2010-11-05 / Editorial/Opinion
No Public Ratings For Teachers — Until They’re True
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed surprised that the UFT, the union that represents teachers, was in opposition to a city plan to publically post a “report card” for each of the city’s 60,000 teachers. “Parents have been left out of the equation, left to pray each year that the teacher greeting their children on the first day of school is truly great, but with no real knowledge of whether that is the case, and with no recourse if it is not,” Klein said recently. We have to laugh. First of all, it was Klein and Bloomberg who saw that parents had no say in the education of their children by removing the elected local school boards and replacing them with rubber-stamp school education councils elected only by parent leaders. And, if they think that parents don’t know on the first day of school everything there is to know about most of the teachers in a school, then they haven’t been paying attention these last eight years. All of that notwithstanding, there is another reason to hold off on public rating of teachers. The ratings as they are now structured are not based on reality. They are based largely on standardized test scores that have been discredited by the state and nearly every educational expert in the nation. For years, the state lowered the “cut score,” the number of questions necessary to be considered passing on the tests. This year, in the wake of embarrassing testimony and parent unrest, the cut score was restored to where it should have been, leaving children who were told that they were “proficient” in jeopardy and parents very confused. The inflated scores earned Bloomberg and Klein another four years to experiment with the public schools and left the state with lots of federal money, but did nothing for students and parents. Now, Klein wants to use those discredited scores as the basis of a program to publically rate teachers, using a “value added” logarithm that has also been largely discredited as an educational tool by experts. For example, noted educational writer and researcher Diane Ravitch said recently of value added, “Based on my close study, nearly all [those who have written on the subject of value added] concur that the method is both inaccurate and unstable.” We are not against rating teachers. We are not even opposed to making those ratings public. We are against doing that using discredited scores and an unproven mathematical formula.