Thursday, April 21, 2011

Brooklyn Teacher Reacts to Teacher Data Report in Letter to UFT Leader Mulgrew

...were teachers to be rewarded for their classroom's performance on the state test or alternatively, sanctioned for low performance many of these teachers would have demonstrated quite different results on a low-stakes test of the same subject.  Importantly, these differences need not be due to real differences in long-run skill acquisition…
Teacher effectiveness on high- and low-stakes tests - Corcoran/Jennings/Beveridge
I won't make any comments at this time as to whether Lynda's plea to Mulgrew will have an impact given that the UFT record on making a stand on these reports has not been good. But the letter is very powerful and illustrates the folly of flawed teacher ratings systems as indicated in the Corcoran/Jennings/Beveridge report from which the above quote comes - see more below Lynda's letter. Lynda touches on all the evils of data mania – of teachers abandoning testing grades and teaching solely to the test while ignoring some of the most important elements of a good education.

Also check out Jose Vilson.

From Lynda Costagliola, PS 3 Brooklyn
Dear Mr. Mulgrew,

I am a veteran public school teacher of 33 years and have taught a variety of subject areas and grades during my tenure. I began as a middle school special education teacher and am currently a licensed teacher for the Gifted and Talented Program, grade 5 . I have an exemplary record and have contributed in a positive way to many, many students most of whom I still keep in contact via that technological wonder, Facebook!
I received my Teacher Data Report on Wednesday, April 13 and was demoralized beyond words. I was rated an "average" teacher in both E.L.A. and Math and "below average" in one area of the math. I sat and stared at the computer screen reading through tears of frustration insisting that someone made a terrible mistake. I am NOT "an average/below average" teacher!

In June of each school year, parents line up outside my principal's office begging to have their children in my class. If I was such an "average/below average" teacher, why would parents do that? Over the years many of my fifth grade students have been accepted into such prestigious middle schools as DeLaSalle Academy, Medgar Evers Prep School, Mark Twain Middle School for the Gifted and Talented, Philippa Schulyer Middle School and the Prep for Prep Program. I prepare all my students to take these entrance exams as well as introduce them to the interview process. I don't think an "average/below average" teacher's students would be able to pass such rigorous entrance exams.

My principal told me to rip up my Teacher Data Report as she does not give it any merit, especially in my case. As a teacher of the Gifted and Talented, many of my students enter my class with perfect E.L.A. and Math scores. Where can I move them? What if my principal leaves and I am at the mercy of some Tweed Operative who only deals with statistics?

I hope my Union, one that I have supported and believed in since the days of Albert Shanker, will alert the public to the offensive nature and inaccuracies of these Reports. Fight their release and get rid of them! My livelihood is being challenged on the basis of two exams, which are administered over four days. Three hours of testing can measure a teacher's worth?

My evenings and weekends are consumed with paperwork. My preps? My lunch periods? I coach the Oratory Team and am the coordinating teacher for The Stock Market Game. I also coordinate many of the senior activities at my school. Should I give this all up and focus on test-taking? Teaching in Brooklyn certainly has it advantages. I have taken my class on many school trips to concerts, plays, museums and art galleries, all related to various areas of the curriculum. Should I stop and just focus on test-taking activities? Should I stop molding my students into becoming well-rounded young men and women and just focus on test-taking skills? If the answer is yes, then I fear I may have to retire.

Please Mr. Mulgrew. Get the word out that Teacher Data Reports are flawed, inaccurate and do not measure the worth of a competent, motivated teacher. These Teacher Data Reports do not take into account students who have to overcome incredible obstacles just to make it to class every day. What about students who, through no fault of their own, arrive at school late, hungry and unprepared? A teacher can only do such much in the course of a day, a week, a month and a school year. Many of my colleagues are reconsidering teaching the testing grades and are applying for lower grade positions or out of classroom positions.

I do not deserve such abuse. I have dedicated my life to the children who have passed through my classroom door. Please help me.

Lynda Costagliola, PS 3 Brooklyn


Teacher effectiveness on high- and low-stakes tests_
Sean P. Corcoran
Jennifer L. Jennings
New York University
Andrew A. Beveridge
Queens College/CUNY

April 10, 2011

This study finds that teacher effects are 15-31% larger on high stakes tests than low stakes tests, that the value-added results of the same teacher on the two types of tests are only weakly correlated, that teaching experience matters more over a longer period of time in terms results on the low-stakes tests, and that teacher effects on high-stakes test decay at a faster rate.

We find that only 46% of teachers in the top quintile of effectiveness on the TAAS/TAKS reading test [high-stakes test] appear in the top quintile on the SAT [low stakes] reading test. More than 15% of these are in the bottom two quintiles on the SAT. The same asymmetry is observed for the bottom quintile of TAAS/TAKS teachers.

Here only 48% of bottom quintile reading teachers also appear in the bottom quintile of the SAT. One in eight (13%) ranked in the top two quintiles according to the SAT. A similar pattern is observed in math, though the quintile rankings are a bit more consistent than in reading…

To summarize, were teachers to be rewarded for their classroom's performance on the state test or alternatively, sanctioned for low performance many of these teachers would have demonstrated quite different results on a low-stakes test of the same subject.  Importantly, these differences need not be due to real differences in long-run skill acquisition…

In terms of experience level, there appears to be positive returns for up to 21 years of teaching experience in low-stakes math exams (as opposed to high-stakes exams, where the value of experience levels off sooner): “If anything, teachers with 21 or more years of experience have the greatest differential over novices (at 0.131 s.d.).”

For reading, there are gains for 16-20 years of experience (though these graphs only go up to 11 years).

Very interesting paper and one well worth reading for all sorts of implications on ed policy. A good corrective to the highly misleading paper put out  by Gates on the same subject. -- Leonie Haimson


Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.


  1. I agree with this posting, Norm. Glad to see Jennifer Jennings still doing the "people's" work since she always brings an excellent and interesting perspective to ed-debates.

    I recently wrote about the margin of error on the value-added measure equation used by NYC DOE and others:

    It's interesting that we give so much credence to the terms "average," "above average," and these other qualifiers when the equation by which they measure these qualifiers is deeply flawed. Michael Mulgrew knows this, as was evidenced by many of his UFT e-mails. He's also super-careful about his wording, which I can't agree with.

    While I'm glad that teacher effectiveness is at the core of these discussions, the approach is deplorable.

  2. Thanks Jose. I'm adding your link. Sean Corcoran has been doing some great work.

  3. Regarding the letter written by Lynda at PS 3: The Teacher Data Report is not a summative evaluation of a teacher, it is merely one of several pieces of an overall evaluation. It merely says that she performed "average" or "below average" on a given test when compared to teachers teaching a similar population of kids. Obviously all the other things she mentioned are factored into her evaluation, which is why she has never (I presume) been rated unsatisfactory. It is a measure of a moment in time and in no way is her job in jeopardy.

    Let's all be responsible - we can change the ways teachers are evaluated (including some measure of what students are learning), without acting as if careers are in jeopardy.


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