There’s a chance for learning in the NYC teacher scores

As a journalist, I would have published the scores.
The argument isn’t whether or not the New York Times should have published NYC teacher evaluation scores.
They are a newspaper. The scores are news. Their job is to publish them. They publish the news.
If they’d sat on the scores, if they’d held them internally, if they’d published pieces of them or only profiled certain teachers, they would have been compromising and editorializing.
The coverage of the scores has certainly had an editorializing effect on how the scores are consumed. As José pointed out the other day, the person telling the story affects the narrative.
Now they’re out there, and a conversation has been stoked around the use, intent, validity of the scores.
As it should be.
As a teacher, I abhor the scores.
These scores (and value-added measures in general) are imperfect, imprecise, skewed, and dangerous tools. Let’s make that argument. Let’s make that argument better and more profoundly than those who stand by the scores.
If ever the teaching profession was faced with a teachable moment, this is it. Isn’t this what we do? We make complex issues accessible to those standing on unfamiliar ground and help them come to deep understanding. If we’re right (and we are) the truth of the argument against the scores will become apparent through education.
Yes, resent that time, money, energy must be spent on this. Detest, the scores the same way you detest poor grammar, ignorance of culture and history, or imperfect proofs. Then, find a way to teach toward understanding.
This is one of those few moments in the teaching profession’s wheel house. Let’s not miss it by admiring another problem so long that we forget to teach through it.
Teachers are better than that.
This is where unions can take the lead.
It is time for the AFT and NEA to hike up their big-kid pants and lead their membership not through dues or rallies, but through teaching.
I mean this in two ways. First, teachers are historically challenged when it comes to telling their stories. There’s every reason to believe this inability is only going to be exacerbated when faced with an issue as emotionally charged and personal as the NY scores. If teachers are going to respond and educate, they’re going to need guidance. Every union head in every school across the country should be leading trainings in how to create talking points and craft effective editorials. If there is a conversation to be had about how we measure teachers, let teachers lead it and educate teachers in how best to have those conversations.
Second, after these PR primers, help teachers organize forums and community meetings to build understanding of the scores and all their imperfections. Use the presence of the NYC conversation to move preemptively against other imperfect and unfair measures of teachers. These should have been the moves the moment the courts allowed the publishing of the scores. There’s still time to make this a thoughtful, productive conversation. All it will take is all it has ever taken – teaching.

Thanks to Paul and José for helping me figure out my thinking on this one.


One thought on “There’s a chance for learning in the NYC teacher scores

  1. My name is Lindsey Edwards and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed reading your post and it gave me a lot of insight into the issue of the scoring of NY teachers. You are right if teachers want to see a change made they need to research and produce a better process for scoring and then teach it to those who produce them. The teachers need to have a forum to discuss and understand there scores and the things that need to be worked on and addressed. Instead of complaining about the process they need to take charge and fix it, then utilize it to help them become more successful educators. Thanks so much for your great post! I will be summarizing some of your posts on my class blog [] on April 1, 2012. 

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