Governor Andrew Cuomo has come up with a compromise on the issue of releasing teacher data rankings. He wants only parents to see the rankings and data reports for their children’s teachers, but to make public the data for individual classes and schools. This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough.
It doesn’t satisfy the tabloids, who want every teacher’s name and ranking to be published online and in print. Like Mayor Bloomberg, they believe that the rankings are an accurate reflection of teacher quality and should be freely displayed, perhaps on “wanted” posters in the post-office.
It doesn’t satisfy me either because I know based on research and experience that the rankings are inaccurate, unstable and will sully the reputation of good teachers. How are parents helped by seeing inaccurate ratings? How are teachers helped to improve, as Bill Gates pointed out in an article in the New York Times earlier this year, if their job evaluations are showed to anyone other than their supervisors?
The rankings, derived from the rise or fall of student test scores, are demonstrably inaccurate. When New York City released its teacher data reports in January and they were published in the media with the names and rankings of teachers, it warned the public to take them with more than a grain of salt because the margin of errors in both reading and math were so large–35 points in reading and 53 points in math. That means that a teacher of math who was labeled a 50 (on a 100 point scale) might actually be at the 15th percentile or the 85th percentile. In reading, the margin of error was so large as to make the numbers utterly meaningless. Statistical analyses showed that there was no correlation between the scores that a teacher “produced” from year to year, and that a teacher who taught both subjects got different grades. All that data, all those rankings were so flawed as to be pointless other than to provide fodder for the tabloids to attack teachers.
Why aren’t the tabloids howling for the release of the evaluations of police officers and firefighters? Why are their evaluations shielded (by law) from public view? Shouldn’t the public have a right to know about their performance?
What about the job evaluations of the top officials at the New York City Department of Education? When will their job evaluations be released? They are public employees and they are paid six figures. What value do they add? How many schools have they improved? What are they doing to strengthen public education? How can the public hold them accountable? Here’s one suggestion: Every time a public school closes, the top officials should lose points on their evaluation because a school closing represents a failure of leadership.