This morning, when they return to work after vacation, teachers at more than twenty New York City public schools will face a gauntlet of reporters asking them about the Teacher Data Reports that were published during their winter vacation. Some will be singled out for personal humiliation, others will be asked to comment on their colleague’s abilities. What began as effort to quantify teacher performance has ended up as a spectacle of public humiliation of individual teachers unparalleled in the City’s history, the moral equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials or the purge of Hollywood Communists, with all the power and ruthlessness of commercial media unleashed. Some of the city’s best teachers – whom this ridiculous system assigned low scores- are going to be treated as though they were politicians caught frequenting Hookers or baseball stars caught using steroids, all in front of the children they teach
Although none of the people who developed this pernicious rating system, from Columbia Law Professor Jim Leibman who served as Department of Education “Accountability Officer when it was created to then Chancellor Joel Klein would say that this is what they had in mind, it is exactly what critics of the system WARNED would happened when It was first introduced. But neither Leibman or Klein, who are both lawyers, took those criticism seriously because, like many people driving education reform in the US today, they had become expert at blocking out the voices of teachers and principals “on the ground,” whom they regarded as too self-interested to be trusted with needed reforms.
Now they will reap the whirlwind- an atmosphere of public hysteria surrounding teacher performance- based a rating system so flawed it is an embarrassment to anyone who can understand it[ that will damage teacher morale for years and ratchet up tensions between teachers and parents, teachers and students, and between teachers, principals and the Department of Education leadership.
What makes this spectacle all the more appalling is that it was endorsed by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan- another expert at blocking out educator voices- who publicly supported publication of the Teacher Data in a statement to the press. To put the matter bluntly, Teacher Bashing has now become official national policy
What we have here is not only the Shame of a City, it is the Shame of a Nation
Anyone who thinks this will help improve the quality of schools for America’s children, especially those living in poverty, or on the edge of poverty, is densely ignorant of History as well as of Teaching and Learning