Last Wednesday, a judge heard arguments on whether to let the Department of Education make public the data reports of 12,000 public school teachers in the 4th through 10th grades. The battle on whether to make the grades public has stirred up controversy because teachers say the grades aren’t fair.
Earlier this month the city submitted a brief, and last Monday the United Federation Teachers sent a response. The union sought to get a restraining order but the city held off on releasing the grades.
The releasing of the data comes after several media outlets submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to get the grades. The DOE has previously released teacher report data but did not provide teachers’ names with the grades. The Los Angeles Times posted the grades of 6,000 teachers on its website last year, igniting a fierce debate.
A memo from Chancellor Joel Klein in late October said that the students are the top priory, and that teachers who perform poorly and don’t improve quickly should be replaced by high performing teachers.
“Our most important task is to ensure that every one of our students has a great teacher. It is critical, therefore, that when we have indications of a teacher’s proficiency, we use that indication to do what’s right for kids,” Klein said. “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.”
UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that the data reports represent a false and unfair grading system for teachers based on standardize tests.
He said, “All the explanations and justifications in the world can’t change the fact that the DOE’s Teacher Data Reports consist of often-incorrect data, drawn almost completely from state tests so invalid that the state itself has disavowed them. While ‘value-add’ may hold great promise for the future, virtually every expert in the field believes it is not yet ready to be used in a significant way. In the meantime, teachers will continue to focus on educating New York’s 1.1 million students.”