After bitter legal battles, criticisms by researchers and protests by teachers, New York City released performance rankings of 18,000 teachers today.
And the condemnation was immediate.
“It is outrageous that the New York City Department of Education is releasing teacher rankings that, by their own admission, are based on bad, unreliable data,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Publicizing this data reneges on a deal I made with former Chancellor Joel Klein years ago that it would only be available to teachers and their supervisors for purposes of improving instruction. Today’s release amounts to a public flogging of teachers based on faulty data.
“Instead of working with teachers to develop and implement an evaluation system that assesses teachers based on multiple criteria and helps them improve, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city’s education officials preferred to publicly ridicule teachers,” she said.
The release was accompanied by a caveat from the district to not use the scores alone to judge teachers, which I find strange as what else would parents be expected to do with the data? The rationale for releasing teacher grades or ratings is to better inform parents which teacher are effective and which are not, according to proponents.
New York was ordered to release its data because a court ruled the teacher ratings, which had been collected and used internally, were public documents.
The push to release the individual rankings began in August 2010, when New York City education officials contacted the reporters who most closely cover the city’s public schools and encouraged them to submit Freedom of Information Act requests for the teachers’ rankings. Until then, the city had refused to release the names with the rankings, citing issues of privacy.
On the eve of the rankings’ release, the teachers’ union filed a lawsuit. The city has acknowledged the reports are not perfect, but one of the judges who ruled on the case as it made its way to the state’s highest court said imperfection was no reason to hide them. Last week, after the union lost its last appeal, the city announced the rankings’ release.
“City officials are disingenuously telling parents, reporters, principals, teachers and others that they shouldn’t draw conclusions based on these scores alone,” said Weingarten. “But who wouldn’t, when they have nothing else to use?”
According to the New York Times: (Please link and read the entire story before commenting.)
At a briefing on Friday morning, an Education Department official said that over the five years, 521 teachers were rated in the bottom 5 percent for two or more years, and 696 were repeatedly in the top 5 percent. But citing both the wide margin of error — on average, a teacher’s math score could be 35 percentage points off, or 53 points on the English exam — as well as the limited sample size — some teachers are being judged on as few as 10 students — city education officials said their confidence in the data varied widely from case to case.
“The purpose of these reports is not to look at any individual score in isolation ever,” said the Education Department’s chief academic officer, Shael Polakow-Suransky. “No principal would ever make a decision on this score alone and we would never invite anyone — parents, reporters, principals, teachers — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone.”
Nevertheless, the data is ripe for analysis. One fact shared by the Education Department: Many of the teachers included in the database are no longer working in city schools. Officials said 77 percent of the 18,000 who received reports were still employed by the Education Department, but of those who remained, many had moved on to administrative jobs or teach subject areas or grade levels that were not included in the reports.
For example, the teacher who was rated most highly, based on his scores for the 2009-10 school year, is now an assistant principal at another school, according to his online profile. His rating encompassed only one year of data and was based on 32 students’ test scores.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog