teacher data reports

New York

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.
New York

Poll: Voters don't trust city's teacher ratings but do back release

New York

Following Bloomberg, Walcott shifts on teacher ratings release

New York

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.
New York

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."
New York

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.
New York

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.
New York

After legal battle, city to release teachers' "value-added" scores

New York

Another setback and another appeal for UFT in data report suit

New York

Union: From style to substance, relationship with city improved

New York

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.
New York

Instead of giving or denying tenure, city is deferring decisions

Under pressure from the Bloomberg administration to make tenure tougher to receive, principals and superintendents are withholding job protections from some young teachers. Instead of simply granting or denying tenure at the end of a teacher's third year, they are extending the probationary period for some teachers by another year. In 2006, just 30 teachers had their probation extended. As the city has moved to toughen all teacher evaluations, that number has risen steadily, to 465 last year. Reports from teachers and principals suggest the trend is likely to continue when official numbers about the past year’s tenure decisions is released in the near future. The reports suggest that many superintendents, who make final tenure decisions based on principals’ recommendations, are responding to a directive that teachers who score low on a new rubric not get tenure. The city urged that teachers who scored in the "ineffective" range be denied tenure and teachers who fell in the "developing" range have their probations extended. A low score on the city's Teacher Data Report was particularly influential, even if other information, such as classroom observations, contradicted it, principals said. The reports, which only some teachers receive, use value-added formulas to estimate teachers' effectiveness at increasing students' test scores, and teachers with low scores are "red-flagged" in the city's tenure system. Of the nine teachers Principal Joe Lisa had up for tenure this year at IS 61 in Queens, six taught in subjects without data reports and received tenure. Three math teachers had their probationary periods extended. One in particular seemed to be a shoo-in, Lisa said. But his superintendent rejected the idea of giving her tenure this year.
New York

Union requests formal investigation of data reports' accuracy

New York

Union mobilizes teachers to find and report errors in ratings

In the next stage of its effort to block the release of thousands of teacher data reports, the city teachers union is mobilizing educators to scrutinize their reports for errors — even setting up a dedicated phone line to monitor concerns. Last week, the city announced that it would release a list of teachers' names and their effectiveness ratings to reporters who had submitted freedom of information requests. The union has sued to stop the release, and the city agreed to postpone publicizing teachers' names until a hearing is held in court next month. The union asserts that the ratings should not be made public in part because they are non-finalized and often error-prone internal documents. To make that case, the union is asking teachers to comb their reports for mistakes and tell the union when they find them. The union sent teachers a sample report showing teachers how to look for mistakes, and has set up a dedicated phone line and e-mail address for concerns about the accuracy of their ratings, according to a memo union President Michael Mulgrew sent teachers last week. A union spokesman said that, as of Friday, at least 200 teachers had called the union to report errors. Department of Education spokesman Matthew Mittenthal said that the city had seen an increase in the number of calls since the union sent out its memo. But he said that the majority of calls were prompted by misunderstandings of the reports rather than inaccuracies. Still, Mittenthal said, the city plans to check teachers' complaints and fix problems it finds before releasing the reports publicly.
New York

City releases new teacher reports it says are simpler, fairer