Another bite at publishing teacher scores

A recent court order that allowed newspapers to publish New York teachers’ value-added scores continues to generate boos and cheers. While I generally think parents need and deserve more information, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to share the information a little more privately – say, in a letter to parents.

If you’re following this debate, you might want to take a look at a couple of recent articles.

In an Education Next blog posting, Fordham Foundation fellow Peter Meyer looks at the reasoning behind the judge’s decision:

According to [Judge Cynthia] Kern, “ordinary sensibilities” in the case of Teacher Data Reports would conclude that “release of job-performance related information, even negative information such as that involving misconduct, does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy….The public has an interest in the job performance of public employees, particularly in the field of education.” And even though then-Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf, when he was negotiating the evaluation procedures with then-UFT president Randi Weingarten, in 2008, had written a letter promising to work to keep the names secret, Kern again quoted an earlier court ruling that “as a matter of public policy, the Board of Education cannot bargain away the public’s right to access to public records.”

It is quite refreshing to see Kern’s high regard for “the public’s right to access.” Too often—far, far, far too often—education decisions are made behind closed doors or in rooms sealed by professionals and the mystique that professionalism has thrown around them. Dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions are made far from the madding crowd in the course of a day at a normal school. And too many educators prefer it that way. As David Matthews pointed out in his brilliant 2006 book Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming our Democracy, “[A]dministrators, battered by interest groups, become guarded, convinced that `You can’t just pull together a group of people from the community to tell educators what to do.’ The perception that the public has nothing to offer is apparently widespread. One veteran educator of twenty-five years confessed to me, `I was trained to counter influences from outside my classroom, not to work with the public.’”

Taking the opposite view is one of my education reform heroines, Teach for America founder Wendy Koop. Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, she argues:

So-called value-added rankings—which rank teachers according to the recorded growth in their students’ test scores—are an important indicator of teacher effectiveness, but making them public is counterproductive to helping teachers improve. Doing so doesn’t help teachers feel safe and respected, which is necessary if they are going to provide our kids with the positive energy and environment we all hope for.

So what do you think?



  1. Wayne Eschler

    Wendy hits the nail on the head. Two things stand out in this debate: 1) Do we really know how to link kids scores to teacher performance? and 2) Do we really believe all children can learn, yet think all teacher’s can’t?
    My answer as a cognitive psychologist to the first question is that kids minds develop in bumps and spirts. What is taught one year can often suddenly blossom into genuine understanding one or two years later. Who deserves the credit?
    As to the second question, I have come back into education after a 20 year hiatus in the business world. Teaching is a whole different thing now than when I taught those many years ago. We are coming to an understanding of what good teaching is, but it is a learning process for everyone, administrators, educators and state lawmakers. Those who think they have all the answers are only fooling themselves or are self-serving with some agenda.

  2. Mr. Toot,

    Education will not improve if we keep thinking of teachers being the problem. The world is now obviously round, and when someone with cognitive thinking comes along, we’ll find the obvious truth to educational problems.

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