A "Cowardly and Appalling Act": One Teacher Responds to the Release of Controversial Data
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Ronit Wrubel, who currently teaches 4th grade, was one of the 18,000 New York City teachers whose Teacher Data Reports were released to the public in late February. Though her own TDR came out far above average, Wrubel was deeply distressed by the release and publication of these arguably flawed scores. She posted the following remarks on the New York Times website, next to the copy of her TDR the newspaper published. We reprint them here with the author's permission.
I truly don't have the words to express the enormity of how this small act, this one 'report', this blip that's been added to the overwhelming archive that is the world wide web, encapsulates all that is wrong with how the public views the science and the art of the educator. In my 24 years as a NYC public school teacher I have never been so disheartened, so demoralized, so utterly disappointed and felt so completely hopeless.
The release of the Teacher Data Reports on February 24 makes no sense to me. When information has been proven to be inaccurate, when sample sizes are statistically insignificant, and when 18,000 out of 75,000 teachers are singled out, yet the data is still released, the precedent that is being set undermines what tens of thousands of teachers have dedicated their lives to doing. The Value-added model also almost ignores student performance, focusing mostly on progress. If a student scores well on the third grade test, they and their teacher are penalized if they get even one less question correct on the fourth grade test, which, by the way, is significantly harder than the third grade test. Now if I’ve helped my students grow a year’s worth, why would I be penalized for that?
Most educators I know, and I know quite a few, are exceptional, dedicated, intelligent, diligent, caring and honest people. NYC public school teachers have been working under an expired contract, for wages that do not match neighboring school districts, at rates that do not even begin to approach inflation in these harsh economic times, and do so with a smile on their faces as their students enter their classrooms on a daily basis.
This cowardly and appalling act was my proverbial straw. We teachers put enough pressure on ourselves as we strive to do better for our students every, every, every single day. I know many of my colleagues feel the same way as I do. For all of us to be demoralized yet again, and so publicly, is utterly heartbreaking. We know 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas', but what happens on the Internet lives forever.
I often feel frustrated as a teacher because I can never do enough, be enough or give enough to my students, although I try. I spend hours and hours beyond the school day and every weekend doing everything I can to help my students grow as independent, responsible, inquisitive learners. I am always preparing lessons, corresponding with parents, making charts, hanging bulletin boards, developing and refining curriculum, reading and responding to the work of my students, and I do it all because it’s what I believe my students deserve. I commute over three hours a day to work with the exceptional teachers, staff and administrators in my school because I want to always learn and think and grow myself.
Why is no one talking about class size anymore? If I had fewer students in my class, I promise you that I could give them more attention, and help them move forward in their skills much more easily. Blaming teachers for the failings of the education system, the testing and scoring process, and the economic climate will not in any way help children!