The Wall Street Journal and some other news organizations have won a protracted court battle over publishing “a trove of data evaluating New York City teachers on their ability to boost student test scores”. This morning New York City parents can search online for their child’s teacher, or school, and see how the test scores measure up.
Newspapers have published this data in the face of strong opposition. Bill Gates – who has donated huge sums to education – editorialized against the action. The American Federation of Teachers fought it tooth and nail. Even proponents of stricter teacher evaluation have qualms. According to today’s Wall Street Journal,
Michelle Rhee, who pushed through a teacher-evaluation system in Washington, D.C., when she headed the district there, said parents should have access to teacher ratings. But she said the data should be released only if they also included such information as principal observations. The information released by New York doesn’t include such observations.
As the article also notes,
The New York data cover only grades 4 through 8, in reading and math. Around 80% of teachers aren’t covered by the data analysis.
My own feelings about publishing teacher data are mixed. The more we learn about what works and doesn’t work in education, the more important teachers become. Ineffective teachers need serious coaching, and if that doesn’t work, well, they need to go. If more information produces more pressure on administrators to act decisively, that’s a plus.
On the other hand, I agree with Michelle Rhee that test scores are only part of the picture – and they’re not available for most teachers anyway. I also wonder if publishing scores in the newspaper is really the best way to disseminate this information to parents and students. (Of course, it may well be the ONLY way to disseminate this information, in the face of school district and teacher union resistance.) And questions remain about the validity of value-added data, especially in the short run, although recent studies suggest that it is a valuable, if limited, tool. For more information, you can follow the link below to a video explaining value-added data.
So what do you think?