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My Disappointing Data, and What To Do With It

I should start by saying that I talked about my teacher data reports with some co-workers today and they had been e-mailed their usernames and passwords for their reports. So apparently not everyone had such a difficult time accessing their reports. I guess I’m just special.

Well, maybe not that special. Not according to my data reports at least. In fact I’m wholly average as an educator when it comes to teaching both math and reading. Not exactly the vote of confidence I was looking for.

I can’t say that I was surprised. I got my students’ test scores at the end of last school year, and I knew how they compared to those of my peers at my school and by extension the city. Test scores jumped up across the city last year, and my students? Well most of their scores went up, but some went down. Meaning, pardon the pun, I didn’t make the grade.

So my teacher data report confirmed what I already knew about my test scores. The only difference is it applied a percentile and a label to my shortcomings. And according to my students’ scores, or more accurately, my value-added score, I am average.

This is disappointing to say the least. I did not join NYC Teaching Fellows to be an average teacher. I became a teacher with the hopes that I would be an above-average educator. I wanted to fulfill every noble cliche — change lives, bring my kids to grade level and do my part to close the achievement gap. Now I knew that my first year was an abject failure in this regard, and my second year fell short too, but falling in the 41st and 38th percentile (side note: How low is the bar for “average”)? That’s a level of failure I never expected and have never experienced before.

Setting aside (for now) the issues with an evaluation tool that is based solely on test scores, the question is: What do I do with this information? What do these numbers really tell me? If they are meant to be a tool for improving my instruction I’m not sure how a few percentiles, even those broken down by gender and performance level, do this. If there were a way to look at data that was broken down by performance indicator and skill, or incorporated attendance and numerous other “x-factors,” I think that could affect my teaching in a much more meaningful way. In the meantime, the data report seems to be more of a general motivator to do better (what that means exactly is a topic for another post) than a tool to fix specific problems with my teaching.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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