Chapter 65: TWERC: A New Teacher Evaluation System
You can lead a politician to a check, but can you make him cash it?Riddle: If an apple a day (from the teacher's pet) keeps the teacher away, how big a check does it take to keep a politician off your back?
Question to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo: If a businessman offers a bribe to a politician and the politicaian doesn’t take it, should the businessman be rated “ineffective” for not having the correct strategies, Danielson rubrics and learning objectives in place to ensure the acceptance of his offering?
I ask this question in light of the governor’s recent comments on teacher evaluations as reported in the Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 edition of the New York Post on "Postscript" page 25:
“They’re baloney. How can 38% of students be ready and 98% of the teachers rated effective? The problem is clear. We need real, fair, accurate teacher evaluations."
Statistics for the number of bribes offered to politicians and the number accepted, of course, are sketchy so I’ll just sketch in some numbers for the sake of discussion. How can only 38% of political bribes be accepted yet 98% of politicians be reelected in a state known for its pay to play governing process? The answer is simple. You can hand the check to the politician but you can’t make him cash it.
Gov. Cuomo may be the most powerful man in the state, but his comments on teacher evaluations reveal that he knows as little about real education as he would like us to believe that he knew about Sheldon Silver’s under the table compensation - the same ignorance that caused him to shut down the Moreland Commission after campaigning on the promise to uproot corrupt colleagues. Maybe someone ought to double-check the governor’s math - someone proficient in that area, of course, and someone other than his personal tax attorney. Like Silver's, Gov. Cuomo's grasp of the basics in arithmetic seems to owe more to brown paper bags and mattresses than to math text books. Maybe it's his version of the "new" math.
According to the Wed., Aug. 7, 2013 edition of the on line New York Daily News:
Only 31% of New York State students in grades 3 to 8 passed the 2013 math and reading tests, down from 55% in English and 65% in math in 2012 on easier tests.
This is an even lower percentage than that quoted by the governor. Furthermore, according to that Daily News article:
Just under 30% of New York City students met state math standards and 26% passed the new reading exams — a drop of about half from last year’s scores.
The numbers are even more troubling for minority students (same Daily News article):
Citywide, only 16% of black students were rated proficient in English, and 15% passed in math. Hispanic students showed similar results, with 16% meeting standards in English and 19% passing math.
The governor’s comments imply that if only 38% of students are “ready,” then it can be inferred that only 38% of teachers are “effective.” Presumably by “ready” the governor means “career and college ready,” the latest lingo from the school reformers. Maybe Mr. Cuomo’s aides didn’t effectively drill the full academic language into him. I wonder in exactly which of the Danielson domains are his aides merely “developing” or even, God forbid! - “ineffective.” Clearly their MOGL - “measure of governor learning” - needs to be improved.
So let’s take the governor’s logic to the limit with the following chart, which could be adopted by the reformers for future use when teacher evaluations are based 100% on student performance. Certainly that is the goal. Gov. Cuomo himself has called for the evaluations to be based 50% on student performance or “MOSL” (measure of student learning) right now. Obviously 100% is the ultimate goal. Then every evaluation of every teacher will be 100% low inference, objective and data driven and based on the performance of someone other than the person being evaluated.
Since the governor’s comments suggest that a 38% student “readiness” rating should result in a 38% teacher effectiveness rating, I propose the following as a new way for evaluating teachers based on this logic.
Proposed Teacher Evaluation Chart: School Based
Step ONE: TWERC the Data
% of African % of Teachers
Students Proficient in ELA
The calculation is fairly straightforward as you can see. By setting the TWERC (translucently wrangled effectiveness rating constant) at 1, you simply apply the algorithm. Multiply the percent of proficient students by the TWERC (one) and you come up with the percentage of effective teachers for that group of students. What could be more straightforward?
The complications arise when there is a number that is neither 0 nor 100. In the former case, all teachers would be rated “ineffective;” in the later all teachers would be rated “effective.”
But if, for example, only 42.213% of African American students are “proficient” in ELA, exactly which 42.213% of the ELA teachers does a principal deem “effective?” This is a smidgeon under half of the ELA teachers on the staff. If there are 5 teachers, the numbers are fairly easy to crunch. Rate 2 of the 5 “effective” - never mind which two - that will be determined in Step TWO of the evaluation process
Five ELA teachers on staff is easy. However, if there are 3, 4 or 17 ELA teachers on the staff, the numbers become a little more dicey.
Now, let’s see if the theory and algorithm work for Hispanic students and teachers.
% of Hispanic % of Teachers
Students Proficient Effective
in ELA in ELA
Luckily, applying the TWERC, we see that the algorithm lends itself equally well to Hispanic students as it does to African American students.
Lest we jump to conclusions, however, let’s do one final test for confirmation. Let’s see if the algorithm works when applied to Caucasian students and teachers.
% of Caucasian % of Teachers
Students Proficient Effective
in ELA in ELA
Happily we can report that the algorithm appears to work across racial and ethnic barriers, as any objective, unbiased educational tool ought to do. Thus we can state the final formula thusly:
% of All % of Teachers
Students Proficient Effective
in ELA in ELA
We can say most assuredly that the TWERC works! We can thank Governor Cuomo for his advanced reasoning, which was the inspiration for the TWERC, the sole criterion for which was that it be a rational number based on the Governor's irrational logic. (See Appendix below for the complicated formula used to arrive at the TWERC.)
Now that we’ve taken care of Step ONE, the data, we come to Step TWO of this proposed new teacher evaluation system: the LOT.
Step TWO: LOTSay for example, as in case number four above, a principal can only deem 42.213% of the ELA teachers on his/her staff “effective” based on the objective data and Governor Cuomo’s reasoning. Which 42.213% of the staff, then, will be rated “effective” and which 57.787% of the staff will be rated less than “effective?” At a glance, this might appear to be an insurmountable obstacle, given that most or all of these teachers have contributed to the education of most or all of these students, not to mention teachers at previous elementary and middle schools, parents, relatives, friends, peers, television, movies, the internet, books, inspirational leaders, self reflection and motivation, and epiphanies, none of which is taken into consideration by the TWERC or the Governor's logic. (TWERC2 is in development in association with Disney productions to account for previous teacher performances. ONE SQUARED appears to be an exponentially more useful constant than ONE.)
However, at a second glance and remembering that objectivity is the guiding light in all education reform, we can, indeed, see the light, an objective way out of this merely illusive dilemma. With objectivity as our sole criterion, we simply apply the LOT (Lottery of Teachers) to the problem and come up with an immediate and satisfying conclusion.
Here’s how it works. Say there are 6 ELA teachers on the staff and only 42:213% of them can be rated “effective.” Very carefully toss all six names into a brown paper bag:
Smith, Jones, Brown, Green, Wilson, Johnson
Shake up the bag.
Brown, Johnson, Smith, Wilson, Green, Jones
Without peeking, pull out 2 names.
Rate these 2 teachers “effective” but only provisionally until Step THREE is completed. Then, again without peeking, pull out three more names.
Smith, Wilson, Green
Since no more than 2 of the 6 teachers can be rated “effective” according to the objective data and the Governor’s reasoning (because 3 of 6 would be 50% and the rule of thumb is to round down), these criteria will have been met by rating these teachers “developing.” (After all, you can’t fire everyone at once.)
Finally, pull out 1 more name.
Rate this teacher “ineffective.” Place him/her on probation immediately as proof that the principal is running a tight ship.
Considering that it is impossible to determine the exact input any single teacher has in the exact learning of any single student, what could be more objective, non-inferential, and serendipitous?
NOTE: I cannot take credit for the brilliance of the brown paper bag concept. I must give due credit to Gov. Cuomo and Sheldon Silver for that, along with made men, gun dealers, lemonade stand vendors, gambling casino operators and people desperate to have certain marital problems go away.
Step THREE: Merit PayFinally we come to the last part of this proposed teacher evaluation process: merit pay. Education reformers are desperate to give money to people they think have done an outstanding job educating the nation’s children. With this new completely objective, non-inferential and entirely accidental evaluation tool, determining which teacher is deserving of extra bucks is no problem at all.
We’ve provisionally narrowed it down to two effective teachers based on the objective data and Governor Cuomo’s logic. Both probably taught most or all of the students who were rated proficient. Clearly neither did enough damage to those students to drop them from proficient to less than proficient regardless of what level those students were at when they began a given teacher’s course. Possibly one of them even did enough good for some or many of those students to ensure that they came out “proficient” on their objective, unbiased, standardized ELA tests. Now we determine precisely which teacher that was.
Place both names into a brown paper bag.
Without peeking, reach in and pull out one name.
And there you have it - an unbiased, purely objective winning teacher! Simply rate Brown “highly effective” and deserving of merit pay and Johnson merely “effective,” resulting in a supervisor competence ratio of 1 - 1- 3 - 1. (See below.) An added benefit of this efficient and objective method of teacher evaluation is that should it later be revealed that Brown is the son/daughter-in-law of one of the assistant principals, no blemish will appear on his/her record. This new evaluation process is as fair and square as can be.
Step FOUR: PRICK (adjusted to New York State standards)Finally as a bone to principals and supervisors, we have devised the PRICK system for this entire process. The PRICK (“Precise Rendering of Instructional Capabilities and Knowledge”) ensures that principals are adhering to their mandates and quotas for rating as many teachers as possible either “developing” or “ineffective.” Find a given principal's PRICK by awarding 100 points for each “ineffective” rating, 50 points for each “developing," 15 points for each “effective” rating, and 3 points for each “highly effective” rating. Then simply add the numbers up and divide by the total number of teachers rated. The higher the score, the more competent the administrator.
Thus, in the example discussed above, that principal would achieve the following PRICK:
Highly Effective 1 x 3 = 3
Effective 1 x 15 = 15
Developing 3 x 50 = 150
Ineffective 1 x 100 = 100
PRICK Score 268 / 6 = 44.66
Even considering that this principal could not have achieved a perfect score of 100 since unfortunately, according to the data and Governor’s Cuomo’s logic, about 2 teachers had to be rated “effective,” a score of 44.66 falls, nevertheless, unimpressively into the low end of the “oppressor” category. Remediation in debasing, devaluing, debunking and demoralizing will be provided.
PRICK Levels (New York State Supervisory Standards)
1 - 14 Milksop
However, by simply rating one of the 3 "developing" teachers "ineffective," this principal could have raised his PRICK by 9 points to a 53, which would have placed him/her into the more authoritarian "dictator" category and well on his/her way to "capo."
Note that only under absolutely ideal conditions wherein 100% of students fail to achieve proficiency in every academic field can a principal achieve a perfect PRICK 100 and receive the highly coveted "Fuhrer" title by rating every single teacher "ineffective."
Just as with trying to get a politician to cash that check, it’s a truism among teachers that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Teachers teaching thirsty horses will never have a problem. Teachers teaching horses interested in something other than water will not fare so well no matter how many standards are quoted, what learning objectives are aimed at or how well delineated the lesson plan might be.
Answer to riddle: Checks are all the same size.
Calculating the TWERC
The number of proficient students divided by the number of less than proficient students times the number of less than proficient students divided by the number of proficient students.