Why does the city make it so difficult?

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When I was in school, we all knew who the good teachers were. The principal knew, and the parents knew. But now New York City is up in arms because it cannot rate its teachers.

The Department of Education (DOE) released 18,000 ratings of teachers, essentially rating how they helped kids score on standardized tests.

But there are major problems: giant margins of error, so high that if they were in a political poll, they would be laughed at. The results are also two years old. And even the state admits there are problems with the tests they were based on. In addition, it covered only two subjects, math and English, from grades fourth through eighth. Wow, that’s encouraging.

The ratings were borne out of an experimental system covering the years 2007-8, 2008-9, and 2009-10.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) blamed the city.

“The Department of Education should be ashamed of itself,” said UFT President Mike Mulgrew. “It has combined bad tests, a flawed formula and incorrect data to mislead tens of thousands of parents about their children’s teachers.”

The city did not entirely disagree with the union.

But media outlets had sued to get the results published.

And so, the information, flawed as it is, is out there. And a raging debate has begun.

One organization, the New Teacher Project, has a concise approach to how teacher ratings should be conducted, and suggests six steps:

1) Annual process
2) Clear, rigorous expectations, basing it on student learning
3) Multiple measures: No single datum should paint a complete picture of teacher performance
4) Multiple ratings: for example, “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement,” or “ineffective.”
5) Regular feedback
6) Significance: The rating system should be a factor in employment

This is not brain surgery. So why is it so tough for New York City?