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Op-ed: Denounce Publication Of Teacher Evaluations

A former educator with 34 years of experience, Bayside Hills resident Michael Feiner decries the release of controversial teacher rankings.

Dear Community, 

The NYC public to be denounced in no uncertain terms.

Based on what we know to be and reporting of this data, on that list there could be absolutely fantastic teachers with mediocre scores, decent teachers with astronomical scores, and thinking along those lines, quite possibly some poor teachers with good or great scores. Evaluations require more variables before anybody can accurately rate and publish teacher quality.        

I was a New York City teacher for thirty-four years. For most of those years, I worked in an exceptional school consisting of a hard working, talented faculty. In more recent years, discord came from an outside source such as the Quality Review, a two- or three-day school visit by so called experienced educators, to each New York City school.

During the review, the external evaluators visit classrooms, talk with school leaders, and use a rubric to evaluate how well the school is organized to educate its students without really being able to grasp the entire picture. Before you know it, everybody is on pins and needles, while administrators and faculty members alike find themselves under considerable undue stress and strain.

As if we needed something else to undermine these dedicated professionals, now, because of these current erroneous and improperly revealed teacher grades, low school morale in many cases is going to be off the charts. I’m sure we all agree that low morale cannot result in effective teaching.        

Getting back to these published evaluations, using sports as an analogy, can you imagine due to some poorly thought out rationale, Eli Manning being relegated to where average quarterbacks are listed, while Mark Sanchez is considered among the best? If that has to be the case, how about rating overweight Babe Ruth as an average baseball player.

Sounds crazy, right? This is no crazier than a teacher getting a poor evaluation when she/he teaches underachievers, while another teacher with, say, a 99% score has a class consisting of brilliant students.      

As a retiree, I am no longer on my high horse complaining about the problems surrounding our New York City Department of Education. I always felt that if the DOE would concentrate on hiring great administrators, they would in turn staff their schools with great educators. After that, the system should just leave everybody alone and let them teach. I worked at a school in which for the most part, my principals were able to maintain a great school, basically because they had the ability to acquire talented faculty members in spite of numerous constraints they had to deal with.        

Nevertheless, these public evaluations have left me astounded, so much so that I requested our Bayside Hills City Council members, Dan Halloran, and Mark Weprin to denounce these inaccuracies most vociferously. Unfortunately, the protests of the United Federation of Teacher’s President Michael Mulgrew thus far have apparently not been taken into consideration sufficiently, and rather, for example, appear toward the end of the New York Post article that I have read.        

Hopefully, if teachers are to be evaluated, there has to be a more sensible plan. Obviously we all agree that bad teachers must be removed, but this may be one of the most inappropriate ideas in education history. These evaluations and the manner in which they were revealed are totally deplorable.        

Come on education officials, you can come up with something better!

Michael Feiner, Bayside Hills Civic Association President 

cmjake February 27, 2012 at 11:33 PM
The teachers know the data is flawed. The administrators know the data is flawed. The DOE knows the data is flawed. Bloomberg knows the data is flawed. Parents need to be educated on this and then they will know the data is flawed. The media doesn't care as long as it sells papers and air-time. A sad day for teachers and students and our city.
Neal Madnick February 28, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Are there bad teachers in the system? Yes. Is that THE problem afflicting public education? No. Poorly trained Administrators is a much bigger problem which gets little to no attention. Leadership matters, and scapegoating teachers will solve a very complex problem whose root cause is poverty. Finland boasts the best educational system in the world. It is not a coincidence that they also have a 3% child poverty rate, while ours is over 20%. But focusing on the real problem would require caring about that issue and then taking on the very difficult job and enormous resources required to alleviate those societal problems. Better to offer a simple-minded "silver bullet" magic solution of ridding the system of "bad teachers". This will solve the ills of our educational system as much as much as ridding Germany of their problem in the 1930's: the Jews. But bashing teachers sells, so roll out a ridiculously flawed evaluation system to make the public believe you are really addressing the problem. Try recruiting talented individuals into the teaching ranks in the future when you eliminate their pensions, and regularly fire many for specious and capricious reasons. You think public education is bad now? Wait ten years.
cmjake February 28, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Well put! Finland does not have standardized tests and when a test is given only the teacher sees the results. Everyone wants to be a teacher. They are respected. The goal of education is to be educated. They get the same amount of money as we do per child. No child advances in a subject until everyone gets it. Teachers are not micro-managed.

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