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teacher data reports
May 31, 2012
Bills on table take diverse approaches to teacher rating shield
With just weeks left in the legislative session, bills to shield teachers' ratings from public scrutiny are still on the table in Albany. But no consensus has yet formed about exactly what that shield would look like — if one is constructed at all. Albany lawmakers are hung up on one key issue that distinguishes at least three proposed versions of the legislation: Should parents be allowed access to teacher ratings? Republican Senator Greg Ball and Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Galef, both of Westchester, have proposed bills that say they should not. "I just feel very strongly that this is a part of a teacher's personal and confidential record and that the grades should be handled appropriately," said Galef, whose bill has so far collected 24 co-sponsors. Twenty lawmakers, including Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, a Democrat, have signed onto a third bill in the Assembly that would give parents limited access to evaluations. The bill would require parents to make a special request for the evaluations.
March 14, 2012
Teachers campaign against system that gave them high scores
Maribeth Whitehouse The most credible critics of the city's Teacher Data Reports are those with the highest scores. That's the outlook of a small band of 99th-percentilers who are signing on to a statement that argues that measuring teacher effectiveness according to students' test scores "will, in the long run, result in less classroom creativity and more shallow, test-focused instruction." The statement was penned by Maribeth Whitehouse, an eight-year middle school teacher in the South Bronx. She reached out by email to other teachers who, like her, had pulled a top rating on the city's value-added algorithm when Teacher Data Reports were released last month. So far, about a dozen teachers who scored 99s have added their names, and Whitehouse said she expects others to join them. They join a deafening chorus of critics of the TDRs who include 80 percent of New Yorkers, according to poll results released today. In the Community section today, Whitehouse explains her decision to strike out against the metric that said she was "far above average." She writes: I came to teaching more than eight years ago by way of the law — having graduated from Fordham Law School in 1992. So I knew full well how intricate, malleable and unreliable evidence could be. When the New York City Teacher Data Reports came out and were touted as measuring my “value” as a teacher, I was deeply annoyed. Invalid, inaccurate and irrelevant, these data were no more useful in proving or disproving teacher value than the temperature on a single day could prove or disprove global warming. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good teacher, I do. I simply measure it in ways that cannot be captured on a test. My reaction came as a surprise to some of my family, friends and co-workers because I was ranked in the 99th percentile. Read Whitehouse's complete Community section piece, "Measuring My Value." The full statement being circulated among teachers with value-added scores in the 99th percentile is below.
March 14, 2012
Poll: Voters don't trust city's teacher ratings but do back release
New York City voters by and large do not trust the teacher ratings released late last month. But most wouldn't mind if future assessments of teachers' quality were also made public, according to a poll whose results were released this morning. The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University last week, asked 964 New Yorkers about teacher evaluations both in theory and in practice. It found that just 20 percent of voters said they trusted the city's "recently released teacher evaluations" known as Teacher Data Reports, and nearly half said the results were flawed. (The ratings, which had massive margins of error, were not actually used to evaluate teachers.) But 58 percent said they approved in theory of releasing the results of teacher evaluations to the public. The poll's findings suggest voters simply haven't made up their minds about the role that teacher evaluations should play even as battles over new evaluations have dominated the headlines in recent months. Just a third of poll respondents said they thought teachers who score low on evaluations should be fired, a use that advocates of new evaluations have championed. But 54 percent said they thought top-rated teachers should be rewarded with additional pay, something Mayor Bloomberg has suggested and the UFT has opposed. And 84 percent said they thought performance should trump seniority if the city needed to lay off teachers, a policy position that Bloomberg made his priority last spring, to no avail.
March 8, 2012
Council members unite to defend city teachers against criticism
City Councilman Fernando Cabrera speaks at a press conference defending teachers outside City Hall today. The best antidote to teacher-bashing, according to City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, is being a teacher. At a press conference today to criticize the release of teachers' ratings and the tone Mayor Bloomberg has set recently when talking about city teachers, Cabrera suggested that Bloomberg take over a classroom for a week. "I guarantee he'll get his attitude well changed," said Cabrera, who said his son is studying to become a special education teacher but fears that the city's administration "doesn't believe in teachers." Cabrera was unusual in suggesting that anything could be done to alter the mayor's attitude. Steven Levin, the Brooklyn councilman who organized the event, said council members would support and honor teachers but suggested that the real change would come later — perhaps after Bloomberg leaves office in 2013. "Hold on. Hold on, because we've got your back," Levin said. "We'll see this through — but you've just got to hold on."
March 7, 2012
Bloomberg: New data law paves way for future ratings' release
A bill that the City Council passed to make government more accountable will be a useful weapon for those who advocate releasing teachers' ratings to the public. That's what Mayor Bloomberg said today as he signed the bill into law at City Hall. The law, sponsored by 21 council members and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, requires the city to make incrementally more data available each year until 2018, when all city data will have to be posted to a single online warehouse and made available to researchers and members of the public.
March 2, 2012
Following Bloomberg, Walcott shifts on teacher ratings release
Big-city mayors and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan during a panel discussion today in Washington, D.C. Last week, Chancellor Dennis Walcott spent Friday morning cautioning reporters not to take the city's Teacher Data Reports too seriously. The city was releasing the information only because news organizations had won a legal battle for it, he said. This morning, after a week in which Mayor Bloomberg defended the release, Walcott revised his message. "It's all about accountability," he said, appearing on a panel in Washington, D.C., with Bloomberg and the mayors and schools chiefs of Chicago and Los Angeles. "It's all about accountability," Walcott added. "And as the mayor indicated, parents have a right to have this information. What I've been trying to do is making sure that the entire New York City community understands that this is a limited piece of information and they have to view the teachers in their full context." Bloomberg jumped in to rebut philanthropist Bill Gates' argument, made in a New York Times column just before the release, that no other industries release the results of employee evaluations. "Incidentally Gates does give information at Microsoft to the people that need it, namely the managers to the people being evaluated," Bloomberg said. "In our case it's the principals and the parents who need that information. So we're not doing anything differently from what Microsoft does."
February 28, 2012
City releases ratings for teachers in charter, District 75 schools
The Department of Education released a final installment of Teacher Data Reports today, for teachers in charter schools and schools for the most severely disabled students. Last week, the city released the underlying data from about 53,000 reports for about 18,000 teachers who received them during the project's three-year lifespan. Teachers received the reports between 2008 and 2010 if they taught reading or math in grades 4 through 8. When the department first announced that it would be releasing the data in response to several news organizations' Freedom of Information Law requests, it indicated that ratings for teachers in charter schools would not be made public. It reversed that decision late last week and today released "value-added" data for 217 charter school teachers. Participation in the data reports program was optional for charter schools and some schools entered and exited the program in each year that it operated, with eight schools participating in 2007-2008 and 18 participating in 2009-2010. At the time, the city had about 100 charter schools. The department also released reports for 50 teachers in District 75 schools, which enroll the city's most severely disabled students. The number is small because few District 75 students take regular state math and reading exams. Also, District 75 classes are typically very small, and privacy laws led the city to release data for teachers who had more than 10 students take state tests. District 75 also teachers received reports only in 2008 and 2010; the program was optional in the district's schools in 2009. Department officials cautioned last week that the reports had high margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and urged caution when interpreting them.
February 27, 2012
At PS 321, Mulgrew finds universal opposition to ratings' release
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and UFT President Michael Mulgrew spoke out against the release of Teacher Data Reports outside P.S. 321 in Brooklyn Monday morning. UFT President Michael Mulgrew started his week at P.S. 321, a high-performing elementary school in Park Slope whose principal has taken an unusually outspoken stance against the release of thousands of individual teachers' city ratings. Elizabeth Phillips, the school's longtime principal, published a column on the New York City Public School Parents blog this weekend arguing that the Teacher Data Reports were based on inaccurate data and generated results that conflicted with her own assessments' of teachers. The reports are years-old "value-added" assessments of teacher effectiveness for about 18,000 city teachers who taught math and reading in grades 4-8 between 2007 and 2010. They were released Friday after a long legal fight, and many local news organizations chose to publish them. GothamSchools did not because of concerns about the data. Dick Riley, a union spokesman, said P.S. 321 had been chosen for Mulgrew's appearance because it was a successful school that was accessible for reporters. That Phillips had taken a strong stance against publication was "serendipitous," he said. Standing outside the school as teachers and families started to trickle in, Mulgrew said the reports' release was potentially a watershed moment for city teachers. "We're going to do everything in our power to prevent the mayor doing any more damage to the city's schools," he told reporters. The comment echoed one he made to the New York Times, which reported today that the release could wind up being a political win for the union by galvanizing support at a time when Mayor Bloomberg and others have taken aim at the union and its members. Today, Mulgrew told GothamSchools, "More and more teachers are becoming more motivated to really start pushing against this mayor."
February 24, 2012
City releases Teacher Data Reports — and a slew of caveats
When the Department of Education's embargo of Teacher Data Reports details lifted at noon today, news organizations across the city rushed to make the data available. The Teacher Data Reports are “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced from 2008 to 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8. This morning, department officials including Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky met with reporters to offer caution about how the data reports should be used. They emphasized the reports' wide margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and that the reports reflect only a small portion of teachers' work. "We would never advise anyone — parent, reporter, principal, teacher — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone," Polakow-Suransky said. Most of the news organizations that filed Freedom of Information Law requests for the ratings plan to publish them in searchable or streamlined databases, with the teachers' names attached. GothamSchools does not plan to publish the data with teachers' names or identifying characteristics included because of concerns about the data's reliability. At least two other news organizations that cover education are also not publishing the data: the local affiliate of Fox News, according to a representative of Fox, and the nonprofit school information website Insideschools. Department officials are asking schools not to release the reports to parents. They issued a guide today advising principals about how to handle parents who demand that their child be removed from the class of a teacher rated ineffective.
February 24, 2012
As ratings near, a teacher reiterates what test scores don't say
In October 2010, when the city first said it would fulfill a Freedom of Information Law request and release individual teachers’ ratings to news…
February 23, 2012
Why we won't publish individual teachers' value-added scores
Tomorrow's planned release of 12,000 New York City teacher ratings raises questions for the courts, parents, principals, bureaucrats, teachers — and one other party: news organizations. The journalists who requested the release of the data in the first place now must decide what to do with it all. At GothamSchools, we joined other reporters in requesting to see the Teacher Data Reports back in 2010. But you will not see the database here, tomorrow or ever, as long as it is attached to individual teachers' names. The fact is that we feel a strong responsibility to report on the quality of the work the 80,000 New York City public school teachers do every day. This is a core part of our job and our mission. But before we publish any piece of information, we always have to ask a question. Does the information we have do a fair job of describing the subject we want to write about? If it doesn't, is there any additional information — context, anecdotes, quantitative data — that we can provide to paint a fuller picture? In the case of the Teacher Data Reports, "value-added" assessments of teachers' effectiveness that were produced in 2009 and 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8, the answer to both those questions was no. We determined that the data were flawed, that the public might easily be misled by the ratings, and that no amount of context could justify attaching teachers’ names to the statistics. When the city released the reports, we decided, we would write about them, and maybe even release Excel files with names wiped out. But we would not enable our readers to generate lists of the city’s “best” and “worst” teachers or to search for individual teachers at all. It's true that the ratings the city is releasing might turn out to be powerful measures of a teacher's success at helping students learn. The problem lies in that word: might.
February 14, 2012
After legal battle, city to release teachers' "value-added" scores
The city will release years-old ratings for more than 12,000 teachers after the state's top court declined to consider the UFT's plea to keep the ratings private. In August, the state’s second-highest court ruled that the scores are a matter of public interest and should be released, confirming a lower-court judge’s ruling. The union immediately asked the highest court, the Court of Appeals, to hear the case and was rejected for the first time in November. Today's second rejection means the union is out of options and the city will release the ratings alongside the names of the teachers who received them. The protracted legal battle began when several city news organizations filed a Freedom of Information Law request to release the city's Teacher Data Reports, which calculated “value-added” scores for some teachers. The union charged that the scores should stay under wraps because they were rife with errors and statistically unreliable — a charge that an independent analysis supported. But the courts ruled that the ratings are a matter of public interest. A spokesman for the Department of Education, Matthew Mittenthal, said the FOIL requests would be fulfilled within weeks — but he indicated that the department was not completely happy about it. Ex-Chancellor Joel Klein, who created the reports in 2008, supported their release. But Chancellor Dennis Walcott had expressed concern about seeing teachers' names and ratings in print.
November 15, 2011
Another setback and another appeal for UFT in data report suit
The UFT is going to plan B in its latest legal appeal to keep Teacher Data Reports under wraps. The fight over a Freedom of Information Law request by several city news organizations to release the reports, which calculated "value-added" scores for some teachers, is still making its way through the courts, even though the city has said it will not produce new reports. The union sued to stop the city from releasing the scores, with teachers' names, to the news organizations. But in August, confirming a lower-court judge's ruling, the state's second-highest court ruled that the scores are a matter of public interest and should be released. To appeal that ruling, the union had to follow a complicated set of legal procedures. Here's how we described the steps at the time: Because the four judges on the Appellate Court ruled unanimously against the union, there’s no guarantee that the Court of Appeals will hear the case. Instead, the Appellate Court has to give permission. Within days, the union will ask the appellate court for permission to have the case heard in the Court of Appeals. If permission isn’t granted, the union can also ask the Court of Appeals itself. The second scenario — that the Appellate Court would not refer the case to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court — played out today. Now the union must convince the Court of Appeals to hear the potentially precedent-setting case, which UFT President Michael Mulgrew said it would try to do quickly.
September 16, 2011
Union: From style to substance, relationship with city improved
With the city's Teacher Data Reports now in the past, the teachers union is set to move forward on negotiations that will build on a pilot program that's in place in 33 schools. The controversial reports, which assigned ratings to about 10,000 teachers based on their students' test scores, were championed by former chancellor Joel Klein. Klein said he would release the scores to the public after news organizations filed a Freedom of Information request for them — a move that the United Federation of Teachers quickly opposed in court. But in his first major reversal from one of Klein's policies, Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said he does not think the ratings, which the UFT agreed to in part on grounds that they would remain internal, should be made public. Yesterday, Department of Education officials told the New York Times that they would no longer calculate teachers' ratings according to the TDR algorithm because the state is rolling out a different model. UFT President Michael Mulgrew told GothamSchools today that doing away with the TDRs wasn't necessarily a precondition for the UFT to work with the city on a new teacher evaluation model, required under state law. But he said their disappearance would clear the way for negotiations. "I really do appreciate that Dennis has taken that position, unlike previous chancellors," Mulgrew said. "But it does help that we have a better relationship and we're working together. That helps getting to any deal."
August 30, 2011
Warning of implications, UFT files appeal in teacher ratings case
The city's plan to release teachers' rating data to news organizations threatens public employees across the state. That's one argument the United Federation of Teachers is making as it moves toward its final attempt to prevent teachers' individual ratings from going to press. Last week, the state's Appellate Court echoed a low-level judge in ruling that the ratings, known as Teacher Data Reports, are public information and should be released. Today, the union asked the Appellate Court for permission to take the case to the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. If the Appellate Court doesn't grant permission, the union can also ask the Court of Appeals itself. The Court of Appeals doesn't accept every case brought before it, and if it declines to hear this one, the Appellate Court’s decision would stand and the union would be out of options. The Court of Appeals is more likely to take on cases that are potentially precedent-setting. Today's filing stresses the "considerable violence to the limited but real privacy protections public employees possess" that the release of Teacher Data Reports could inflict, in addition to noting, as the union has done repeatedly, flaws in the reports themselves. "In finding that the subjective, evaluative, and pre-decisional information contained in the inaptly named Teacher Data Reports, or 'TDRs,' is not exempt from public disclosure under FOIL, this Court has significantly narrowed the rights not only of new York City teachers but of all public employees in the State of New York," the filing begins. The UFT's complete filing is below.
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