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Many parents in the dark on teacher ratings on first day back

On the first day back at P.S. 167 after February break, Bonnie Freeman said she’d heard about the ratings her 4th grade son’s teachers received last week. She hadn’t checked them out yet, but said when she did, she planned to take them with a grain of salt.

“I’m definitely going to take a look at it, but I heard on the news that it’s unfair,” Freeman said.

Freeman was referring to the wide margin of error that exists for many of the individual teacher rating scores. That caveat, among others, has prompted education department officials to insist to news organizations that readers should understand that the ratings aren’t meant to be taken at their face value.

Freeman’s reservations mirrored similar reactions from parents this morning outside of P.S. 167, a school in Crown Heights where none of the teachers ranked “above average” or higher on their math ratings. All of the parents I spoke to said they either weren’t aware of the ratings or were vaguely aware of them through news reports over the weekend.

None of the parents said they’d looked up P.S. 167’s teacher scores, but all said that they’d be interested in seeing them.

“If there’s a way to get information to see about how his teacher is doing, then sure, I am interested,” said Diane Collins, who son is in 3rd grade at P.S. 167. “I’m pretty sure any parent would be.”

Another parent, Tamesha Henderson, said the release was a”good thing because it shows what teachers are supposed to be doing.”

Henderson said she thought the ratings should be based on assessments that span beyond the three-day state test that is taken at the end of the year. “I think they should be testing them throughout the year.”

Still, Henderson, like many parents, said they only learned about the ratings when I mentioned it to them.

Parents aren’t necessarily going to learn more about the ratings from their schools. Principals have been instructed not to release ratings to parents who ask for them. A guidance letter sent to principals last week advises them to discuss talking points only for parents who bring up the topic.

Some parent leaders say they’re going to start the discussion regardless of whether it’s prompted by the school or the city.

P.S. 161 PTA President Demetrius Lawrence said he informed about 250 of the school’s parents about the ratings in an email over the weekend. The email didn’t yield any replies, but he said he expected the issue to be a major point of discussion at tonight’s monthly meeting, which comes weeks after the city voted to close P.S. 161’s middle school grades.

Lawrence, who reviewed the ratings online, called the data “unreliable” and said he hoped to ease concerns about the school’s teacher ratings. Few teachers at the school were rated above average.

A main concern is to make sure parents don’t overreact to the ratings, Lawrence said.

“I want to try and encourage the parents not to take the information too seriously,” Lawrence said. “I want to discourage them from taking their kids out of the particular classroom.”

Sean De Berry, a parent at another Brooklyn school slated to close, Satellite 3 in Clinton Hill, said he was interested in seeing the ratings but wouldn’t use them to judge the quality of his 7th grade daughter’s teachers. If anything, he said, he hoped other parents wouldn’t rush to judgement either.“That’s not fair at all,” De Berry said. “These grades, they sound alarming and I’m sure that parents will have negative reactions to it, but we can’t put it all on the teachers.”

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