New York to release teacher evaluations, without the names or the shame
New York teachers rally around the public release of teacher evaluations, but without a ranking that they (and Bill Gates) say won't improve education for kids.
As school systems around the country start to implement teacher evaluation programs, as both the Obama administration and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney have advocated, they are all going to have to answer this one key question: How should that information be publicized?
New York legislators settled on a solution that could serve as a model for the rest of the country, after complicated negotiations led to passage of a last-minute compromise bill on Thursday that allows evaluations to be made public â€“ but only without teachersâ€™ names, unless a parent requests a report for his or her own childâ€™s teacher.
Tying teacher performance to student test scores has been a central tenant of the Obama administrationâ€™s school reforms, but the release of teachers' individual results in Los Angeles and New York â€“ the first two school districts to make that information public on a large scale â€“ â€ścreated a real firestorm,â€ť according to Sean Corcoran, an education policy expert and professor at New York University.
Thatâ€™s because thereâ€™s no universally accepted way to evaluate teachers. Critics say evaluation data are often taken out of context, shaming individual teachers without improving classes.
Last time, evaluations that in some cases had more than a 60 percent margin of error led to the New York Post running a story about â€śthe worst teacher in the city,â€ť based on data that Mr. Corcoran says â€śwas intended to be used by professional educators to evaluate other professional educators. I donâ€™t think it was set up to be a restaurant grading system,â€ť he says.
Thatâ€™s why New York legislators decided to try to prevent a repeat of last Februaryâ€™s debacle.
This time, say Corcoran, the plan is â€śa decent compromiseâ€ť that gives parents information about schools but doesnâ€™t put specific individualsâ€™ results into the public eye, without additional context.
As other school systems roll out their new teacher evaluation systems â€“ which vary from state to state, but are being installed all over the country â€“ New Yorkâ€™s way of releasing teachers' performance statistics could be a model that satisfies most educators and school reformers, he says.
Of course, not everyone will be happy. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate ofÂ full-disclosure, says that making teachersâ€™ performance reviews public is the best way to improve accountability. He released a statement saying, â€śI am disappointed that this bill falls short of that goal.â€ť
But the decision to grant teachers anonymity in the public release of their evaluations won over a key former foe: the cityâ€™s main teachersâ€™ union. The United Federation of Teachers, which opposed â€śMayor Bloombergâ€™s insistence on releasing the misleading and inaccurate Teacher Data Reports" earlier this year, released a statement on Thursday praising the legislatureâ€™s â€śmajor steps on behalf of our schools and our children."
The move is also in line with what Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates called for in an opinion essay in the New York Times last February, when New York first released the controversial results. "I am a strong proponent of measuring teachersâ€™ effectiveness," he said. "But publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning. On the contrary, it will make it a lot harder to implement teacher evaluation systems that work."