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Study to measure what teachers do kicks off

nyt20100308_4a.jpgUFT President Michael Mulgrew, a strong supporter of the Measures of Effective Teaching study, tells teacher volunteers not to worry about classroom videos because “you are beautiful, talented people.”

One of the hottest issues in education today is also an age-old question: What makes a good teacher? And the UFT is working to help find an answer.

Federal officials, in testimony before Congress recently, called for a refocus away from looking at “paper credentials” to gauging teacher effectiveness by asking states to find a better system for teacher evaluation.

Well, 700 New York City public school teachers have stepped up to the plate and invited teams of independent researchers into their classrooms to view their day-to-day practices for the next two years.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew applauded the volunteers for being on the cutting edge of the nationwide Measures of Effective Teaching Study that kicked off at union headquarters on March 3. “Educators will be looking at you for years to come,“ he said

nyt20100308_4b.jpgChapter Leader Pat Crispino (right) of the HS of Graphic Communication Arts tells (from left) Special Representative Joseph Colletti, Project Director David Osborn and Staten Island Educational Liaison Debra Penny how proud she is that the UFT is, once again, in the forefront of new ideas and initiatives. nyt20100308_4c.jpgItzel Rivas (left) of PS 126 in the Bronx gets a gift certificate to Staples — a gift to each school with a volunteer team — to buy resources for her school from Katie Ruddy of the MET project.

“Studying what goes on inside the classroom is what’s most important,” he added. “And teachers, the people who actually make a difference in children’s lives, have been left out of that discussion — until now.”

Some of those voices will be coming from PS 7 in the Bronx, where Nathaniel Schiavo is chapter leader and project coordinator for the school’s seven-teacher MET team.

“This project,” he said, “will measure what’s effective besides just what shows on tests, because we do so much more.”

As colleague Naomi Wise pointed out, “There’s been no formal assessment before to judge the valuable things going on in the classroom that were not seen.”

nyt20100308_4d.jpgStanding ready to open their classrooms at PS 7 in the Bronx to MET researchers are (from left) Elizabeth Harley, Naomi Wise and Chapter Leader Nathaniel Schiavo.

Project participants — 4th- through 8th-grade math and English language arts teachers, and high school living environment, English 9 and algebra teachers — will be videoed in their classrooms four times a year by specially designed, unobtrusive cameras that will be able to sweep 360 degrees to cover the entire room.

The tapes will then be analyzed by experts and the students’ learning will be assessed. Teachers will have opportunities to reflect on their taped performances. The Gates Foundation-funded study includes six other urban school systems and some 3,000 teachers nationwide.

Other parts of the project include student surveys and supplementary assessments, teacher surveys and assessment of teacher ability to recognize and diagnose student misperceptions.

Chapter Leader Pat Crispino of the HS of Graphic Arts said of her school’s 16 volunteers, “These are the very people who got us off the SURR list.”

Mark Catanzaro, an English teacher at the Manhattan high school, is looking forward to “working with the project in the hope that it will benefit education for years to come.”

Jeff Glasse, the research team member who will be in charge of classroom videos, described the project as “incredibly bold, audacious, challenging and novel because it focuses on practice.” He expects to tape 17,000 hours of practice in a process that he said “will gather all the richness of the classroom.”

Fifteen teachers at Curtis HS on Staten Island have signed on because, as English teacher Michelle Castelli remarked, “Test scores don’t tell the whole story. We want a more accurate way to show what goes on in our classrooms.”

And colleague Caryn Obert added, “I’m gratified to hear people say they appreciate what we do in the classroom.”

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