD schools, but he still gets props for it from the people who matter: the corporate press/media and big money donors.

    A candidate for national office needs to show that he or she is “tough” and all about “accountability.” That means anti-teachers’ unions, pro-corporate charters. The totebaggers – many of whom did not got to public school and do not send their children to public schools – totally believe the Waiting For Superman & Won’t Back Down arguments. They do not, by the way, support anything like more money for schools attended by other peoples’ children.

  40. 40
    Mnemosyne says:

    @James E. Powell:

    Speaking of programs that actually work, did you see this LA Times article over the weekend about USC’s scholarship program for neighborhood kids?

    http://www.latimes.com/local/l.....full.story

  41. 41
    Logan says:

    I was forced to resign after transferring closer to home last year. I regularly received proficient/outstanding ratings at my prior school, but found myself saddled with no classroom, 4 preps, and a school which was out of control. The Assistant Principal was pissed because no one would fill out her detailed lesson plans on line because there was NO TIME to do them so two of us “new” teachers became her projects. She also insisted that in a high school history class you should do notes for no more than 20 minutes in a block class (84 minutes) including for AP when she knew the students never studied a lick at home (school was 60-75% free and reduced lunch).

    Next thing I know I’m getting dinged for not returning work back quickly enough and marked as “developing” in content knowledge for a class I’ve taught for 6 straight years and have received AP training in because she didn’t have proof in a unit plan that I knew my subject matter (yet the biology teacher transferred with 0 grades for the entire 2nd quarter for her classes but I am @#$%$&! developing).

    Currently going to substitute in private schools, but now I have these hr firms telling me that after 15 years in education I’m not qualified to teach/train adults because I’ve never worked with them. And people wonder why I’m constantly pissed off…

  42. 42
    joan grim says:

    @blueskies: The teacher rating scales are a form of Microsoft’s stacked ranking system.
    http://www.vanityfair.com/onli.....ve-ballmer

    They are designed for teacher, student & school failure thanks to Wall St’s favorite privatization tool Arne Duncan.

  43. 43
    e.a.f. says:

    Might I suggest the problem isn’t the teachers but rather the principle who is doing the rating. What exactly does he/she know about teaching. Principles are administrators and usually are far removed from the class room.

    $35K for a teacher, you’ve got to be kidding? In B.C., Canada teachers on average, after a few years of teaching make about $70K per yr and are the second lowest paid in Canada. In B.C., Canada, the secretaries and maintenace people make more than $35K. If the U.S.A. has problems with teachers perhaps they might start paying them more. They might also want to look at who the principles are. Like do they have a Masters in Education, as a min.? Problably not.

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