Outside the doors of the Tweed Courthouse, the headquarters of the city’s Education Department, there were few champions on Friday of the release of individual performance rankings of 18,000 public school teachers.
Although city officials chose to release the teacher reports on the Friday of a week-long break, when many teachers and principals were on the beach and out-of-reach, the publication of the reports was greeted with an outpouring of criticism.
The word of the day was shame, both on the press and on the city’s Education Department for pursuing and suing for the data’s release, and on behalf of teachers, many of whom view this as public humiliation.
Even a Columbia University economist, Jonah E. Rockoff, who recently authored a study with two other economists using the same kind of statistical model, known as value-added, to show the effects good teachers can have on students, said he opposed their public outing in New York City.
“I think the release and having people focus on value-added in the absence of other information is a nuisance,” he said. “It’s going to cause a lot of controversy, stir up a lot of trouble for some people, and I feel like it’s unnecessary.”
Chancellor of the Board of Regents Merryl Tisch said that releasing the reports could endanger the teacher evaluation system recently agreed upon by the state’s teachers’ union and the State Education Department. The formula that districts will eventually put in place will use teachers’ value-added scores as 20 percent of their evaluation, and a swell of opposition to the methodology could make it difficult for districts and unions to reach final agreements.
“I really think publishing the names of teachers and their rankings on one metric of any type of teacher performance is not going to result in the improvements that we want,” she said. “And it will demonize teachers and it’s going to make it more difficult to retain the best and brightest in the classroom.”
It would be a shame if the new teacher evaluation system based on a value-added measurement methodology as flawed as the one used in the Teacher Data Reports is endangered by the publishing of the TDR's.
It would be a shame if the publishing of the TDR's sheds some light on this statistical jive known as value-added that has huge margins of error, wide swings in stability from year to year and can rank an individual teacher on the bottom of the heap one year, the top the next.
It would be a shame if the publishing of the error-riddled, flawed TDR's became a controversy that put proponents of the VAM system on the defensive and forced them to prove this methodology is fair, just, and practical enough to evaluate individual teachers and base jobs and reputations on the results.
Yeah - that would be a shame.
No wonder Wendy Kopp, Dennis Walcott, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee and so many other education reformers who promote teacher evaluations based heavily on test scores and value-added measurements of such tests were opposed to the publishing of the TDR's.
It pulls back the curtain on the Wizard of VAM and lets the world see just how accurate this stuff is.
It's a shame that reputations had to be ruined for the public to see how much garbage goes into this teacher evaluation system.
But there is little doubt that members of the public, if they read past the headlines of the stories in the papers, are learning that VAM is flawed, error-riddled hocus-pocus - not the objective science proponents like Governor Cuomo like to claim it is.