Chapter Sixty: How to Fail Students and Fire Teachers, 101
Dateline: New York City Dept. of Ed.
June 21, 2013
As the Connecticutt McGraw Hill scammers, er, scanners take another coffee break in their quest to scan New York State Regents exams into computers for quicker, more "objective" grading, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pacing back and forth at Tweed.
Bloomberg: (pacing) What the hell is taking so long to scan those tests?
DOE Lackey #11: I don't know, sir. Pearson promised to have it ....
Bloomberg: Get me Albany on the phone.
DOE Lackey #7: Albany, sir? Why Albany?
Bloomberg: I want to talk to those Pearson people.
DOE Lackey #2: They're in Connecticut, sir.
DOE Lackey #12: That's where they have their offices.
Bloomberg: You mean they're scanning New York state tests in another state?
DOE Lackey #14: Well, that's where they have their offices.
Bloomberg: How much are we paying them?
DOE Lackey #33: Almost ten million, sir.
Bloomberg: Get me Connecticut on the phone! Now!
LACKEY #24 CALLS PEARSON OFFICES IN CONNECTICUT.
DOE Lackey #24: Put me through to the test scanning supervisor, please .... What? .... He's where .... (holding hand over phone) The supervisor is on break, sir.
DOE Lackey #24: Coffee break, sir.
Bloomberg: (GRABBING PHONE FROM LACKEY'S HAND) Now you listen to me!
DOE Lackey #24: They hung up, sir.
Bloomberg: (Screams into receiver.) I want those tests scanned now! Do you hear me!
DOE Lackey #45: The check already cleared, sir. (Slams phone down.)
Bloomberg: What check?
DOE Lackey #45: The check to Pearson for ten million. They're not going to answer your call.
I'm just imagining what might be going on down at Tweed right now. After more than a week, only 20% of the NYS U.S. History Regents exams have been marked because Pearson "underestimated" the time it would take to scan them into computers and the number of glitches that would arise, the frequency of the system crashing, the poor quality of the scans, etc. But what does Pearson care if kids in New York can't graduate beause they don't have their test results? They've got their money.
But maybe we don't want to see these tests anyway. As an ELA teacher, I have a stake in the results of these tests - stake through the heart that is. Since teachers are now going to be evaluated based on student performance on these tests, we can be fired as a result of these results. For this reason, we English teachers here at Jonathan Levin H.S. in the Bronx just took a look at the scoring charts for the June 2013 English exam and the January 2013 exam. What we found is interesting indeed. Here they are.
June 2013 ELA Scoring Chart
January 2013 ELA Scoring Chart
In June 2013 if a student scored 16 on the multiple choice section and 7 on the writing sections, the student failed with a 61. However if that same student had been lucky enough to take the test last January 2013, scoring 16 on the multiple choice and 7 on the writing would have yielded a passing score of 65.
DOE formula #1: Fewer students passing = more teachers fired.
Going back to Aug. 2012, June 2012 and Jan. 2012, we find the following:
Multiple Choice Writing Score
Aug. 2012: 16 7 65
June 2012 16 7 65
Jan. 2012 16 7 68
In other words, the June 2013 ELA Regents exam is set up to fail more students than in the past. Coincidentally, New York State has just "adopted" - read: had shoved down our throats - a new evaluation system that the UFT, rather than condemning, seems to be endorsing. See Chapter 52: Open Season on Teachers. Under this system, the "value" of a teacher is tied directly to student performance.
DOE formula #2: more failing students = more fired teachers.
Perhaps you've noticed that there is a move toward using data, in fact, claiming that all decisions are based on "objective data". Forgetting that the real reason for this is simply that computers crunch numbers faster than long divison and so using computers gives all the paper pushers, bureaucrats, superintendents, pincipals, chancellors, et al., more time on the golf course, the pretense is put forward that data can be applied to anything and everything from selling tuna to outlawing soda to evaluating human interaction.
Human interactions cannot be objectified and neither can a student's performance in any subject. What can be objectified, however, is the manipulation of data.
Bloomberg returns from Tweed to City Hall to meet with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
Bloomberg: Keep on those Pearson people. We need those results.
Lackey #62: Yes, sir.
Dennis: This is throwing a wrench into our plan to get rid of 5,000 teachers by September.
Bloomberg: Tell me about it. I don't have much time left.
Dennis: Well, we've got till December.
Bloomberg: But I want 20,000 of them out. I'm the education reform mayor. I want real reform. That means firing teachers.
Dennis: Well, we got the rubrics in place. Have you seen them? They're a work of genius.
Bloomberg: They better be. We paid that MIT egghead a lot of money to do them.
Dennis: It's very subtle. You can hardly tell the difference between these and the earlier ones.
Bloomberg: Keep talking.
Dennis: But they will mean another 5 or 600 kids failing each test.
Bloomberg: Talk to me.
Dennis: According to our formulas, we can fire one teacher for every 37.8293847675 students who fail a given Regents.
Bloomberg: So that means ....
Dennis: We're right on target for December although we may be held up in September a bit.
Bloomberg: But wait. More failing kids - won't that reduce the graduation rate?
Dennis: Yes, but we've gone over that, Mike. You've got to make some sacrifices if you want to get rid of teachers. It's a trade off. You know that.
Bloomberf: I know. I know.
Dennis: Why don't you send someone up there to Connecticutt to light a fire under those people's asses.
Bloomberg: Good idea, Dennis. You over there!
Lackey #55: (Looking up from iPad) Yes, sir.
Bloomberg: Get my helicopter ready. I'm going to Connecticut.
DOE formula #3: failing students + fired teachers = school reform