Saturday, September 02, 2006

What (or who) is in your gradebook?

NYC Educator alerts us to this happening in (where else) but New York City (or New Jack City) as it was billed ages ago.

Long story short, quite a few grades were changed as a result of high (or low) performance on the State's Regent's Exam. I don't fully understand the exam, not being from NYC or NY, but the basic facts are that if a student did poorly in a class and did well on the Regents for that subject area, then their grade was raised by the administrator. If they did poorly on the Regents and did well in the class for that subject area, their grade was lowered by the administrator.

I did a little googling on her, and came up with this, this, this, and this about her. Sounds like she's a piece of work and gives good administrators a bad name. (Yes, there are such animals.)

Then there's this: (from here) (I have excepted parts of this as it references folks that do not add anything to the story).

Reign of Terror at Lafayette HS
(This was published on April 26 in the print edition of Ed
As many as 20 teachers or more are being
harassed by the administration led by principal Jolanta Rohloff, a recent
graduate of the Leadership Academy. The response of the UFT chapter leader, a
member of Unity Caucus, has been “My hands are tied.’ Our question: Tied by
whom? Rohloff has made so many ridiculous pronouncements that exposure would
give the teachers a modicum of relief yet the UFT and the NY Teacher just sit on
the story. The last chapter leader at Lafayette ended up using her position to
become an administrator at the school. She had preached the need to cooperate
with administration. The staff elected a former chapter leader this year who had
a reputation for taking a no-holds-barred approach to dealing with
administrators. So far this has not materialized as teachers, in particular
non-tenured teachers (who may represent 40% of all teachers in the system) are
being told his “hands are tied.”

Jolanta Rohloff, Principal of Lafayette HS responds I
received the following email from an associate of Ms. Rohloff after
publication: This message is being sent on behalf of Jolanta Rohloff,
Principal of Lafayette HS:
Regarding the article entitled, “Reign of Terror
at Lafayette HS” in Education Notes dated April 2006: What is your definition of
“harassment”? Is it the supervision and support of teachers? Is it providing
professional development for teachers? Is it supervisors and principals doing
their jobs and observing teachers? You should define “harassment” more
specifically. Lafayette does not have 20 teachers who are receiving a “u”
rating. From where did this number come?

A teacher at Lafayette responds to Ms
The harassment information is a compilation of statements
by staff members in response to verbal assaults, scoldings, U-Observations,
usually by AP’s, all of which were compiled by the chapter leader and turned
over to the UFT. Your article doesn’t say 20 U-ratings, just that 20 teachers
have been harassed. At one time or another, I would say that several have felt
that they were being threatened with a U-rating. I think the article was
accurate. Ms. Rohloff operates on the basis that student opinion has greater
weight that of teachers, so it’s no wonder the entire staff feels harassed. The
PD is built around that way of thinking.

Another Lafayette teacher says:
A teacher was sent for a psych observation after students
in one class pelted him with cookies and soda cans- no punishment for the
students for their display of delinquent behavior -Why?

I am surprised that nothing could be done on the union side of things to protest this massive cull of teacher autonomy. I am surprised that nothing exists in the NYC teacher's contract allowing them to be informed of the grade changes or to grieve the non-notification of said changes. However, the union recently bargained away the right to grieve letters in teacher's files, a mistake of monumental proportions, as administrators now have a blank check to harrass and defame hardworking teachers.

This is a beginning sign, perhaps written in neon that we have gone from using standardized tests helping us to diagnose students' abilities (and weaknesses) to depending on these tests for their diploma to blindly accepting a few hours of academic hoop-jumping-through by a student to be the overall indicator for all things academic. Perhaps the administrator in question can somehow come up with a numerical system to use the Regents scores to somehow tie into the students' credit score, auto insurance rates and life expectancy, too.

It truly goes back to the age-old teacher question that is the central issue of the post-- what exactly, is a grade? How honest of a representation of a student is it? Is it a mark of effort or mastery? Or both? How important do you think a student's grade is? Is that student's grade more of a representation of the integrity of a teacher who "processes" the grade or the integrity of the student who earns it?

Weighty questions, indeed. Perhaps I'll answer them in the next post.

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Ms. Q said...

How long will it take students to figure out that their work in school no longer matters in NYC, if all they need to do is pass/fail the Regents exam? The administrators at work in NYC are opening a Pandora's box that will not be easy to close!

rightwingprof said...

Unfortunately, teacher grades mean nothing at all, or there wouldn't me a significant mismatch between grades and scores (that's why we ignore high school GPAs and pay attention to SATs here), so while I deplore the abuse of administrative power, I can see why they're doing it.


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