[Although all of the stories about schools in this book are true, this chapter is another purely imaginative, i.e., fictional account of a conversation that might have taken place between NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and various employees, former employees, wannabe employees and lackeys on Feb. 24, 2012, the day teacher ratings for 12,000 4th – 8th grade teachers were made public.]
Former chancellor Joel Klein enters NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. An aide is present.
JK: Mike, I just got the news. Congratulations!
MB: (Admiring a bottle of wine.) Thanks, Joel. 1972 - and you know how much I paid for it?
JK: I’m talking about the teacher ratings, Mike.
MB: Oh, right. Thanks. (Puts down the bottle.)
JK: I just wish we could have gotten it done during my tenure ….
MB: Please, Joel, you know how I hate that word.
JK: Sorry – during my term as chancellor. But you know, Mike, they’re all talking about how unreliable these ratings numbers are.
MB: Let ‘em talk. At least I’ve got some objective data now. I can start firing people.
JK: How many teachers have you fired, Mike?
MB: Well, none yet, but now we can really get going. I’m dying to fire some of those lazy bastards. It’s my third term, for God’s sake, Joel.
JK: Tell me about it. I know how rough the union is. But didn’t you get rid of that real estate guy finally?
MB: You mean that guy who spent 10 years in the rubber room managing a million dollar real estate portfolio?
JK: Yeah. I heard you got him.
MB: Well, not exactly. He retired before I could fire him.
MB: Well, actually he’s working for me now. With his ability to manipulate the system ….
JK: Good move, Mike.
Aide: Here it is, Mr. Bloomberg.
MB: Let’s have it.
Aide: Well, I’ve added another constant.
MB: That’s a word I like.
JK: You mean sort of like how you want to rule the ci ….
MB: [Gives Klein a level 4 intimidation gesture.]
MB: That’s okay. Just listen to this, Joel. This is Horace.
Aide: Nice to meet you, Mr. Klein.
MB: Go ahead, Horace.
Aide: Okay. Now, you take the total scores on the state tests, add them all together. That yields the base number.
JK: What is this?
MB: The formula for evaluating teachers. Go on, Horace.
Aide: You take their total test score number, subtract the number of in school suspensions and multiply by the number of report card grades above 75. Then you subtract the total number of detentions, counting reprimands from teachers as .5019 of an actual suspension, reprimands from school aides as .6321209, from school security as .723643, from A.P.’s as .832398, deans, .86343, and principals .9312194213.
MB: That makes sense.
JK: What about a superintendent reprimand?
Aide: Well, you know how rarely superintendents ever come near a real school. We’ve only had 23 of those in the entire school system so we’ve left it out of the equation – statistically negligible.
JK: But isn’t that important?
Aide: Only for the teachers of those 23 kids.
MB: No one will notice. Go on.
Aide: Well, you take that figure and add in the number of years of education of each teacher, then divide by their overall undergraduate G.P.A., then triple that to weigh it a bit more and add in the number of years of graduate work, doubling the weight of post-graduate work, tripling it if it was done at Harvard, quadrupling for Yale and factoring in the negative prorated state college constant. You divide ….
JK: What’s that for?
MB: So we can claim that we’re taking into account the education level of the teacher. We don’t want them complaining about that.
Aide: Then we subtract the number of years the teacher has been a paying member of the UFT.
JK: What does that have to do with it?
MB: Who cares? Go on.
Aide: We weigh that using the amount each teacher contributes to COPE and throw in a constant there. Call it the COPE constant. That’s to make sure that that number weighs them down. If they’re paying more than ten dollars a paycheck into COPE, for example, they can score no higher than a 44th percentile no matter how their students score on the tests.
MB: Can Mulgrew figure that out?
Aide: Did he go to M.I.T.? I’ve disguised it under “miscellaneous criteria”.
MB: Good, go on.
JK: They’ve got some sharp people working with the union, Mike.
MB: [Smirking.] Tell him, Horace.
Aide: Well, Mr. Klein, at age 3 and a half my I.Q. was estimated at 275.44. I’m sure I don’t have to inform you that that is exactly 2.6343 times the I.Q. of the average public school teacher.
JK: I knew that.
Aide: I graduated magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve at the age of 9, did my graduate work at Yale. At age 13 I was a Rhodes Scholar and when the next administration comes in, I’m planning to realign the universe according to my new theory of quasi-relativity. Do you know that there never was an actual “big bang”?
JK: You don't say.
Aide: And I’ve got the formulas and constants to prove it. I invented one that I call the “God constant”. You can insert it into any equation and that equation will always yield pi minus 14.
JK: How’s that?
MB: Don’t ask. Go on, Horace.
Aide: In fact, Mr. Mayor, I was thinking of inserting my God constant into the teacher ratings formula for any teacher that exceeds 1 sick day a month. I could make it reduce their actual rating, whatever that is, by pi minus 14.
MB: Let’s see those union guys figure that out. Go on, Horace.
JK: Are you a math teacher?
MB: Come on, Joel. He can DO! I wouldn’t let him anywhere near a classroom. He knows too much about education.
JK: That’s what you said when you hired ….
MB: Go on, Horace, man.
Aide: Well, Mr. Mayor, you take that number and divide by the number of days absent from school for each student and then prorate that number by the years listed as ELL.
JK: That’s good. They’re sure to complain about that.
Aide: Then you multiply by the income of the family minus food stamps, housing allowance and any other state subsidy. You take that number and average it against the average income tax return for all tax payers in the state with children in the public school system ….
MB: They won’t be able to claim that we don’t take into account socio-economic status.
JK: What about charter kids?
MB: We’re leaving them out for now.
JK: Why, Mike? They’re certainly going to come out well above average.
MB: Exactly. We don’t want to let it out yet that we’re targeting the over-achieving kids for charter schools in order to make the public schools look bad by comparison. Come on, Joel. How many times did we talk about that?
JK: Oh, right.
MB: Want to taste that wine?
JK: Not yet.
Aide: Okay, so then you double the number of miles traveled by each student to and from the school, multiplying by 5.898723 if by subway, by 4.123423498 if by MTA bus, by 3.213476 if by school bus and by -2.31123 if they’re driven by their parents ….
MB: Well, come on, Joel. We have to make them think that we're making a fair comparison between our kids and ….
Aide: Then we multiply by the income figure and then set a ratio between that number and the original sum of all test scores, divide by the number of services proscribed by the I.E.P. or 2.45672 if there is no I.E.P….
JK: Wait ….
MB: No, Joel, that number comes straight from the Danielson group.
Aide: You take that number and divide it into the percentages of classroom work done for each teacher ….
JK: You mean, if the teacher only taught them 30% of the time ….
Aide: Exactly. The difference is negligible but at least it’s in there. Now, you take that number, add in the parent teacher conferences, phone calls and meetings with parent coordinators ….
JK: I like that.
Aide: Multiply by the average weight of the book bag and sneaker size – and this is where the constant comes in.
MB: Go on.
Aide: Well, if we use a constant of 13.8917326732619120309098123, we come out with a figure that has a margin of error of 52% for English teachers and 41% for math over six years.
[Enter Chancellor Dennis Walcott.]
MB: So that improves the margin of error for English teachers but not for math.
Aide: Right but I’m still tweaking. I think we can get English down to 45% over 4 years without losing any ground in math.
DW: The formula?
MB: Right. Go on.
Aide: I think if we insert a new constant between the backpack and sneaker figures, we can really start to get somewhere.
MB: Well, what are you waiting for? Hi, Dennis.
DW: Hi, Mike. Hi, Joel.
DW: Can I help it, Joel, if I’m an educator and you’re not?
JK: Didn’t I provide you with the software for the ATRs, the Accelerated Teacher Removal?
DW: Yes, Joel, and I meant to thank you for that. We’ve got those teachers running for cover now. All the pundits are calling the ATRs “ineffective”.
MB: Wait! Is that true? I mean, according to the objective formula?
MB: That all the Accelerated Teacher Removals are “ineffective”?
DW: Of course not. They’re ATRs because we closed their schools. You know that, Mike. Most of their schools – you opened them yourself specifically so that we could close them down and start excessing as many veteran teachers as possible. Most of them are excellent, experienced teachers – you know, the ones making $80,000 or more.
MB: The ones we’ve targeted.
MB: But what if we publish ratings for them? What if they come out at the top?
Aide: Don’t worry, Mr. Mayor. I forgot to mention the ATR constant. We threw in a number for ATRs to make sure that if you get excessed, you can’t score higher than a 17th percentile no matter how many successful years in the system you’ve had.
MB: So if you’re making more than $80,000, you’re rating is going to be less than ….
Aide: That’s right, sir. Didn’t you hear me mention the negative Tier 1 and Tier 2 figures?
MB: I must have been thinking about the wine. Hey, anyone want some wine? I’ve got this vintage bottle ….
[Enter Cathie Black.]
CB: Did I hear someone say wine?
MB: Yes, Cathie. I must have heard you coming.
DW: Hello, Ms. Black.
JK: Hi, Cathie. Did you get the memo I sent?
CB: I haven’t been to the office in a couple of weeks, Joel. I’ll look for it.
MB: Any other figures I should know about?
Aide: Well, just the rubber room constant. I’m still trying to work that one in. The problem is that we’ve already weighted the numbers so heavily against the teachers ….. sorry.
MB: Oh, don’t worry about Cathie. She knows what we’re doing. If she had brought you in ….
CB: Come on, Mike. I got it on my resume. You know that’s all I ever wanted.
MB: Glad to be of service, Cathie.
Aide: Well, any new constant tends to throw all of the teachers into a negative number. I’m trying to come up with just one more constant for time spent in the rubber room that will shift everything just enough but not too much.
MB: Keep working on it. That’s important. We can’t have someone who has been sitting in the rubber room for years coming up with a high rating.
Aide: That’s the problem, if they were actually good teachers before someone accused them of something ….
MB: You’ll figure it out, Horace. It can’t be as complicated as proving that God is a constant.
Aide: I didn’t say ….
MB: Now, wine anyone?
NOTE: This blog contains an excerpt of the first draft of this book.