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New York to release ratings for 18,000 teachers; union objects

February 24, 2012|By Tina Susman | Reporting from New York
  • Rating teachers is proving controversial, especially with the value-added approach. New York knows this, as does L.A. Unified. Shown here: A first-grade class in Southern California.
Rating teachers is proving controversial, especially with the value-added… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

New York's Department of Education plans to release performance ratings for about 18,000 public school teachers Friday, the largest such disclosure in the country and the climax in a battle that has pitted the teachers union against parents, taxpayers and news organizations that demanded the data.

Opponents of the release, led by the United Federation of Teachers, argue that the scores -- based on classroom performances dating back to the 2007-08 school year -- are outdated and could give an inaccurate view of many teachers' work. They also say such evaluations should be kept confidential to protect teachers' privacy and that the system used to develop the teacher rankings is unreliable.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott appeared torn on the issue when he spoke to news channel NY1 about it: "My bottom line is to make sure that we have effective teachers in front of the classroom, we have a comprehensive view of what those teachers are doing ... but at the same time, I don't want our teachers denigrated, I don't want them stereotyped."

The effort to release the data began in 2010 after the Los Angeles Times and other media published the scores of thousands of teachers in the Los Angeles school district. Like the New York teachers, they had been rated using a system known as value-added, which uses student test scores to estimate the "value" of a teacher's effectiveness.

The New York teachers union went to court to fight the release of its test scores. "We have invalid test scores going into an unreliable formula, which equals a bad result," the president of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, said at the time.

But a judge ruled in January 2011 that public interest outweighed teachers' concerns. "The public has an interest in the job performance of public employees, particularly in the field of education," Judge Cynthia S. Kern wrote. An appellate court upheld the decision.

The United Federation of Teachers took out ads in newspapers on Friday reiterating its opposition to the data release and declaring, "This is no way to rate a teacher!"

Several New York news organizations planned to post the results when they were released.

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