Monday, September 16, 2013

Lies, Damned Lies, and APPR Ratings

I tried to appeal my APPR teacher ranking. If you haven't been following the saga (and who really wants to?) I was rated ineffective and put on a teacher improvement plan. The ineffective rating came about because of the four students on whom I was rated (yeah, it was really only four), one failed the test she had to pass, one went up only half a point on a rubric, one went down a point on the rubric because he was incapacitated, and one refused to take the test. Therefore, I'm ineffective according to APPR even though, by any other measure, I'm very effective at helping at-risk kids move toward success. I tried to appeal, but there is no real appeal system. The rating can't be appealed. The only grounds for appeal is if someone missed a checkpoint along the way or I wasn't informed in time of something.


So I'm stuck with the rating and working in a setting that all but guarantees another ineffective rating. Ours is a transitional setting for kids who have been asked to leave their home school for a period of time. They come to us with the hope of working back into the home school. Students who are successful do just that. Students who are not successful stay with us. You might see how that's a problem for me. Any student for whom I have had a positive effect moves on to another school and doesn't show up on my ratings. The only students on whom I'm rated are those who can't make it in school or on the types of tests on which I'm measured.

So I'm kind of screwed here.

After meeting with my administrator today, during one of my classes because I don't have any plan time during the day, and having to sign off on the teacher improvement plan, and hearing that I have no grounds for appeal, and agreeing that there's not a great deal of reason to hope for better in the future, I felt just a tad depressed about this whole teaching gig. I went back to my classroom and worked with students. I made a difference, albeit a very small one given how short a time it was and knowing that one class meeting doesn't change things very much. Still, I knew that I was being effective and that we were learning there in the classroom as we talked about the writing they had done and how writing and reading work in this world.

I could easily say that the ratings don't matter, that a label of ineffective doesn't have any bearing on who I am or what I do. But that's not true. The ratings do matter. They determine whether or not I get to keep my job. Further, being labeled ineffective breaks my spirit. Sure, some people might wonder why they should give a damn, they might tell me to quit my whining, and they might be right. Still, it matters how a job feels. It affects performance on every level.

Waking up this morning, I dreaded going to work. I didn't feel as though it mattered. I felt sure that I was on my own in every way. Hung out to dry. Teaching is a tough job and teaching in public schools (especially alternative schools for at risk kids such as the one at which I teach) require teams, communities of professionals who work together and look after one another. I work with good teachers in a school that functions pretty well, but I don't have protection from those above me. I don't have anyone to appeal to and be supported by. This is the simple fact of APPR.

The other fact of APPR is that it pushes good teachers out the door. The stated goal is to push hacks out, but hacks have always been the ones who know how to survive the system without doing the real work of helping kids learn. APPR isn't going to get rid of them. It's going to rid teaching of people like me. I came into teaching out of a love for it. I am good at it. I have served hundreds of students and been much more than effective over my eighteen years. APPR data says otherwise. APPR data lies.

But I can't appeal lies. The process has been rigged against that. All I can do is teach as best I can, find some other career to follow, and write on.