Petition Closed
Petitioning NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi and 2 others

Stop the Public Shaming and Unjust Firing of Teachers


Teachers need to be evaluated, but not publicly shamed and unjustly fired.

The Teacher’s Union is about to agree to a provision that will allow data derived from the value-added modeling (VAM) of test scores to account essentially for 100% of a teacher’s evaluation. They are also about to agree to a provision that will allow this extremely dubious data to be used in the public shaming and humiliation of teachers.

Here’s what you need to know— 

VAM data that will be used to evaluate teachers are so unstable that the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has warned that they cannot be considered fair or reliable enough to make operational decisions about teachers.

The Union says the VAM data will account for 20%-40% of a teacher’s evaluation, but it can actually account for 100%. Although the evaluations will comprise 40% local and state test data (student performance) and 60% classroom observation and community feedback, there is a provision of the agreement that is cause for the utmost alarm— “Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.” This means that no matter how excellent a teacher has performed on their observations – or how highly they have been rated by parents and students – if they have not raised test scores they will be rated ineffective overall.

What it really means is that the 40% of evaluations will count for 100% of evaluations, and after two years of ineffective ratings, a teacher will be fired.

And as long as VAM data exist, they will be used as a tool for the public shaming and humiliation of teachers in New York State. Just this past week, the New York Post, New York Times and countless other organizations published highly flawed Teacher Data Reports derived from value-added modeling. The precedent has now been set. Under the Freedom of Information Act and current New York State law, as long as teachers’ VAM data exist, they may be published nationally, in newspapers and other media.

Teachers must be evaluated, but this is not the way. If you agree that teachers should not be subject to dismissal at the hands of highly flawed data, and that they should not be subject to further shaming and public humiliation – take action now and sign our letter! We will be sending it to the heads of the UFT, NYSUT, and AFT to let them know we demand better, and they must demand better for us!

 

Letter to
NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi
AFT President Randi Weingarten
UFT President Michael Mulgrew
I just signed the following petition addressed to: Michael Mulgrew (UFT President), Randi Weingarten (AFT President), and Richard Iannuzzi (NYSUT President).

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We, as educators, believe that a fair and comprehensive evaluation system that employs multiple measures is of vital importance to the teaching profession. Teachers must strive to employ the best and most effective strategies in their classrooms. A thorough and comprehensive evaluation system which can help teachers identify areas for growth and give them the means to achieve improvement is paramount in achieving such an end. The evaluation system that is currently being agreed to by the Teacher’s Union – and might soon be put into place in New York State – does not represent such a system. With its emphasis on unreliable value-added measures and its potential promotion of the public shaming and unfair dismissal of teachers – it represents quite the opposite. This is a punitive and possibly destructive system with the potential to cause great harm to both the lives of teachers and the profession of teaching itself.

As has been communicated by the Union, the evaluation system will be comprised as follows: 40% local and state evaluations (student performance); 60% classroom observation by principals, independent evaluators, and peers, plus feedback from students and parents. While it is our understanding that the exact composition and makeup within each section is still being negotiated, there stands one provision of the agreement that is cause for the utmost alarm—

“Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.”

This means that no matter how excellent a teacher has performed on their observations – or how highly they have been rated by parents and students – if they have not raised test scores they will be rated ineffective overall.

What it really means is that the 40% of evaluations will count for 100% of evaluations.

And after two years of ineffective ratings, a teacher will be fired.

Such a proposition is unacceptable. It has the potential, in effect, to base 100% of a teacher's rating on value-added measures, which are unstable and unreliable. The Union has tried to frame this as a good thing for teachers. According to the Union, 13% of teachers will be able to appeal their ratings. The Union also states that the Chancellor may review the ratings of teachers who are rated as ineffective. Neither these – nor any other provisions – can make such an agreement okay.

Even if local districts agree to have the value-added measures comprise only 20% of a teacher's evaluation, they will still represent a destructive force in teacher evaluations.

“Value-added” or VAM (value-added modeling) data, as this is called, sounds great in theory… we all want our teachers to “add value” to our students’ education. But the research shows that VAM data are simply too unreliable to be used to make such critical decisions about teachers. In fact, value-added data, which will be used to evaluate teachers, are so unstable that the Board on Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has warned that they cannot be considered fair or reliable enough to make operational decisions about teachers. Any measures that are so demonstrably erratic and unreliable should not be given the ability to override all other aspects of an evaluation and, in essence, count for 100% of a teacher's rating.

In addition to all of this, VAM data are a tool that can be used in the public shaming of teachers. New York City has just released the Teacher Data Reports – a type of VAM data – to news media outlets as per the Freedom of Information Act. Over the course of the past week, teachers have been subject to an invasion of privacy and public ridicule not seen or experienced in any other profession, as no other profession is subject to having personal employee evaluations published with names attached to them. Countless stories have run in the papers and on air that employ these unreliable data sets to pass judgment about entire schools and entire careers. The margins of error are not being looked at and teachers are being reduced to a number… their authority and dignity as both professionals and individuals thus undermined. Unfortunately, this sets a precedent, and under current New York State law, the use of value-added measures comprising any percent of teacher evaluations - even 20% – makes them eligible for publication. This is a sea change in the teaching profession, with possible ramifications that are far reaching. People with options will leave the profession. Bright and enthusiastic college students – the kind people mention when they discuss who they would like to see entering the profession - will turn elsewhere rather than subject themselves to this. And those within the profession will see it denigrated as they are left to the whim of unreliable measures. One year they may be rated effective, the next they may be rated ineffective... solely due to a value-added measure that has fallen down within its margin of error and moved them to a point where they are unable to be rated anything but ineffective – no matter how great the other 60% or 80%… because the Union has agreed that:

“Teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.”

They might as well flip a coin.

And the future of education in America cannot – and must not – be a coin toss.

Nor can people's lives. Or careers.

Teachers must be evaluated, and they must be supported so that they can grow. It is vital that they continually work to meet high standards, improve the lives of their students and improve their own work as professionals. We believe that they should be held accountable to this end. However, the use of value-added measures must be opposed. Teacher evaluations must not be published. No other profession has its evaluations published publicly. So long as value-added measures are used, the precedent has been set and they will be published. This cannot continue to pass.

And, most importantly, 20-40% of an evaluation must not equal 100%. It cannot be agreed to that: “teachers rated ineffective on student performance based on objective assessments must be rated ineffective overall.” Such a proposition must be fought – it must be fought fervently, with devotion and intensity as yet unseen.

Teachers are professionals. Among the most dedicated, passionate and hard working there are. Whatever evaluation system is put in place will set a precedent and be looked to as a model by both policymakers and the country as a whole – affecting teachers’ lives, and the lives of those they touch – in New York State and nationwide. That is why you must fight this as if the entire profession depends on it.

Because it does.


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Sincerely,