Gross miscalculation

On his Sociological Eye on Education blog for the Hechinger Report, Aaron Pallas writes that in April 2011, Carolyn Abbott, who teaches mathematics to seventh- and eighth-graders at the Anderson School, a citywide gifted-and-talented school in Manhattan, received startling news. Her score on the NYC Department of Education's value-added measurement indicated only 32 percent of seventh-grade math teachers and 0 percent of eighth-grade math teachers scored worse than she. According to calculations, she was the worst eighth-grade math teacher in the city, where she has taught since 2007.

Here's the math: After a year in her classroom, her seventh-grade students scored at the 98th percentile of city students on the 2009 state test. As eighth-graders, they were predicted to score at the 97th percentile. Yet their actual performance was at the 89th percentile of students across the city, a shortfall -- 97th percentile to 89th percentile -- that placed Abbott near the rock bottom of 1,300 eighth-grade mathematics teachers. Anderson is an unusual school; the material on the state eighth-grade math exam is taught in the fifth or sixth grade. "I don't teach the curriculum they're being tested on," Abbott explained. "It feels like I'm being graded on somebody else's work." The math she teaches is more advanced, culminating in high-school level work and the New York State's Regents exam in Integrated Algebra. Of her students taking the Regents in January, all passed with flying colors, more than a third achieving a perfect score of 100.

This summer, the state will release a new iteration of the Teacher Data Reports. For Abbott, these will be a mere curiosity. She has decided to leave the classroom, and is entering the Ph.D. program in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall.

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