The following letter from New York City teacher, Lynda Costagliola, first appeared on the NYCoRE listserv. The urgent tone of Lynda’s plea to be recognized as other than the sum of her students’ test scores caught my attention. I wrote to Lynda and asked her permission to publish it here; she graciously consented and had this to say: ”Hopefully, this letter will get people to realize teachers are not the enemy, charter schools are not the answer and that our children are being caught in the middle”.
Lynda said she wrote to UFT President, Michael Mulgrew, “because, as the president of my union, I felt it necessary to alert him to what was going on with real teachers. He has not responded. The union originally agreed to the TDR’s (Teacher Data Reports) as an evaluative tool when Randi Weingarten was union president. At no point did the union agree to the release of these reports. The city, at that time, agreed nothing would ever be released to the public. I think it was former chancellor Joel Klein who went back on that agreement.”
Dear Mr. Mulgrew,
I am a veteran public school teacher of 33 years and have taught a variety of subject areas and grades during my tenure. I began as a middle school special education teacher and am currently a licensed teacher for the Gifted and Talented Program, grade 5. I have an exemplary record and have contributed in a positive way to many, many students most of whom I still keep in contact via that technological wonder, Facebook!
I received my Teacher Data Report on Wednesday, April 13 and was demoralized beyond words. I was rated an “average” teacher in both E.L.A. and Math and “below average” in one area of the math. I sat and stared at the computer screen reading through tears of frustration insisting that someone made a terrible mistake. I am NOT “an average/below average” teacher!
In June of each school year, parents line up outside my principal’s office begging to have their children in my class. If I was such an “average/below average” teacher, why would parents do that? Over the years many of my fifth grade students have been accepted into such prestigious middle schools as DeLaSalle Academy, Medgar Evers Prep School, Mark Twain Middle School for the Gifted and Talented, Philippa Schulyer Middle School and the Prep for Prep Program. I prepare all my students to take these entrance exams as well as introduce them to the interview process. I don’t think an “average/below average” teacher’s students would be able to pass such rigorous entrance exams.
My principal told me to rip up my Teacher Data Report as she does not give it any merit, especially in my case. As a teacher of the Gifted and Talented, many of my students enter my class with perfect E.L.A. and Math scores. Where can I move them? What if my principal leaves and I am at the mercy of some Tweed Operative who only deals with statistics?
I hope my Union, one that I have supported and believed in since the days of Albert Shanker, will alert the public to the offensive nature and inaccuracies of these Reports. Fight their release and get rid of them! My livelihood is being challenged on the basis of two exams, which are administered over four days. Three hours of testing can measure a teacher’s worth?
My evenings and weekends are consumed with paperwork. My preps? My lunch periods? I coach the Oratory Team and am the coordinating teacher for The Stock Market Game. I also coordinate many of the senior activities at my school. Should I give this all up and focus on test-taking? Teaching in Brooklyn certainly has it advantages. I have taken my class on many school trips to concerts, plays, museums and art galleries, all related to various areas of the curriculum. Should I stop and just focus on test-taking activities? Should I stop molding my students into becoming well-rounded young men and women and just focus on test-taking skills? If the answer is yes, then I fear I may have to retire.
Please Mr. Mulgrew. Get the word out that Teacher Data Reports are flawed, inaccurate and do not measure the worth of a competent, motivated teacher. These Teacher Data Reports do not take into account students who have to overcome incredible obstacles just to make it to class every day. What about students who. through no fault of their own, arrive at school late, hungry and unprepared? A teacher can only do such much in the course of a day, a week, a month and a school year.
Many of my colleagues are reconsidering teaching the testing grades and are applying for lower grade positions or out of classroom positions.
I do not deserve such abuse. I have dedicated my life to the children who have passed through my classroom door. Please help me.