Education news. In context.
Are Children Learning
Future of Schools
Future of Teaching
Future of Work
In the Classroom
Movers and Shakers
Sorting the Students
The Other 60 Percent
Who Is in Charge
Find a Job
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our news partners
Work with Us
August 5, 2018
Eight years ago, the L.A. Times published teachers’ ratings. New research tells us what happened next.
"You shine a light on people who are underperforming and the hope is they improve. But when you increase transparency, you may actually exacerbate inequality."
a test of happiness
November 2, 2017
When teachers are better at raising test scores, their students are less happy, study finds
A new study finds a negative correlation between teachers’ impact on students’ test scores and those students’ reports of how happy they were in class.
July 22, 2016
Tennessee first-grade teachers now can be evaluated beyond test scores
The State Board of Education votes to update its evaluation policy, adding a new option for first-grade teachers.
February 19, 2016
Federal judge dismisses TEA lawsuit challenging TVAAS in teacher bonuses
The formula that Tennessee uses to rate teachers might be unfair — but it still can be used to decide whether they should get bonuses, a federal court has ruled.
July 15, 2015
Rise & Shine: First bilingual pre-K opens in Memphis
March 16, 2015
For principals, value-added takes back seat in decisions about teachers, study says
Even as policymakers are putting more emphasis on test score growth, a new study suggests it's becoming less important to principals.
May 14, 2014
New research deals blows to metrics used in New York teacher evaluations
New York City’s teacher evaluation system has serious weaknesses, according to new research that raises questions about the reliability of classroom observations and test scores…
June 11, 2013
Under pressure, Tisch signals a concession on teacher evals
Facing simmering opposition, the State Education Department seems likely to give up on a plan to add more weight to test scores in teacher evaluations. Education officials have long intended to increase the percentage for which test scores count toward a teacher's overall evaluation by 5 points, from 20 to 25 percent. A provision in the state's evaluation law, passed in 2010, allows for the increase if officials adopt a more complex "value-added" model to measure student growth. Commissioner John King always planned to embrace the option, but his proposal at April's Board of Regents meeting was met with resistance from members who questioned the methodology's reliability and asked to shelve the plan. In recent weeks, the state teachers union also lobbied members who were on the fence. This week, Chancellor Merryl Tisch signaled the pressure was effective, acknowledging that she expected the Board of Regenst to hold off on the proposal when it meets next week. "This is not the stuff that I feel we go to war over," Tisch said Monday in a radio interview.
April 23, 2013
Proposal to refine state's "value-added" formula elicits concerns
ALBANY — A dozen new factors could be tossed into the state's formula for measuring how much teachers have boosted their students' state scores, according to a proposal that is dividing state education policy makers. The state’s teacher evaluation law, passed in 2010, requires student performance to count in teacher ratings. Currently, the state calculates “growth scores” that count for a fifth of teachers’ overall ratings. But the law allows the state to increase the weight of its score to a quarter of teachers’ ratings once officials adopt a more complex "value-added" model for assessing teacher impact. Both models are based on the principle that comparing students' actual test scores with their predicted scores can show the impact their teachers had on their learning. The question is what variables to use when predicting scores so that teachers whose students have greater needs are not at a disadvantage.
January 8, 2013
Timely advice from Gates Foundation as evaluation talks resume
The Gates Foundation's latest report from its teacher-effectiveness study concludes that many evaluation models can be useful as long as they include multiple measures. Now that the city and teachers union are back at the negotiating table to work on teacher evaluations, the Gates Foundation has some tips. The foundation today released the third and final report about the Measures of Effective Teaching project, an ambitious three-year study that included 3,000 teachers in seven districts, including New York City. The study concludes that teacher effectiveness can indeed be measured and identifies strategies for grading teachers. Having multiple people observe the same teacher is more effective than having one person observe the teacher multiple times, the study found. Student surveys are stronger predictors of teachers' ability to raise test scores than observations. And counting state test scores for a third to half of a teacher's rating is better than weighting the scores less or more. With the report, the foundation takes a bold stance on a policy issue that remains hotly contested, even as states and school districts across the country have adopted new evaluation systems. But foundation officials are confident because the latest report reflects a change in the study's design that they say proves that teacher evaluation systems really do measure teachers.
August 16, 2012
State releases teacher rating data that most districts won't use
As of today, school districts across New York State have in hand the first piece of data they would need to calculate some teachers' ratings: their "growth scores" for last year. The State Education Department today distributed scores to districts for 36,685 educators who teach reading and math in grades 4-8 or supervise those teachers. The scores — which calculate students' growth on state math and reading tests, adjusting for the students' past performance, the performance of similar students, and the reliability of the exams — would count for 20 percent of educators' ratings under the state's evaluation law. Two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could trigger termination proceedings under the law. But the data released today suggest that the state's current formula for measuring student growth would be unlikely to place many teachers' jobs at risk. Nearly 85 percent of the 36,685 educators who received a score fell into the "highly effective" or "effective" ranges. Just 6 percent of them had scores in the "ineffective" range. Few of the scores issued today will actually be used to evaluate teachers. Most of the state's 715 school districts, including New York City, have not yet adopted evaluation systems that comply with the state's evaluation law, and many that have adopted new evaluations won't use them until next year.
March 6, 2012
Integral to "value-added" is a requirement that some score low
Add one more point of critique to the city’s Teacher Data Reports: Experts and educators are worried about the bell curve along which the teacher ratings fell out. Like the distribution of teachers by rating across types of schools, the distribution of scores among teachers was essentially built into the “value-added” model that the city used to generate the ratings. The long-term goal of many education reformers is to create a teaching force in which nearly all teachers are high-performing. However, in New York City’s rankings — which rated thousands of teachers who taught in the system from 2007 to 2010 — teachers were graded on a curve. That is, under the city’s formula, some teachers would always be rated as “below average,” even if student performance increased significantly in all classrooms across the city. The ratings were based on a complex formula that predicts how students will do — after taking into account background characteristics — on standardized tests. Teachers received scores based on students’ actual test results measured against the predictions. They were then divided into five categories. Half of all teachers were rated as “average,” 20 percent were “above average,” and another 20 percent were “below average.” The remaining 10 percent were divided evenly between teachers rated as “far above average” and “far below average.” IMPACT, the District of Columbia’s teacher-evaluation system, also uses a set distribution for teacher ratings. As sociologist Aaron Pallas wrote in October 2010, “by definition, the value-added component of the D.C. IMPACT evaluation system defines 50 percent of all teachers in grades four through eight as ineffective or minimally effective in influencing their students’ learning.”
March 1, 2012
City's value-added initiative early entrant to evolving landscape
New York City schools erupted in controversy last week when the school district released its “value-added” teacher scores to the public after a yearlong battle with the local teachers union. The city cautioned that the scores had large margins of error, and many education leaders around the country believe that publishing teachers’ names alongside their ratings is a bad idea. Still, a growing number of states are now using evaluation systems based on students’ standardized test-scores in decisions about teacher tenure, dismissal, and compensation. So how does the city’s formula stack up to methods used elsewhere? The Hechinger Report has spent the past 14 months reporting on teacher-effectiveness reforms around the country and has examined value-added models in several states. New York City’s formula, which was designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has elements that make it more accurate than other models in some respects, but it also has elements that experts say might increase errors — a major concern for teachers whose job security is tied to their value-added ratings. “There’s a lot of debate about what the best model is,” said Douglas Harris, an expert on value-added modeling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the design of New York’s statistical formula. The city used the formula from 2007 to 2010 before discontinuing it, in part because New York State announced plans to incorporate a different formula into its teacher evaluation system.
February 29, 2012
Why it's no surprise high- and low-rated teachers are all around
The New York Times' first big story on the Teacher Data Reports released last week contained what sounded like great news: After years of studies suggesting that the strongest teachers were clustered at the most affluent schools, top-rated teachers now seemed as likely to work on the Upper East Side as in the South Bronx. Teachers with high scores on the city's rating system could be found "in the poorest corners of the Bronx, like Tremont and Soundview, and in middle-class neighborhoods," "in wealthy swaths of Manhattan, but also in immigrant enclaves," and "in similar proportions in successful and struggling schools," the Times reported. Education analyst Michael Petrilli called the findings "jaw-dropping news" that "upends everything we thought we knew about teacher quality." Except it's not really news at all. Value-added measurements like the ones used to generate the city's Teacher Data Reports are designed precisely to control for differences in neighborhood, student makeup, and students' past performance. The adjustments mean that teachers are effectively ranked relative to other teachers of similar students. Teachers who teach similar students, then, are guaranteed to have a full range of scores, from high to low. And, unsurprisingly, teachers in the same school or neighborhood often teach similar students. “I chuckled when I saw the first [Times story], since the headline pretty much has to be true: Effective and ineffective teachers will be found in all types of schools, given the way these measures are constructed,” said Sean Corcoran, a New York University economist who has studied the city’s Teacher Data Reports.
February 28, 2012
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.
February 24, 2012
As ratings near, a teacher reiterates what test scores don't say
In October 2010, when the city first said it would fulfill a Freedom of Information Law request and release individual teachers’ ratings to news…
February 23, 2012
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.
August 25, 2011
For second time, a court rules city can release teachers' scores
The city can release teacher ratings data to news organizations, the state's second-highest court ruled today in another serious blow to the union's effort to keep individual teachers' scores out of the press. The release won't happen right away while the legal fight continues, Department of Education officials said. But the union is running out of chances to stop the ratings from being published. In December, a State Supreme Court judge ruled that the city could release Teacher Data Reports for at least 12,000 teachers who have them. After the Appellate Court ruling today, the union's last hope is the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals. The union is already working on its appeal, UFT President Michael Mulgrew announced moments after the Appellate Court ruling. Because the four judges on the Appellate Court ruled unanimously against the union, there's no guarantee that the Court of Appeals will hear the case. Instead, the Appellate Court has to give permission. Within days, the union will ask the appellate court for permission to have the case heard in the Court of Appeals. If permission isn't granted, the union can also ask the Court of Appeals itself. If the Court of Appeals declines to hear the case, then the Appellate Court's decision would stand and the union would be out of options.
July 13, 2011
One firsthand account of how teachers could soon be observed
The fight over the state's new teacher evaluations has focused on the 40 percent to be based on student test scores. But the other 60 percent, based on subjective measures like principal observations, could be just as tough. That's according to one teacher reporting from a school piloting the city's stricter guidelines for classroom observations. Commenting in our Community section yesterday, a reader posting as HS Biology Teacher said that system "seems to be designed to make it extremely easy to rate any teacher ineffective if the principal wants to." The DOE has drafted a rubric for rating classroom observations, but it is very tough. To be rated effective (3), you need to really hit every competency on the rubric during each full-period observation... and that is extremely difficult given the language of the rubric.
May 9, 2011
L.A. Unified: Teacher evals "should be private conversations"
The nation's second-largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, opposed press efforts to publish teacher evaluations, according to a letter from the school district (PDF) to the Los Angeles Times that was obtained by the writer Alexander Russo. The letter urges the Los Angeles Times not to publish a second batch of teacher evaluations that the newspaper calculated and published anyway on Sunday. It was signed by LA superintendent John Deasy as well as the president of the city's school board and two civic leaders, the president of the city's chamber of commerce and its United Way chapter. "The individual evaluations, in our opinion, should be private conversations that are intended to help professionals improve their performance in the classroom," the letter argues. Deasy's position stands in sharp contrast to the one New York City school officials are taking in a court battle with the teachers union. School officials here argue that teacher evaluations calculated with value-added formulas are statistics that are subject to public information laws and therefore can be released to the public.
May 3, 2011
City, union in court again today over release of teachers' scores
The teachers union and the city are heading back to court today, for the second round in an ongoing battle over the public release of teacher ratings. Last December, a state judge ruled that that the city could release controversial teacher evaluations. Today, the union seeks to reverse that decision in Appellate Court. The stakes are high for the city, which could use the release of teacher ratings as a key engine for galvanizing public support in favor of doing away with seniority layoffs. But the union, which wants to maintain "last in, first out" layoff rules, says that the evaluations are too inaccurate to be used for such high-stakes decisions. The "value-added" evaluations, which grade teachers by comparing their students’ test scores to forecasted scores, were created as an internal assessment, designed to help teachers gauge their own performance. But the Department of Education announced it would release the ratings publicly after several news organizations filed Freedom of Information Law requests for them. This decision prompted a UFT lawsuit.
January 10, 2011
Teachers union loses suit to keep teacher ratings anonymous
New York City’s teachers union lost its suit to block the city from releasing 12,000 teachers’ ratings and names that, for years, have been…
November 15, 2010
City news outlets join suit over teacher effectiveness scores
Five news organizations have joined the lawsuit over whether the city can release teachers' effectiveness scores, arguing that they have a right to see the data. Lawyers for the New York Times, Daily News, New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and NY1 have decided to intervene in the case, according to a spokeswoman for the city's law department. They will file their own papers, but are taking the same position as the city's lawyers, arguing that the data is not protected under the Freedom of Information law. Reporters at each of the news organizations submitted requests for the data and the city planned to release the reports until last month when the teachers union sued to stop them. In its lawsuit, the union's lawyers wrote that the Department of Education should have denied reporters’ FOIL requests because the teachers’ ratings are exempt from disclosure. The suit also said that making the scores public would amount to an invasion of teachers' privacy.
October 29, 2010
City official and biggest critic find slivers of common ground
Put the Department of Education's Deputy Chancellor for Accountability Shael Polakow-Suransky in a room with Diane Ravitch, one of the city's most outspoken critics, and you might reasonably expect sparks to fly. But when NYU's Wagner Education Policy Studies Association put them together on a panel earlier this week, where they agreed turned out to be notable. The topic of the panel was how federal involvement shapes local education policy. (I moderated the panel; Evan Stone, the founder of Educators 4 Excellence, also spoke.) Ravitch opened by sharply criticizing the move to hold teachers and schools accountable for their students' scores on standardized tests. But when talk turned to how future standardized tests should be built, Ravitch and Suransky agreed with each other. Ravitch said: I'm very supportive of the idea of developing new assessments, and I think it's a very important thing. But it will take years. Just as these common core standards were written in a little over a year — it took me three years working on the California history standards. I worked on history standards in other states, and it was never done in only a year. So I would like to think that it's going to take a lot of time to do this well because anything that's done hurriedly is not going to survive....
October 27, 2010
Parent says NY Post fabricated his opinion of teacher ratings
The parent of a Queens public school student is accusing the New York Post of fabricating his support for publicly releasing teachers' effectiveness scores. Queens Community Education Council member Brian Rafferty said that an op/ed published in the New York Post last week bore his byline, but not his views. Rafferty, who is also the executive editor of the Queens Tribune, made the accusation at a council meeting in Ridgewood, Queens last night. The piece, titled "Dad: Union putting my child last," criticized the city's teachers union for going to court to block the city from releasing teachers' ratings. Last night, Rafferty told a room packed with parents and teachers that he does not support releasing 12,000 teachers' ratings with their names included. "I might be skeptical of the union sometimes, no offense guys, but there is absolutely no way that these opinions are mine," he said.
October 25, 2010
Klein: ratings are useful for the worst and best teachers
For parents of students in the "average" city teacher's class, learning the teacher's rating may not tell them very much, Chancellor Joel Klein wrote in a letter to principals today. In his email, Klein explained the city's decision to release teachers' effectiveness ratings and the teachers union's move to block this from happening. He noted that the ratings, which measure teachers against estimations of how much their students' test scores ought to rise, would be most useful in identifying very high and low performing teachers. He wrote: One indication will never tell the whole story, and sometimes it is hard to discern definitive evidence from data alone — such as with a teacher who is "average" according to these numbers, for example. But where teachers have performed consistently toward the top or the bottom, year after year, these data surely tell us something very important. Namely, we need to retain and reward the great teachers, and we need to develop the low-performing teachers. And those who don't improve quickly need to be replaced with better-performing teachers. Klein's full letter:
October 22, 2010
City: releasing scores will honor the good, improve the bad
City education officials are saying they want to release teachers' ratings publicly as a way of helping bad teachers improve and reward those who are excelling. In an interview with John Gambling on WOR-AM (710) this morning, Deputy Chancellor John White said the union's concerns about how parents and the public would use the data were legitimate. But, he said, those concerns should not be an obstacle to improving how teachers are evaluated. He told Gambling: And these data show that, actually, there are plenty of teachers who every year, year after year after year, are performing at the top of their game. We need to honor those teachers. This is not just about failing teachers. But there are cases where we see every year, teachers in the bottom. And you can sit there and say, "Oh there's this exception, this teacher's is not a perfect score, it doesn't reflect this," but at the end of the day when you have teachers who are performing way at the top year after year after year, way at the bottom year after year after year, you have to say: are we doing the right thing for kids? We've got to keep that teacher at the top, we've got to pay that teacher right, at the top, and that teacher at the bottom, they've got to get better or we've got to get a better teacher. It's unclear how making teachers' ratings public would improve their performance, as principals and teachers already have access to the ratings. This year, principals are supposed to use the ratings as a factor in tenure decisions and by 2012 they will be a significant part of all teachers' evaluations.
October 21, 2010
Union files suit to stop release of individual teacher ratings
United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew held up a sign at a press conference today showing the formula used to calculated teachers' ratings. The city's teachers union filed suit this morning, asking the State Supreme Court to bar the city from releasing 12,000 teachers' effectiveness scores with their names included. Department of Education officials said yesterday that they planned to send the teacher ratings to reporters as soon as this Friday, unless the union's suit stops them. Several news organizations filed Freedom of Information Law requests for the data, and city officials said they were responding to these requests. Union officials are currently in court and expect a judge to rule on their suit later today. Underpinning the United Federation of Teachers' lawsuit is the claim that releasing teachers' ratings with their names included is an unlawful invasion of privacy. "Teachers will be exposed to harassment on a personal and professional level from parents unhappy with the contents of the TDRs," the suit states. "Such harassment could include demands for termination, discipline, and transfer of children out of teachers' classrooms, as well as threats to the persons of individual teachers."
October 20, 2010
City release of teacher ratings would break 2008 deal with union
The city's decision to release teacher evaluation data this week represents a departure from an agreement officials made with the teachers union two years ago. In a deal made in 2008 between then-president of the United Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten and Department of Education Deputy Chancellor Christopher Cerf, the city and union agreed to keep the reports private. The reports assign scores to teachers based on how much they improve their students' test scores. "It is the DOEs' [sic] firm position and expectation that Teacher Data reports will not and should not be disclosed or shared outside of the school community, defined to include administrators, coaches, mentors and other professional colleagues authorized by the teacher in question," Cerf wrote. "In the event a FOIL request for such documents is made, we will work with the UFT to craft the best legal arguments available to the effect that such documents fall within an exemption," he wrote. DOE spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz said the city's decision to release the scores doesn't violate the agreement. "We do not believe that any of the exemptions under FOIL apply in this matter, which is what we told the UFT. But that will be for a judge to decide," she wrote in an email.
September 27, 2010
Bloomberg vows last-in first-out crackdown, new tenure policy
Mayor Bloomberg on NBC today, announcing a crackdown on seniority-based layoffs and a new tenure policy. In his first major education policy announcement for the new school year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning vowed a renewed attack on seniority laws that protect veteran teachers and a change in how teachers are awarded tenure. He made the remarks on NBC, which is dedicating this week to school reporting in a project called "Education Nation." The attack on seniority laws came as city officials made a dire budget prediction for next year, saying that they will likely have to lay off public school teachers as federal stimulus funding runs out. Under the current state law, teachers with the least seniority would be the first to lose their jobs — a policy known as "last in, first out." The mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein oppose this policy, but their effort to change the law, which the teachers union does support, went nowhere last year. Today, the mayor said he would try dismantling the policy again before the city confronts an expected $700 million budget hole and possible layoffs next year. "It's time for us to end the 'last-in, first out' layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York — and across our wonderful country," Bloomberg said on NBC. "How could anyone argue that this is good for children? The law is nothing more than special interest politics, and we're going to get rid of it before it hurts our kids," he added. Teachers union officials immediately squashed any possibility that they might partner with the mayor.
September 17, 2010
Wide margins of error, instability on city's value-added reports
The value-added reports meant to measure city teachers' effectiveness have wide margins of error and give judgments that fluctuate — sometimes wildly — from one year to the next, a new analysis finds. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has instructed principals to use the Teacher Data Reports as one way to decide which teachers should receive tenure. Teachers who teach English or math to students in grades three through eight receive the reports. The NYU economist Sean Corcoran found that 31 percent of English teachers who ranked in the bottom quintile of teachers in 2007 had jumped to one of the top two quintile by 2008. About 23 percent of math teachers made the same jump. There was an overall correlation between how a teacher scored from one year to the next, and for some teachers, the measurement was more stable. Of the math teachers who ranked in the top quintile in 2007, 40 percent retained that crown in 2008.
February 8, 2010
State considering big changes to standardized tests for next year
New York State's standardized tests could see big changes next year if a series of a proposals under consideration are approved by the Board of Regents. According to the State Education Department's website, the Board of Regents is considering three changes that would not alter the English and math tests' content, but could still affect their level of difficulty. The changes under consideration include implementing vertical scaling, adding about 15 multiple choice questions to both exams, and curbing the amount of test information that's made public.
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee