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New York City Teachers Evaluations Go Public
posted by: Alix | March 05, 2012, 07:40 PM   

After nearly two years of controversy and union push back, a court order based on the Freedom of Information law, has forced thousands of the New Your City public school teachers evaluations public. The information, released at the end of February, is based on student test scores and other criteria between the 2008-2010 school years.

The city used measures including "value-added" ratings, which cover student test scores among other criteria. About 12,000 fourth through eighth grade public school teachers who teach math, English or both were rated for each of those school years according to data released by the district.

According to independent experts, school administrators and teachers, the ratings are far from perfect. There are margins of error, because they are generally based on small amounts of data. And there are many other documented problems, like teachers being rated even when they are on maternity leave or student counts per classroom being off. Still, despite inaccuracies, the published data is considered a snap-shot of teacher performance in the nation's largest district.

Despite the imperfections, district officials are defending the ratings, saying they give administrators a more objective look at teacher performance, so that teachers can get the help they need. While they were never meant to go public, Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott has tried to calm teacher fears. "Although we can't control how reporters use this information," he added, "we will work hard to make sure parents and the public understand how to interpret the Teacher Data Reports."

One teacher that received positive feedback was Natalie Guandique, a special-education teacher in the Bronx, who has since left the classroom and is now finishing a master's program at Columbia University. She attributed much of her success to having high expectations for her students. "I came in and said, 'They will learn this,' " Ms. Guandique said. "It may take us a longer time and we may have to take a different path, but they will learn what the other students are learning." Since her students made so much progress on exams, Ms. Guandique was a top performer under the current system.

The rankings have come at a key time for New York. While doubters call the statistics misleading, the Bloomberg administration is in the midst of negotiating a state-mandated evaluation system that will be acceptable to all stakeholders. Ironically, while the union claims the posted evaluations are inaccurate, they have yet to come to the table with an alternative system. If they fail to come to an agreement by January, the city stands to lose some $200 million in state education aid.

As the battle for meaningful and appropriate evaluations rages on in New York City, The New York Times has created a website for NYC teachers to post their feeling on their own evaluations and to highlight any mistakes. Each teacher's feedback will be posted along with the raw data to give parents an accurate picture of the evaluation.

What do you think about making teacher evaluations public? Would you support this practice in your district?
Comment below.

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