April 2012 Issue
March 19, 2012

NYSUT vows to oppose release of teacher ratings

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi condemned the publication of unfair teacher ratings in New York City and vowed to strongly oppose any efforts to release statewide evaluation scores or use them to publicly target teachers.

"This sensationalized release of teacher scores from a New York City pilot project is a betrayal of the essential purpose of evaluations, which is to support all teachers in improving their effectiveness," Iannuzzi said. "The decision by the Bloomberg administration and the New York City Department of Education not to oppose the release of scores by individual teachers is deplorable."

Referring to the recently approved teacher/principal evaluation system, Iannuzzi continued: "As we move forward across New York state with a new process for teacher evaluations, NYSUT will vigorously defend the principle that evaluations must remain confidential and not be released by name, but be used, as the new proposed legislation makes clear, to help all teachers improve."

Iannuzzi noted the Annual Professional Performance Reviews under the evaluation law are fundamentally different from the teacher data reports released by the New York City Department of Education.

He noted that, as the United Federation of Teachers has made clear, the teacher data reports in New York City are based on bad data and an unproven methodology with a huge margin of error. In fact, New York City has since abandoned the teacher data report system and is negotiating details with the UFT to comply with the new state agreement.

The release of the New York City data attracted national attention, with many reports highlighting how flawed the information was. Despite the inaccuracies, the New York City tabloids featured headlines like "They're doing zero, zilch, zippo for students," or "At the bottom of the heap."

One teacher, followed around by an aggressive reporter and named by the New York Post as the "city's worst teacher," was featured in a heart-wrenching story posted on the UFT's blog, www.edwize.org. In "The True Story of Pascale Mauclair," the school's principal was unequivocal in her support for Mauclair, who she sees as a very strong teacher. "I would put my own children in her class," said Anna Efkarpides.

Iannuzzi said the union will take every possible measure, including legal action, if necessary, to prevent APPRs from being misused to publicly shame or punish teachers.

A number of education leaders agreed. Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told the Wall Street Journal that while she backs using test scores to hold teachers accountable, she would support state legislation that would explicitly prohibit releasing rankings to the public.
"If that's what it's going to take, I think we have to really consider a remedy here," Tisch said.

Thomas Nespeca, president of the New York State School Boards Association endorsed the idea of keeping the ratings confidential. "I believe that retaining the confidentiality of the composite scores is paramount, even if it requires a change in law to accomplish this goal. Discretion with data is particularly appropriate as the APPR system proceeds through its debut year," Nespeca wrote in a recent commentary.

Teach for America CEO Wendy Kopp, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, agreed. "We should make individual teacher ratings available to school principals to inform their work recruiting and developing teaching faculties, but releasing them publicly undermines the trust they need to build strong, collaborative teams."

Even Microsoft founder Bill Gates called publicizing teachers' individual performance assessments "a big mistake" and contrary to best practice. "Developing a systematic way to help teachers get better is the most powerful idea in education today," Gates said in a New York Times op-ed. "The surest way to weaken it is to twist it into a capricious exercise in public shaming."