March 3, 2012

Dear Mayor Bloomberg, 3.3.12

Dear Mayor Bloomberg,

The teacher ratings came out this week. It seems there are a lot of innacuracies. I imagine if an important report affected you they way these affect teachers who get unfavorable ratings, you would be upset. It seems that you don't care about that so much. Too bad.

I wanted to write to you and tell you about my weekend, and last weekend, and next weekend. The photo above shows my living room. You'll notice it is full of papers. These are piles of my students' work. I lug this stuff home so that I can read through it all again in order to complete my progress reports. We present progress reports at Parent/Teacher conferences which we have scheduled for four days after school over the next two weeks. In our school, in our grade, we meet with parents for 20 minutes conferences. As we have 29 students, that's 580 minutes of meetings after school. We are lucky that the UFT has allowed us to have one half day of school to have meetings, but most parents work during the day and need to come at night-more than we could see in one evening. So, in my class we schedule three or four additional evenings.

Some teachers fill out checklists to chart student progress. In my school, we use a grade appropriate standards based check list, but we attach a narrative evaluation of each student's performance in each of seven subject areas. In my grade, we write these narratives twice a year. I am lucky because I teach in an ICT class, and I only have to write 16 narratives each semester. My co-teacher has to write narratives for 13 students plus her annual IEP forms. (Actually, we have additional meetings for the IEP students as well, but those are during the day, usually during our prep periods.) The other teachers on my grade, Steve and Ilana, each must write 30 narratives! The narratives I write about my students' performance in school are quite intense. I'd post one here, but that would invade a student's privacy. I would never want to do that. The shortest narrative I've written today is about 1,200 words long. The longest is over 1,700 words. I try to give the parents a complete overview of their child's performance in my class. It takes me over two hours, sometimes longer, to write each report. Plus I have to fill out the checklist, add in the attendance and lateness data, and, we like to include a photo or a quote from each child. In addition, I gather a packet of work samples to show families at the conference. This takes additional time as well.

This weekend, I took about three hours off from writing time to do a load or two of laundry, to go for a run and to watch my son play soccer. Thankfully, although my husband is also a teacher, he teaches a cluster class, music, and doesn't have bi-annual reports to write. He was able to grocery shop, fix a broken appliance, make lunches for after the soccer game and cook us some dinner. He is a good husband, and a good teacher. I hope you and your politician friends give him a good rating.

I was wondering if my extra weekend work, which is crucial for my students and their families, for which I am not paid anything extra, ever, at all, will affect my rating. I know it's meaningful, I know it's important, I know it helps families understand their child's strengths and weaknesses and how they can support their children with school work much more than the test score they will receive in the summer or fall of this year. But what I don't know is how you can really know how hard I, and thousands of teachers across this city, work to ensure our students' success, based on a number from 1 through 4, that these 8 year old children will get as a result of three or four hours of testing in April.

That's why I write you these letters: so that you will know.

Sincerely, a NYC public school teacher,
Jennifer Hardy

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