Voices Vol 41 No 2

Fellow teachers come to the defense of Pascale Mauclair, singled out as the 'worst' by the 'Post'

By Joe Pompeo, March 2, 2012

*(Reprinted in Voices by permission of the author and capitalnewyork.com. The original may be viewed on line at http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2012/03/5383844/fellow-teachers-come-defense-pascale-mauclair-singled-out-worst-post)

Among the reasons members of the teachers' union were fearful of the education department's release of a trove of teacher data last Friday to local news outlets that had sued for it to be made public was the prospect of individual teachers being "denigrated in the media based on this information," as education chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in the Daily News.

Teachers across the river in New Jersey are now rallying behind the teacher who was dubbed the "worst" in the city by the New York Post.

"Teachers are being trashed by media," a Garden State E.S.L. teacher wrote in an email that was circulated to a list-serv of New Jersey Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (NJTESOL), a professional organization.

The email included a link to an article on the website Edwize (which is sponsored by the union, the United Federation of Teachers) that described how Queens E.S.L. teacher Pascale Mauclair twice called the cops after Post reporters staked out her home last week.

"She is an ESL teacher with an excellent record of success," the email reads, "however state teacher data did not provide full story, as clearly her students cannot immediately show proficiency on state assessments!"

The teacher data is based on English and math test scores for the city's fourth through eighth grade student populations. The scores are one measure used by the D.O.E. to make certain performance-based decisions, such as tenure, but they are not necessarily an accurate metric by which to gauge a teacher's overall success, which made their release controversial.

News outlets exercised varying degrees of caution in reporting on the data and presenting it to readers.

Post rival the Daily News, for instance, singled out the few dozen teachers at the very high and very low ends of the spectrum with a one-point margin of error while also running several skeptical op-ed pieces.

"We felt in terms of naming people, that was the fairer way to do it," deputy editor Arthur Browne told Capital earlier this week. "We had good reason to believe that that information carried more veracity as far as these particular individuals were concerned."

The Post, meanwhile, printed the rankings of all of the more than 12,000 teachers named in the report, and promoted the list heavily on the front page of last Saturday's paper.

The following day, the Post published a follow-up item about Mauclair, reporting: "The city’s worst teacher has parents at her Queens school looking for a different classroom for their children."

Reached for comment earlier this week, the Post education reporter listed online as the paper's public liaison for the teacher ratings said she was not authorized to comment. (At a paper like the Post, big stories like this are generally executed by teams of reporters, and the overall tone and packaging of the coverage is determined by multiple editors, whom the tabloid also generally does not permit to comment publicly on editorial decision-making.)

The EDwize article, on the other hand, paints a different picture of Mauclair, who teaches at P.S. 11 in Woodside Queens, where more than a quarter of the students are not native English speakers, according to the site.

"If a journalist with integrity had examined the TDR data, a number of red flags which suggested something was seriously amiss with the scores for Mauclair and P.S. 11 would have presented themselves," wrote Leo Casey, the teacher union's vice president for academic high schools and the author of the essay. "Mauclair is an ESL teacher, and over the last five years she has had small, self-contained classes of recently arrived immigrants who do not speak English. Her students arrive at different times of the school year, depending upon that date of their family’s migration; consequently, it is not unusual for her students to take the 6th grade exams when they have only been in her class for a matter of a few months.

"The Post gets its share of the blame," he continued. "It engaged in the calculated effort to destroy the good name of a teacher whose sole crime was her vocation to make a difference in the lives of children. It set out to brutally strip her of her personal dignity, and paraded in public an egregiously false ‘naked’ portrait of her life’s work."