New York releases, publishes teacher evaluations

And Baltimore city educators thought the sky fell when The Sun published salary information...

In case you hadn't heard what is sure to be one of the most explosive education stories of the year,  New York City has released the value-added evaluation data for its 18,000 educators, which was published in the New York Times this weekend.

The Times not only published the evaluation data, known as "ratings," in a searchable database, but has allowed teachers to publicly respond to their ratings. New York is the second city where teacher evaluation data has been made public. Last year, our sister paper the Los Angeles Times published teacher ratings.

Both decisions were fiercely contested and even legally challenged by teachers unions, and education pundits and experts across the country.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers--the parent union of the Baltimore Teachers Union, called the publishing of the data "irresponsible," given the controversy of using value-added evaluations.

In a statement about the teacher evaluations, Weingarten said:

“It is outrageous that the New York City Department of Education is releasing teacher rankings that, by their own admission, are based on bad, unreliable data," Weingarten said, adding that the release also undermines a deal she made with former NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein when the evaluations began.

“City officials are disingenuously telling parents, reporters, principals, teachers and others that they shouldn’t draw conclusions based on these scores alone. But who wouldn’t, when they have nothing else to use?”

The teacher-evaluation issues has been heating up in Baltimore since Weingarten was on the ground here more than a year ago advocating for a new pay-for-performance teachers contract, whose implementation has been tumultuous from the minute it was presented in October 2010.

The most recent story I wrote was about how hundreds (maybe thousands) of city teachers were slapped with unsatisfactory ratings--which many felt were capricious and unwarranted--in their mid-year evaluation, resulting in a stark increase a Performance Improvement Plan. Under the contract, teachers move up a pay grade with proficient evaluations, so naturally, the conclusion was that the city may have signed on to a check it can't cash.

The district has said that placing mass amounts of teachers (and principals) on the plans is a professional development tool, and not the firing tool it historically has been.

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