Teachers' Value

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shael Polakow-Suransky, chief academic officer of the New York City Department of Education, talks about the recent release of Teacher Data Reports and how to calculate "value-added" for teachers.


Shael Polakow-Suransky

Comments [30]

Jason from Manhattan

I'm sorry to see that WNYC teemed up with the NYT to chase down and then release teacher names with these misleading teacher evaluation scores. All the ways in which this is a bad set of decisions should be obvious: the scores are based on the students' tests, not the teachers; charter school exemption politicizes the process and displays the hidden agendas of the forces behind it; the scoring system is grossly misleading in its use of old data and lack of accountability for its impact. I give to WNYC, subscribe to the NYT, but now have to question both.

Feb. 29 2012 09:09 PM
Steve Rudin from Nassau County, LI.

Ever since I started teaching, in September of 1969, the topic has been how do we fix the schools. Let your mind go back to a different time. A time when the thinking was that schools were too regimented. They were turning children into mindless drones, who could "regurgitate" memorized facts but couldn't think for themselves. They were producing people who would someday mindlessly go off to work for the military-industrial complex. How do we get children to think for themselves before it's too late, was the identified problem in those days. The answer: Anyone, besides me, remember open classrooms? In these classrooms of the future, we were told by highly paid consultants, children would be free to pick and choose what they wanted to learn. In one corner of the room there might be children huddled over a Calculus textbook, while in another corner there could be children building a jet engine. The teacher, once the master of his or her little classroom, was re-branded "a facilitator" whose job was merely to assist children. Times have surely changed, but this new wave of reforms will someday seem as quaint, and naive, as what I have described, with some exaggeration, above. I am happily retired now, so I can just listen to broadcasts like this show with amusement.

Feb. 28 2012 11:20 PM
my child is NOT a test score from Brooklyn

Is the DOE willing to be "transparent when things are not happening" on their end? How transparent is the process of using test scores to bust the union, close schools and colocate charter schools??

Feb. 28 2012 02:37 PM

@Amy from Manhattan, I totally agree with you. The elementary school teachers are the weakest link in the system.

Feb. 28 2012 01:09 PM
Elizabeth in Brooklyn from Brooklyn

Listening to Shael Polakow-Suransky praise the teachers you would never know he works for Bloomberg, more or less. I actually believe Polakow-Suransky is trying to do get this right. But those efforts of repeatedly undermined by Bloomberg's rhetoric focusing on how bad teachers are.

Feb. 28 2012 12:07 PM
Patricia from Chelsea

As a parent of a child that has just graduated from one on NYC's more desirable Middle schools I am not all surprised to read the results of the Data Report. The report is exactly on target with my experience, and the experience of many other parents of children in classes of "below average" teachers. The point that I tried to make to the principal again and again is that the below average teachers not only didn't teach, but had personal behavioral problems that manifested themselves in the classroom. The below average teachers that I see on our school's list were not suited for child care, never mind teaching. I was assured that although our principal did not respond to most parent's complaints about the damaging teacher she was more than aware of the teaching problems when she transferred her friend's child out of several of the offending teacher's classroom's to the classrooms of the desired teachers.

I question the value in the "data." Will it hold the administration any more accountable to the responsibility of educating our children? Or is it political leverage that in the long run will have no effect on the management of our education system?

Feb. 28 2012 12:04 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I know someone who became a teacher through Teach for America & recently decided to quit. He said the trigger (not the only factor) was when a student in his 9th-grade class couldn't do a simple division problem (a low 2-digit no. divided by 1-digit no., not even requiring long division). He said if students weren't getting adequate education in the early grades, there was no way he could get them up to their current grade level. So some teachers have good reason for leaving, which is not how Mr. Polakow-Suransky made it sound.

Feb. 28 2012 11:38 AM
The Truth from Becky

It is critical that we get the individuals that are "plugged" in and want to teach in order to get the maximum value and participation from the kids. Young people are leaving school in droves, they are bored, they need to be inspired update the curriculum, pay the teachers their worth or this Country is in trouble in about 10-15 years!!

Feb. 28 2012 11:33 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

My feelings about "principals" in general from my brief experiences in the mid-1990s: Principals, like other managers, are political bureaucrats. They are politicians, which I guess you have to be in any managerial position, but up to a point. Some I found to be truly venal, corrupt people, but a few others truly inspiring and great leaders. Unfortunately, only too few of the latter, and too many of the former. But that's true in any political bureaucratic organization, be it public or private.

Feb. 28 2012 11:31 AM
fuva from Harlemworld

Oh really, Shael? "Teaching is a hard job". You wouldn't know it by the rhetoric and machinations of your administration.
It's the fundamental problem with current discourse on the state of education: Most of us have NO IDEA what teacher's have to actually do day in and out and the very heavy demands of their jobs, which extend WAY beyond the 3 Rs.

Feb. 28 2012 11:31 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

TONS of money to the testing services, less to the schools - how can that possibly be beneficial?

Feb. 28 2012 11:30 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Brian, your last question is exactly to the point. As I've been listening to this segment, I've been thinking, "WHY would anyone become a teacher today?" I have many friends and relatives in the teaching profession who are thoughtful, caring, and hard working, but I am very doubtful that such people would be attracted to the profession today, knowing what they are getting themselves into.

Feb. 28 2012 11:29 AM
wanda from nyc

Having taught for many years - mostly college level -- I am very suspicious of standardized tests for either learning or evaluation. Students have very varied learning styles -- some are good at tests, some not. some write well and are not articulate, otheres are the opposite. Further test taking is learned -- and the students who can afford extra training usually do better on such tests. That is unfair to students, parents and teachers.

Feb. 28 2012 11:27 AM
Debbie from NYC

Why aren't all teachers and schools in the reports? I cannot find the school or teacher I'm looking for.

Feb. 28 2012 11:26 AM
Leo from queens

Robert, I'll stop being sensible and become Board of Ed or City Commissioner

Feb. 28 2012 11:25 AM
carol mcgee from W 57 St

My kid would not stay in a teacher's class who got a poor rating! I would burn the place down!

AND who in their right mind will want to teach now! Maybe serving in Afghan is better/easier...offers more respect. I am sick of this attack on unions and teachers. Its a smoke screen for the administrators who have failed and get paid so much more than teachers.

Feb. 28 2012 11:25 AM
Kat Smith

I am a parent of 2 children in the NYC public school system. Your guest and Dennis Walcott are incredibly disingenuous - right out of that Casablanca moment - they are shocked, SHOCKED, to find that teachers are being singled out and humiliated by the media because of these ratings. Mr. Polakow-Suransky says these were never meant to be published - because they are only part of teacher evaluations, because they are 2 years old, because they have a huge margin of error - and yet... and yet HERE they are - in the paper, by name. As a former teacher and principal he should be ashamed.

Feb. 28 2012 11:25 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

When the Mayor dropped his opposition to releasing the TDR's last year he did so with one thing in mind. He wa hoping this would help him convince the state legislature to end the seniority rules in hiring and firing. He believed that if the newspapers ran lists of names of poor teachers it would lead parents to demand the removal of these teachers. And when he explained to them that he could not remove them because of the seniority rule it would turn parents against the union and the legislature would then buck the union and repeal the seniority law. But since the legislature never went for it and since the union was able to delay the release of the reports and there were no massive layoffs the release of the reports no longer suits their purpose. Now the Mayor and the DOE are left to try to explain what everyone has known all along, that the TDR's are no worth the paper they are written on.

Feb. 28 2012 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

My relatively brief experience in NYC teaching arena back in the mid-199s left me with THREE basic underlying reasons for the problem of underperformance: (1) teachers have no help and are powerless in the classroom; (2) too many teachers at that time were either not qualified, or not teaching in the area they were qualified in; and (3) the introduction of a radically ideological "constructivist" pedagogy that totally dismissed memorization and rote learning, and put ALL the emphasis on "hands on" "learn by doing in teams" approach that was nice on paper, as was communism, but mostly failed in reality.

So, to summarize:

Powerless teachers;
Unqualified or misapplied teachers;
Asoption of radical pedagagical ideologies.

Again, those are my reflections from circa 1995. They may not necessarily be true today. I don't know.

Feb. 28 2012 11:22 AM
Amy from Manhattan

What does the caller mean by saying principals couldn't "penetrate the unions"? Everything she said seemed very unspecific. And on the guest's statement that it takes too long to get bad teachers out of the system, maybe it does, but what protections does he think teachers *should* have against possibly false accusations or inaccurate effectiveness tests?

Feb. 28 2012 11:21 AM

Exactly how does this woman want to "penetrate" the union? It sounds vaguely invasive.

Feb. 28 2012 11:17 AM
Leo from Queens

This guy is not answering the questions - He sounds nice at times and sounds respectful of teachers but then he is working with Political right wing organizations like FAUX news and their piece of trash (NY POST and CHannels 5 & 9)

Feb. 28 2012 11:17 AM
Robert from NYC

That's what's wrong with you Leo, you make sense! Stop it.

Feb. 28 2012 11:14 AM
RJ from prospect hts

The problem of course is that poor and working-class parents who do not have the money or time to follow and parse the various factors is that the only well-publicized assessment is these numbers. That is the measure they will rightly or wrongly become aware of in the media or from other parents.

Feb. 28 2012 11:11 AM
Leo from Queens

So, if this rating is incomplete and should not be used to determine the efficacy/competence of a teacher, then WHY publish this incomplete data based on 1 or 2 exams.? WHY NOT publish a comprehensive rating of the teacher's overall evaluation instead of insisting on publishing incomplete, misleading and incorrect ratings

Feb. 28 2012 11:10 AM

Teacher ratings aside, it is not useful, and possibly unethical, to publish any such personal scores with such a huge margin of error. The average person is not able to put the data in the proper perspective (namely, that statistically insignificant results should never be used to make judgements or decisions).

Feb. 28 2012 11:07 AM
Father of a kid w.o a Spanish teacher from brooklyn

Question for your guest: How much money does it cost, between the testing, test prep materials, grading, and evaluation, to produce these test rankings? And is there any hard evidence that this is money well spent? Evidence, for example, that it is money more effectively spent than, say, money spent on books, or paper, or foreign language teaching--all things that are in short supply in my children's public schools.

Feb. 28 2012 11:07 AM
RJ from prospect hts

Please ask about the impact of the discovery that the tests during those years were dumbed down, and how releasing those scores can be remotely helpful. And how, if the idea is to see how children progress from year to year, the scores from those years can show compared to the allegedly improved tests currently used.

Feb. 28 2012 11:03 AM
Tish Doggett from Brooklyn, NY

I have a background in evaluation (informal learning enviroments, e.g. museums), and I am not anti-assessment or anti-accountability. However, I just wonder how Mr.Polakow-Suransky would explain the state of TDRS and high stakes testing in general to Ted Sizer, a great educational leader under whom he studied. Where is the support for teachers to teach with their best skills for REAL teaching and learning to occur? ( quote from NY Times, summarizing Ted Sizer's philosophy "...teaching and learning ought to be assessed through observation, projects and other ways, and that policy decisions should be made on the school level." How does any of the current situation serve improve our public schools in crisis?

Feb. 28 2012 10:30 AM
Helen from manhattan

One of your callers mentioned it yesterday, but I think there is a huge value added to the moral character and role model that a teacher provides for a student that really doesn't reflect in any sort of standardized testing. When I think of my favorite teachers from my own education, they didn't just make the material interesting, but they gave me an idea of the kind of person I wanted to be when I grew up. Since a teacher really has more time with their students then sometimes the students' parents do, I think that this should be something that is quite heavily considered when it comes to evaluating a teacher.

Feb. 28 2012 09:41 AM

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