I read in the Daily News this morning that Governor Cuomo will oppose the public release of teacher ratings (
). I am glad he realizes that teachers’ evaluation should not be published for all to see, but I wish he had taken the next step, which is to shield such evaluations as part of every teacher’s personnel file. No member of the public has the right to see the job evaluations of police or firefighters or corrections officers, yet their jobs are no less important than those of teachers.
The Governor’s position is that parents have a “right to know” the job evaluations of their child’s teacher. I disagree, and I’ll explain why.
The first reason that I think this is wrong is that the ratings themselves, as we learned when they were released by New York City, are inaccurate. Why should parents have the right to know a rating that is wrong? We saw examples of teachers who were assigned students they never taught; teachers who got ratings for years when they were on maternity leave. Given the city’s insistence that teachers be compared to other teachers and graded on a curve, half of the teachers fell in the bottom half of the curve, despite their qualities as teachers.
In one case, a teacher of gifted children was rated a very poor teacher—one of the worst in the city—because the children who started in her classroom gained only .05 of a point when the computer said they should have gained .07 of a point. This is not judgment, this is a mechanical calculation that is meaningless. Her principals says she is an excellent teacher but the computer knows best.
Then there was the New York Post’s “expose” of the woman they called “the worst teacher in the city.” The rankings showed her at the bottom. But the rankings did not explain that she teaches new immigrant students who cycle in and out of her classroom as they learn English. In other words, the rankings are bunk.
Aside from the question of accuracy—a very large question given the crudeness of the measures—there is an issue of practicality. What happens when the parents in a school learn that Ms. Smith has a ranking in the 12 percentile? Will they all go to the principal and ask to have their children transferred to a teacher with a higher ranking? If they do, will Ms. Jones have 65 children in her class, while Ms. Smith sits in an empty classroom? What will be their rankings next year? What will parents do with the inaccurate information the Governor wants them to have?
I suppose this will sort itself out and in time will come to mean nothing at all. One thing seems certain. This is not a method that will improve the teaching profession or improve education or give teachers the respect they now feel is sorely lacking.