The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about how teachers evaluations were leaked to the public and how many people are up in arms, and rightfully so.
New York City plans to release on Friday internal rankings of about 18,000 public schoolteachers who were measured over three years on their ability to affect student test scores.
The city planned to make the data public after a yearlong legal battle with the United Federation of Teachers, which sued to block the release and protect teachers’ privacy.
News organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, had requested the data in 2010 under the state Freedom of Information Law.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, who has pushed for accountability based on test scores, cautioned that the data were old and represented just one way to look at teacher performance.
Associated PressDennis Walcott in January
NOTE: The Wall Street Journal plans to publish the city’s teacher-performance data upon its release. Check WSJ.com/NY on Friday to search for teachers and schools and follow our coverage.
“I am really conflicted about this,” Mr. Walcott said. “While I understand the legal requirement, I also have a responsibility as chancellor and manager of our employees to make sure that they’re not put in a position where they’re ostracized or denigrated based on a snapshot of information.”
He sent a letter to teachers Thursday that said the reports were “never intended to be public or to be used in isolation.”
In the lawsuit, however, the city argued the public interest trumped concerns over the validity of the data.
“The [reports], in accounting for many variables…provide parents with considerable information to make their own informed judgments,” city lawyers wrote in March 2011. “This is precisely the sort of disclosure that FOIL was intended to ensure.”
The court sided with the city, and the union lost its final appeal in the lawsuit last week.
“Public education is paid for by the public, used by the public and of crucial public concern, so this data should be made public,” said the Journal’s managing editor, Robert Thomson.
The UFT placed an advertisement in newspapers, including the Journal, pointing out the complicated nature of the formula used to rank teachers.
“The Department of Education should be ashamed of itself,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said. “It has combined bad tests, a flawed formula and incorrect data to mislead tens of thousands of parents about their children’s teachers.”
The rankings, created in 2006, were the first step taken by the Bloomberg administration to hold individual teachers accountable for state test scores. The results have already been released to teachers and principals, and haven’t been used in salary or firing decisions.
Using a formula created by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, the city analyzed whether students scored above or below expectations based on a model that accounts for factors like poverty, class size, race and previous scores.
The system seeks to isolate the effect of the teacher from those variables.
The city’s system is similar to ones being developed and deployed in school districts across the U.S., with the support of the Obama administration.
In coming years, however, the city will abandon its own system and join in a new statewide model.
Friday’s expected release will cover math and English teachers active between 2007 and 2010.
Some parents said they looked forward to seeing the scores.
Bryan Davis, member of a school-advisory board in Washington Heights, said critics weren’t giving parents enough credit.
“It is talking down to parents,” Mr. Davis said.
Others parents preferred to keep the rankings private.
Lee Solomon, who lives in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, doubted it would help her assess her daughters’ education and worried it would anger teachers.
“This boiling down of teachers’ effectiveness is demeaning,” Ms. Solomon said. “It seems like a public flogging.”