Not very bright

Wayne Brightly earned $59,000 a year as a New York City teacher, despite repeatedly failing his certification test. After 13 years of teaching, he was about to lose his job, unless he could get a passing score. He turned to his tutor, who suffers from a form of autism, reports the New York Daily News.

A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him, authorities said yesterday.

The illegal stand-in — who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly — not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said.

Brightly taught at one of the city’s lowest-performing schools.

When The News went to Brightly’s Mount Vernon home yesterday, a man who strongly resembled him insisted Leitner took the test on his own. The man, who appeared to be in his late 30s, denied being Brightly – saying he was the teacher’s son.

The teacher is 38. He is tall, thin and black; his sub, Rubin Leitner, is 58, short, overweight and white. Nobody noticed till Leitner aced the test.

A seventh grader at Brightly’s old school has an idea. “The homeless man needs to be the teacher,” Imani Andrews said.

Via Education Gadfly.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Independent George says:

    Clearly, the tests are biased in favor of the mentally ill.

    Where did the $59,000 salary figure come from – is that accurate? I’m generally sympathetic to the idea that teachers need to be paid more in order to attract better talent, but if you can get $59,000 for 10 months of work with just a BA, then something is seriously out of whack here. Did he have to pass some other credentialing program to get to 59k? If so, why the disparity in scoring – or did he cheat on those, too?

    Just a guess, but this seems to explain why he’s teaching at “one of the city’s worst schools.”

  2. Steve LaBonne says:

    Not implausible at all. In the Schenectady, NY area where I used to live, median teacher salary in all the local districts was around $55,000- and that was 10 years ago. And it’s a heck of a lot cheaper to live there than in NYC.

  3. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Why have teacher testing anyway? Do we really care how smart the teachers are? Test the students and base the teacher’s evaluation on the improvement of the students for that year. It makes no sense to use an indirect measure when a direct measure of the variable of interest could be used.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    But he DID pay his union dues on time.

  5. Ross the Heartless Conservative wrote:

    Why have teacher testing anyway?

    Well, it wouldn’t do to have some marginally functional, mentally-impaired person in charge of a classroo…..uhh, never mind.

  6. Matthew Tabor says:

    I’d love to comment on this, but I can’t get over the fact that he paid him TWO #$%^ING DOLLARS. I bet it was Canadian, too.

  7. It is not an indirect measure when a teacher can’t pass the certification test / tests. How can they teach the basics if they don’t know the basics themselves?

    What happened to the best and the brightest teaching? I guess this teacher was one of the brightest as he makes $59,000 and only paid $2 to have someone take a test for him.

    Never mind the basics, its okay to take advantage of someone with a disability and its okay to cheat on tests.

  8. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    It is not an indirect measure when a teacher can’t pass the certification test / tests. How can they teach the basics if they don’t know the basics themselves?

    What do you want to measure?
    How well the students are learning.
    What are you measuring?
    How well the teacher does on a test.

    The teacher is already in the classroom trying to teach kids so a direct measure is available if yearly tests are given.

    You might very well be right that a high correlation exists between teacher knowledge and student performance. And if that is so, testing of the teacher might be successfully used to measure how successful a teacher will be in educating students. But teacher knowledge is an indirect measure of student educational performance no matter how much you wish it were otherwise.

    I have no objection to an initial certification test as an initial measure of whether or not someone is competent. Such a test would be similar to the Bar Exam or the CPA Exam.

    However, once someone has passed their initial entrance test they start to establish a track record that can be used to determine how well they are doing their job.

    A teacher needs to know the material to teach the subject but knowing the material does not mean the teacher can teach well. Wouldn’t it make more sense to measure what you really care about (student performance) instead of the test taking ability of the teacher?

    Of course, if annual testing is cost prohibitive and teacher testing is effective then I would agree that reform based on indirect measures is vastly better than no reform at all. But that is not the argument I am hearing so far.

  9. The teacher is already in the classroom trying to teach kids so a direct measure is available if yearly tests are given.The yearly state tests trail the U.S. standard tests.

    But teacher knowledge is an indirect measure of student educational performance no matter how much you wish it were otherwise. It still comes down to if someone doesn’t know something how can they teach it?

    However, once someone has passed their initial entrance test they start to establish a track record that can be used to determine how well they are doing their job. Tell that to a high school graduate, when he / she tries to get into college and that person only has a 4th to 9th grade education. After all, a track record of 12 years of education should determine that he / she is prepared for college.

    I have no objection to an initial certification test as an initial measure of whether or not someone is competent. Such a test would be similar to the Bar Exam or the CPA Exam. I can pick and choose a lawyer or an accountant on their credentials and reputations. Students don’t have either option.

    A teacher needs to know the material to teach the subject but knowing the material does not mean the teacher can teach well. Wouldn’t it make more sense to measure what you really care about (student performance) instead of the test taking ability of the teacher? Again, the yearly state tests are not comparable to the U.S. standard tests. If a teacher does know the material and can’t impart that knowledge, they shouldn’t be teaching.

  10. I’d say you have to measure everything that’s germane and that can be measured accurately.

    Obviously, a teacher who doesn’t know the material isn’t going to be able teach the material. They may be able to vamp, tap-dance, encourage and misdirect but any diversion from the text will be utterly beyond them. So testing content knowledge makes sense and can be done. Content knowledge makes a good teacher better and, maybe, a lousy teacher endurable.

    But using yearly tests of students to determine teacher competence is tougher. There are confounding factors that could drastically skew the results but are essentially unmeasureable. How do you, for instance, account for the negative effect of teacher A on teacher B’s class? How do you account for the luck of the draw? That this years class just happens to be salted with potential Nobel prize winners and last years class with budding serial killers?

  11. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Allen,
    Thanks for the input and the questions.
    One way to correct the negative effect of teacher A on teacher B’s class is to help teacher A become a better teacher so they can educate the students better. If teacher A is a so ignorant of their subject matter or so tempermentally malsuited to teaching that they cannot make enough improvement then they need to find another job (or perhaps become an administrator ;-).

    You can account for the luck of the draw by randomizing the student selection process. Also, I would suggest that if a student enters a 9th grade math course testing at the 3rd grade level and leaves testing at the 7th grade level the 9th grade teacher deserves a big bonus. If you have a teacher who performs well and has a bad semester then you can attribute it to chance. If you have a teacher who consistently fails to educate children then it is not fair to the children to let that continue.

  12. I have some questions. 🙂

    How could a student that tests at the 3rd grade level be allowed to enter a 9th grade math class?

    How could a 9th grade teacher teach about 4 years of math in about 180 days to have the student test-out at a 7th grade level?

    What happens to the student who doesn’t test ahead to the 7th grade level? Or even the next grade level?

    What happens to the teachers who passed the student with the 3rd grade math level who is now in the 9th grade?

    What happens to the student who has the 3rd grade math level and now has graduated from high school?

  13. In order:

    By showing up for start-of-school.

    The teacher couldn’t and the student didn’t.

    At the end of the 9th grade they go on to the 10th.

    Nothing. Why would you even ask?

    Who cares? Or rather, does anyone who matters care? Some reporter didn’t call, did they?

  14. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Thanks Allen,
    To expand on the last point. I occasionally teach an MS Office skills class at a local college. It is an official class and the students receive 3 hours credit. I start by trying to give simple word problems that can be solved in the student’s head. Unfortunately, I can’t find meaningful problems that everyone can solve.

    An example:
    You buy 12 pencils for $1.00 and bring them to class on test day. You sell the pencils to your classmates for 10 cents per pencil and you sell all 12 pencils. How much profit did you make?

    The students can solve the problem using just their head, Excel, or pencil and paper.

    About 20% to 50% miss this question but when I gave it to my third grader she solved it immediately.

    The average ACT test here is around 23 so we are not looking at a horrible school.

    So the answer to what happens to those who are not at the third grade level is many of them go to college.

  15. I like my answer better although brevity doesn’t serve all that well in this case.

    What I meant was, to whom does it matter that a kid is graduating high school with a third grade understanding of math?

    To the kid? Probably not or he would have done something about it in the years leading up to graduation. Besides, it’s a kid. Making dumb choices comes with the territory.

    The parents? Almost certainly provided they haven’t gratefully abdicated their responsibility to the seductive notion that their particular batch of professionals – teachers – is taking care of the situation so they don’t have to concern themselves with it. But what are they going to do if junior isn’t learning? Make a nuisance of themselves? File a law suit? Big deal.

    The teachers? Maybe but there are so many kids and some of them are a lot more likely to respond to the limited amount of attention that a teacher can afford to pay then this particular kid. And that only holds for the teachers who care.

    So who’s that leave? People who matter. Administrators and, to a lesser extent, school board members.

    Does an illiterate or innumerate graduate inconvenience or embaress the administrators or school board members? Certainly not any individual “graduate”. So, if a teacher or a parent or a kid cares about graduating with third grade math skills, does it matter? No. They’re all people who don’t matter and what they care about doesn’t matter.

  16. : ) Thank you, Allen for answering my questions, though I already knew the answers. I did like the bluntness of your first post. I liked the second post even more with your explanations.

    IMHO it does matter to the student and to the parents. Teachers are told to tell parents that their child is doing well in school. (Been there, heard it, found out otherwise).The parents believe the teacher, the parents tell the child, and the child believes the parents. The teacher uses the feel good philosophy in class and the student believes the teacher. The child / student feel that they’re doing great in school. The parents and the teacher said so. It must be true.

    I will say that it is more than one student that this is happening to.

    You’re right it doesn’t matter to the people in the subsidized education business about people who don’t matter. The SEB’es receives their money no matter what kind of product they turn out.

    About 20% to 50% miss this question but when I gave it to my third grader she solved it immediately.

    That’s good for your third grader. That’s bad for the college students, especially the ones who couldn’t figure that problem mentally.

    Peace.