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'Worst' Math Teacher in NYC Questions Ranking

Carolyn Abbott, a 7th and 8th grade math teacher in New York City, is one unhappy educator. According to a post by sociologist Aaron M. Pallas on The Hechinger Report, Abbott's score on the New York City Department of Education's Teacher Data Report has ranked her the worst 8th grade math teacher in the city.

The Teacher Data Report attempts to predict a student's future success on the state's math and English Language Arts exams by comparing a student's prior year's performance with their current performance—so a teacher's value goes up if their students perform at or above the predicted level. In Abbott's case, it was down.

Why the decline in students' scores? According to Pallas, Abbott's school, which serves gifted and talented students, is very advanced. 5th grade students learn 8th grade math, so by the time the students are actually in 8th grade, they are taught high school level algebra and not the material that the state exams cover. Pallas also points out that the state tests are not high stakes for the 8th graders at the school because by the spring, they all know the high school they will be attending in the fall.

According to Abbott, when her honors 8th graders took a more advanced exam in January called the Regents Integrated Algebra exam, they "passed with flying colors."

"If they did so well, I don't see how they can say I added no value whatsoever," says Abbott. Even so, her score on the Teacher Data Report could technically count against her in the tenure process.

But it appears Abbott, who has taught at the Anderson School since 2007, won't be around to find out: She is giving up teaching to enter a Ph.D. program in mathematics. "It's too hard to be a teacher in New York City," Pallas quotes her as saying. "Everything is stacked against you. You can't just measure what teachers do and slap a number on it."

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