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Teachers campaign against system that gave them high scores

The most credible critics of the city’s Teacher Data Reports are those with the highest scores.

That’s the outlook of a small band of 99th-percentilers who are signing on to a statement that argues that measuring teacher effectiveness according to students’ test scores “will, in the long run, result in less classroom creativity and more shallow, test-focused instruction.”

The statement was penned by Maribeth Whitehouse, an eight-year middle school teacher in the South Bronx. She reached out by email to other teachers who, like her, had pulled a top rating on the city’s value-added algorithm when Teacher Data Reports were released last month. So far, about a dozen teachers who scored 99s have added their names, and Whitehouse said she expects others to join them. They join a deafening chorus of critics of the TDRs who include 80 percent of New Yorkers, according to poll results released today.

In the Community section today, Whitehouse explains her decision to strike out against the metric that said she was “far above average.” She writes:

I came to teaching more than eight years ago by way of the law — having graduated from Fordham Law School in 1992. So I knew full well how intricate, malleable and unreliable evidence could be. When the New York City Teacher Data Reports came out and were touted as measuring my value as a teacher, I was deeply annoyed. Invalid, inaccurate and irrelevant, these data were no more useful in proving or disproving teacher value than the temperature on a single day could prove or disprove global warming. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good teacher, I do. I simply measure it in ways that cannot be captured on a test. My reaction came as a surprise to some of my family, friends and co-workers because I was ranked in the 99th percentile.

Read Whitehouse’s complete Community section piece, “Measuring My Value.” The full statement being circulated among teachers with value-added scores in the 99th percentile is below.

We, the undersigned, were ranked in the 99th percentile on the recently released Teacher Data Reports in New York City. We believe these data are out-dated, invalid and inaccurate with unacceptable margins of error. We believe reliable evidence of authentic teaching and learning cannot be derived from standardized test results. We believe the publishing of these data will, in the long run, result in less classroom creativity and more shallow, test-focused instruction incapable of developing citizens who can think critically. We believe the publishing of these data has proven demoralizing and humiliating and that media stories which portray some teachers as the best and others as the worst are incendiary, invidious and irresponsible. We believe neither student nor teacher excellence can be achieved or maintained in an atmosphere of fear and degradation. We believe teaching is a complex profession, at least as much art as science, requiring intricate multi-faceted assessments for development. 1) Maribeth Whitehouse 2) Barry Price 3) Christina Ann Varghese 4) Patricia Cea 5) Annamma Joseph 6) Winsome Vernon 7) Esther Boakye-Dattey 8) Valerie Green-Thomas 9) Mary Williams 10) Molly Sherman 11) Stephanie Igneri