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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.

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New York Assemblyman Peter Lopez (R) speaks about public disclosure of teacher evaluations, during an Assembly debate on June 21 at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y.

Tim Roske/AP

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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 – but only without teachers’ names, unless a parent requests a report for his or her own child’s teacher.

Tying teacher performance to student test scores has been a central tenant of the Obama administration’s school reforms, but the release of teachers' individual results in Los Angeles and New York – the first two school districts to make that information public on a large scale – “created a real firestorm,” according to Sean Corcoran, an education policy expert and professor at New York University.

That’s because there’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 “the worst teacher in the city,” based on data that Mr. Corcoran says “was intended to be used by professional educators to evaluate other professional educators. I don’t think it was set up to be a restaurant grading system,” he says.

That’s why New York legislators decided to try to prevent a repeat of last February’s debacle.

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