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Poll: New Yorkers want to see teacher rankings (flawed or not)

March 14, 2012|By Tina Susman
  • Parents march outside a New York City charter school in this January photo; the school was slated for closure because of poor performance.
Parents march outside a New York City charter school in this January photo;… (Spencer Platt / Getty Images )

Reporting from New York   —

Most New York City voters support the release of public school teachers' rankings, but nearly half of all voters and a majority of pupils' parents agree with teachers that the evaluation system is flawed, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The Quinnipiac University poll indicates that parents of public school students, and the general public, agree that it was right to make the evaluations public, as New York City's Department of Education did last month after losing a court battle to keep them from public view. According to the survey of 964 voters, 58% supported making the evaluations public and 38% opposed it. Among those who have children in public schools, 59% supported releasing the rankings and 36% opposed it. The remainder in each set were undecided or did not know.

But only 20% of the general public trusted the rankings, while 46% said they believe they were flawed. The remainder were undecided or did not know. Among parents of public school pupils, the results were nearly the same: 21% trusted the rankings and 42% considered them flawed.

New York City teachers and their union were livid last month over the publication of the rankings, which are based on a controversial value-added system that seeks to tie pupils' test scores to teachers' effectiveness and assigns teachers rankings from "high" to "low." The evaluation system gained national attention in 2010 when the Los Angeles Times used it to come up with rankings for several thousand teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Those rankings, based on seven years of math and English test scores, were published by The Times, the first time such information had been made public.

New York City, with about 75,000 teachers, is the country's largest public school system, and its Department of Education lost several rounds in court before bowing to a judge's order to make its own rankings public.

The poll also looked at public views of the city's teachers and the teachers union and underscored vast differences between the union's attitude toward job protection and other issues, and voters'. Only half the respondents had a favorable opinion of teachers; 44% thought the teachers union played a positive role in improving schools; and 84% said performance rather than seniority should be the deciding factor in laying off teachers.

The same poll also looked at another obsession of New Yorkers: restaurants and their new ranking system, which since last year has required eateries to display letter grades issued by the city to rate their cleanliness.

The system has caused hiccups at some of the city's most storied dining spots, such as Sardi's, which has a coveted A grade but whose president, V. Max Klimavicius, last November accused inspectors of docking him points because of his famous communal cheese pots. The Department of Health denied the accusation.

According to the Quinnipiac Poll, a whopping 82% of New Yorkers approve of restaurant letter grades and only 14% disapprove. Yet only 67% let a restaurant's letter grade determine if they will eat at an establishment or choose another restaurant.

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