The teachers union had challenged the New York school system’s plan to release the ratings, which categorize teachers as “high,” “above average,” “average,” “below average” or “low” based on how students fared on the state tests compared to peers. The district has compiled the scores for several years but has not used them in evaluations or released them to parents.
In the unanimous ruling, the four-judge appeals panel reaffirmed an earlier legal decision that the data can be made public, contending, “The reports concern information of a type that is of compelling interest to the public, namely, the proficiency of public employees in the performance of their job duties.”
The teachers’ union argued that the data is flawed and that the resulting negative labels and sensationalized news stories — “The 10 worst teachers in the Bronx” — could haunt teachers forever.
This case has implications for Georgia where Race to the Top participating systems are working to create evaluations that consider student performance in grading teacher performance.
In a column in the New York Daily News, education researcher Rick Hess decried the ruling. Here is an excerpt of his op-ed:
Student achievement should be incorporated into teacher evaluation and compensation, and transparency is a vital tool for recognizing excellence and shaming mediocrity. But a public data release is the wrong way to get there.
First, at the most technical level, there are enormous questions about the “right” way to construct a value-added model, and teacher evaluations can move markedly depending on the decisions that are made. Second, in the substantial number of cases where students receive considerable pull-out instruction – or work, for instance, with a designated reading instructor – value-added calculations aren’t going to effectively isolate the impact of a particular classroom teacher.
Third, there’s a profound failure to recognize the difference between responsible management and this sort of public transparency. It’s fair for taxpayers to want to know exactly how their money is spent and – and to expect leaders to report on organizational performance. It typically doesn’t make sense, however, for the public to get the numbers of citations each cop in the NYPD issues or all the performance reviews a National Guardsman was given by his commanding officer.
Why? Because we recognize that these data are imperfect, limited measures and that using them sensibly requires judgment. Sensible judgment becomes much more difficult when decisions are made in the glare of the media spotlight.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog