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DOE’s performance assessments fall short

Teachers in the English department at Brooklyn Technical High School say that the DOE’s implementation of a new English Language Arts test — part of a series of performance assessments in the new teacher evaluation system — is robbing them of valuable instructional time. Calling the exam “poorly written and grossly mismanaged,” they urge the DOE to consider alternate assessments that would be more authentic measures of student learning.

Recently, the New York City Department of Education rolled out a secondary English Language Arts test called the “Measures of Student Learning (MOSL) Performance Assessment.” The stated purpose of the test is to measure improvement in student writing in order to evaluate how well we as teachers do our jobs.

Under the new teacher evaluation system, this and other assessments, such as the state Regents exam, are among multiple measures that make up a teacher’s overall rating. The exam asks high school students to write an “argument essay.” The prompt for the essays poses a simplistic question that can be easily answered, but the guidelines tell students to use evidence from two short texts found on the following pages. The test — developed by Stanford University, Teachers College, and the DOE — loosely aligns with the Common Core Learning Standards.

However, in our opinion, in addition to impeding real learning from taking place in the classroom, the test falls short in measuring students and teachers for several reasons.

To begin, we lost two days of instructional time giving this pretest to our students. We continue to lose tutoring and professional development time to grade the test on seven often-overlapping components. We will lose two more days to give the post-test on an unknown date in the spring. Four lost instructional days rob the students of valuable learning opportunities, and seems to use them as guinea pigs.

Not only is this test a waste of students’ time and taxpayers’ money, it is also an invalid way to evaluate teachers. It was given to schools across the city at different times. Each school received only one of each grade-level exam and had to make photocopies for its students. The security of the exam was virtually nonexistent, thereby implying that it was unimportant. Furthermore, while most high school class periods are between 45 and 60 minutes, the testing period was 90 minutes. So, in many schools, students read the material on the tests on the first day and did their writing on the second day, making it possible for them to discuss the exam among themselves and plan out responses before writing.

The DOE did not indicate how much the pretest should count towards students’ grades, if at all; those decisions were left to the discretion of the schools and, in most cases, individual teachers. The lack of systemwide uniformity in how the test is perceived by students should invalidate how the results are used to reflect upon teachers.

Our grievance is not with our assistant principal of English or our principal, both of whom we respect. It is with the DOE, which has taken a one-size-fits-all approach to education. Our training as teachers taught us to differentiate our instruction in response to our students’ various needs and abilities. If we were to take the DOE’s one-size-fits-all approach to the 170 students each of us teaches in a day, we would be rated “unsatisfactory,” or in today’s parlance, “ineffective.”

Schools, like students, come in different shapes and sizes and with different needs. In specialized schools like Brooklyn Technical High School, students arrive with high test scores. While growth models under the new evaluation system are supposed to compare students’ test results to those of similarly high-achieving students, we wonder how growth among our students will be determined for purposes of teacher evaluation. Many teachers of students with challenges share the same concerns.

We understand that we will be held accountable for what our students learn, but a poorly written and grossly mismanaged test is unfair.

While there are problems in using any standardized tests for high-stakes decision-making, the DOE should consider different tests. And it could explore using authentic assessments, such as portfolios, that provide multiple examples of student development over time. Post-graduation interviews or surveys that capture what skills students found most valuable in their college and career experiences may improve our teaching as well. These methods require time and patience, qualities for which there is no room in the current data-driven, instant-results business model of education.

From the below signed members of the English Department at Brooklyn Technical High School:
1. Laura DeWitt
2. Danny Schott
3. Justyna Kret
4. Anastasia Visbal
5. Giancarlo Malchiodi
6. Shelley Zipper
7. Dan Baldwin
8. Patricia Quilliam
9. David Lo
10. Phyllis Witte
11. Marie Manuto-Brown
12. Rebecca Rendsburg
13. Jonathan Scolnick
14. Emily Tuckman
15. Tanya Green
16. Robert Grandt
17. Chris Rabot
18. Sonia Laudi
19. Monica Rowley
20. Christina Massie
21. Meredith Dobbs
22. Stephen Harris
23. Debra Rothman
24. Melissa Goodrum
25. Timothy Ree
26. Emilie Baser


1 Comment:

  • 1 phyllis c muray
    · Jan 10, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Once teachers have rolled up their sleeves…the process of education begins with commitment, dedication, care, and concern for a human soul. For the students who have found teachers who are there to support them on their educational journey, I say, press on! These students are the fortunate ones because it is their teacher who must dream for them before they can dream for themselves. It is the teacher who prepares children for a future which is not his/her own. These exceptional teachers are fortunate because for every ounce of energy that they use to invest in the child, if they remain in that school, they will see the rewards of their investment in the child’s continued growth and development throughout the year. “What is a Teacher “was written by seven of our students who benefited from our teachers who were allowed to teach. And not one of the students mentioned the word “test prep.” WHAT IS A TEACHER Written by Bibana ~Ashanti ~~Jamal~~Ellenah~~Diana ~~John Henry ~~and Mohammed A teacher is a symbol of learning: a leader of learner sand a miracle to education. A teacher is an educational god that leads us to goodness while caring for our learning spirits. A teacher is the captain of our educational journey; Exact about everything. A teacher has the courage enough to teach; And knows mostly all the answers. Teachers become our heroic inspiration. Teachers educate us with all of their knowledge. Smart and spirited, teachers can make our brains work like computers.Yet, our teachers can also hold our hands when we need it. Teachers reach to the sky to get what we need; And exit a subject just at the right time. A teacher possesses the academics and grace that we all love. Teachers care for us in every imaginable way. Our teacher is the hero in our learning lives. Education is the key to success. That is what our teacher shave taught us. Teachers are a class struggle in liberty: Believing in kids; Reaching out to kids; And instilling pride within all of us. Our education is important to our teachers. Therefore our teachers struggle hard to teach every student: Checking exams after school; explaining things so they are easier;And reading to us or teaching us how to read. Each one of our praises we give. And for everything our teachers do, we will thank them today, tomorrow and always. Phyllis C. Murray,Former UFT Chapter Leader P.S. 75X District 8 South Bronx.