THE BLOG

Let's Rank Everybody

02/02/2015 11:36 am ET | Updated Apr 04, 2015

Because of the miracle of data collection and computer algorithms (don't ask me what an algorithm is but your computer knows) we can now track everyone's performance and take appropriate action to get rid of incompetence. Politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Arne Duncan are very excited about doing this for teachers and Schools of Education. Below is my recommendations for ranking other professions and people as well.

Of course the data collected and processing might not make any sense. I recently met with an eighth grade social studies teacher in a New York City suburb who explained that in his district, social studies teachers receive 20% of their professional rating based on student performance on 6th, 7th, and 8th grade high-stakes standardized reading and writing tests. Of course he does not teach reading and writing and does not even know the sixth and seventh graders yet, but their tests scores count for his evaluation. He was a bit concerned because New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared the teacher rating system too easy and wants these test scores counted for 40% of teacher performance.

After we finished laughing about how the physical education teachers in his school are being evaluated the same way as he is, we talked about how Barack Obama and Arne Duncan propose to use student scores on high-stakes standardized tests to evaluate the effectiveness of teacher education programs. Since this teacher was my student in a social studies teacher education program fifteen years ago and he is being evaluated based on the performance of students who he has not yet met, I will be evaluated on the performance of students who were not even born and many whose parents were not even in the country when he was in my class. While this may be hard to follow, it must be fair if the algorithm says so.

At the 2014 American Educational Research Association, Linda Darling-Hammond, who as a lead member of a group called SCALE was influential in developing and promoting a lot of the new assessments, declared, "New York is a prototype of how not to implement teacher performance assessment." I only wish she recognized these problems before lending her name and professional credibility to the test makers.

Meanwhile, back in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants the State Education Department to deregister and suspend the operation of teacher education programs if for three consecutive years fewer than fifty percent of its students pass every required certification examination. But just to make it even less fair, the exams are created by Pearson rather than State Education, Pearson administers and evaluates performance on the exams, and because Pearson is a private company that "owns" the tests through its Evaluation Systems and Pearson Assessment sub-divisions, the tests and grading policies are not subject to outside review or oversight.

In addition, Cuomo proposes to bar candidates from teacher education programs who have below a 3.0 or B average in college. This would eliminate from teaching students who took longer to adapt to college, could not decide on a major, switched majors, or who chose a more difficult subject area such as math or chemistry.

There is concern that this requirement would impact negatively on Black and Latino teacher education candidates who attended poorly performing inner-city schools that left them initially unprepared for college. It necessitated significant remediation before they could adequately perform in college classes. As a result, although they performed well at the end of college, their overall grand average would fall below the Cuomo cut-off.

Instead of open discussion of these proposals and whether it makes sense to evaluate students, teachers, schools, school districts, and Schools of Education based on student performance on high-stakes standardized reading, writing, and math tests, Cuomo is going to imbed his plan in the state budget process and is threatening to cut school funding unless he gets his way.

United University Professions, which is affiliated with New York State United Teachers and represents college professors in the State University system, has also disputed the validity of the teacher certification exams charging that none has been adequately field tested to demonstrate they actually measure a candidate's potential as a teacher. Test reliability is also an issue since conditions differ widely at different Pearson operated test sites.

UUP is protesting Cuomo's proposal to require teachers to re-register their teaching certificate every five years and to change the tenure process so that all new K-12 teachers would remain on probation until they receive five consecutive effective or highly effective ratings on a state teacher evaluation system based on the performance of students who are not yet in their classes and on testing in subjects they do not teach. UUP charges that this is really a plan to end teacher tenure. It will make it easier to replace teachers before they move up in seniority and receive higher salaries, creating a revolving door of low paid temporary employees.

UUP is posting updates on this campaign on its Teacher Education Task Force website and also has links that make it easier to contact legislators and the State Education Department.

Alan's Recommendations for Ranking Everybody

Doctors - Doctors should be rated on the mortality rate of their patients. But to be even more precise, every doctor in a hospital or practice can be rated on the mortality rate of every patient that walks in or is transported through the door of the facility. Extra negative points when people start out healthy but then deteriorate. I know everyone eventually dies so mortality rates in the end are high, but that is no excuse.

Lawyers - Lawyers should be rated on two things, the recidivist rate of their clients and their ability to tell the truth. If clients are arrested again, get rid of their lawyer. I know if we rate lawyers on honesty there would be no lawyers, but wouldn't society be better off?

Police - Police can also be rated on recidivism. It is not enough to get criminals off the streets, if they get back on the streets and commit additional crimes, hold the police responsible. We can also rate police on the number of tickets they give out, but I am not really happy with this one.

Sanitation workers - Sanitation workers are supposed to keep streets clean. No excuses that someone made it dirty after you left. Three strikes and you are out.

Wall Street Brokers and Hedge Fund Operators - WSB and HFO are already rated on how much money they make and they certainly like to brag about it so it should be easy to identify those that make too much money at the expense of everyone else. I don't believe in torture or the death penalty, but certainly long-term imprisonment. Rich people like to donate money and have things named after them. We could have a special facility, the Bernard Madoff Correctional Institution, and sell naming rights to the library, cafeteria, physical fitness center, etc.

Politicians - I know in New York State politicians already feel they are punished excessively by being forced to serve in Albany, but that has not been enough. We can rate them based on attendance, voting, and outside income, come up with a nice corruption index score, and send them to prison along side the wall street brokers and hedge funds guys they like to hang out with anyway. Maybe the Madoff Correctional Institution can have a Sheldon Silver wing. Some politicians might even prefer this to Albany.

Taxi Cab Drivers - I know this one will get a lot of support. Calculate delays, mix in scary rides, divide by cell phone messages and bad music, multiply by general annoyance and get all the taxi cabs off of the street.

Parents - We cannot be easy on parents because in the end they are to blame for everything. First hit them with a sliding scale kid tax, the more kids the more they pay. They should also be evaluated based on the performance of their children on high stakes Common Core aligned standardized tests. Bad scores = bad parenting. I know it will be costly but we are going to have to send a lot of kids to boarding schools and orphanages to get them away from low scoring parents. Parenting is one area where tenure definitely must end.

Sexual partners - Bad performance in bed leads to almost every other measurable social problem, particularly bad performance by men. This must stop. With electronic devices and computer algorithms we can put an end to lying and exaggeration. Society needs to install unobtrusive monitoring devices, perhaps at birth but certainly by puberty that can measure actual male performance. I do not advocate imprisonment in this case but we need to fire those who muck up the socio-psychological welfare of others and of course, seniority in relationships must end.

The whole responsibility for fixing society by rating professionals and other people cannot be on me alone. Please post your suggestions for the algorithmic ranking of everybody. Don't be too easy. Remember what the Queen of Hearts said during the croquet match in Alice in Wonderland - "Off with their heads!"