Following a lengthy battle in the courts, the city's Department of Education on Friday released the performance scores of tens of thousands of public school teachers.
A judge ordered the department to make the figures public, over the objections of teachers who say the rankings are misleading and based on questionable data.
The teachers' scores are based on how students in fourth through eighth grades improved on standardized tests from the Fall 2007 though Spring 2010 school years. The complicated formula also tries to take into account factors beyond teachers' control, like students' poverty level, special education needs and English language abilities.
Teachers were measured against their peers and given a percentile ranking.
In total, the scores of 18,000 teachers were released.
The information was made available following a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request from news organizations including NY1. The scores were never supposed to be public, and for more than a year the teacher's union fought to block the release in court.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott says he's conflicted since the evaluation data is old and in some cases inaccurate.
"I think it's extremely important that we not denigrate our teachers based on the reports. This, as I have indicated, is just one piece of information. It's dated information, it's two years old," said Walcott.
Yet Walcott also argues the public is entitled to see the scores.
Educators say there are major concerns with the validity of the data and the algorithm used to get each teacher's score.
"Take these reports for what they are. They’re not worth anything. Just remember, these are the people who chose to work with children every day, to make their lives better and help them learn," said United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew earlier in the week.
"To take this one test, that's given once a year, and to sum it up and say this is the value of what you do, on a day-to-day business, it's totally inaccurate," said Marie Callo, a 6th grade teacher in Brooklyn who spoke on behalf of the UFT on Friday.
An examination of the data shows that in the eight elementary and middle schools slated for closure by the Department of Education, the scores were below average – but not at the bottom. Of the 97 teachers who had multi-year ratings, four teachers had a "Low" rating and 40 were rated "Below Average." Fifty-four teachers were rated "Average" and 14 were rated "Above Average."
The ratings attempt to compare teachers by using their amount of experience and other classroom factors. The figures take into account gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status – among other factors – to try to show how teachers in similar situations help students improve.
But even with those variables taken into account, the scores can have an enormous margin of error.
The average margin of error for English teachers is 53 percentage point, and for math teachers it is 35 percentage points. In some cases, the margin of error is as high as 75 percent.
Although the city no longer creates these reports, the state will be creating the reports under a new evaluation system. These scores will then count for 20 percent of a teacher's evaluation.
Many teachers responding the NY1's publication of the reports say that media outlets should not be publishing data that is know to have deficiencies.
"NY1 should be ashamed to be a party to the releasing if names of hard working teachers," a teacher from Queens said in an e-mail to the newschannel. "Everyone knows that the information is not only outdated but more importantly all its measures are severely flawed with a remarkable margin of error."
"You write in your disclaimer that 'The newschannel does not pass judgment on the accuracy or efficacy of these ratings, but the reports were requested under the belief that parents have a right to the information,'" wrote another teacher. "Yoav Gonen, the NY Post education reporter, tweeted earlier that these Teacher Data Reports have margins of error as high as 75% for math and 87% for ELA. And yet you published these with names attached? You should be ashamed of yourselves."
"I just received a 'Below Average' Rating as a Math teacher because I (mistakenly) verified that students listed on the roster were in my class," another teacher wrote. "I was not the official Math teacher of the class, I was only present when the official Math teacher taught my class. But now I'm held responsible for their scores. I have no license in Math, I'm an ESL teacher. I tried to clear this up last year with the DOE but with no results. Now I have a 'Below Average' rating as a Math teacher! Thanks. This after giving my blood to my profession."
"As many teachers falling at the low end of the scoring spectrum must also feel, I know my grade will paint an ugly and unfair portrait of my teaching career," wrote a fifth grade teacher. "It uses state test scores based on four months in my third year with a tough class. The resulting report manufactures a grade based on a formula Stephen Hawking would likely struggle to grasp. It doesn't account for anything we do on a daily basis. Creative successes fall by the wayside. Breakthroughs with behavioral problems don't surface in the assessments. Progress with non-English-speakers simply doesn't count. So feel free. Bash away. Print faulty data. But accept that fact that your standing as a journalist has been thrown by the wayside. Because when you print this list of teachers' names and numbers, you are knowingly getting the story wrong."
Another teacher wrote, "I am a teacher in Brooklyn and was against the reports being released to the public. This is not for any reason but the fact that the parents of our students are not going to have the opportunity to learn how to understand these faulted reports. I am not saying an evaluation practice should not be in place, what I am saying let the one that will be used be truthful. "
Still another teacher who received an "Average" score said, "Test scores should not be and never should have been the deciding factor on how well a teacher or a student performs. Publishing these data reports is a disgrace to the whole teaching profession. One of the years referenced in a report I have seen had the incorrect number of students listed. With that said, I am curious to know how the data is still accurate? In addition to that, first and last names along with work locations have been published for the world to see. How many Americans would like for their names and work locations to be posted on the Internet. What ever happened to privacy? I can make a long list of things we do throughout the school year, before, during and after work hours but what would be the point when it can't be measured through data and posted all over the Internet. Nevertheless, I know it is measured everyday, because I see it in their faces. I make a difference regardless of the politics behind it. All the people that thought this was a great idea, shouldn't forget teachers were an important part of their lives at one point. Perhaps we can make progress in the educational system, when we all work together. Attacking teachers isn't doing anything but making a mockery of the city, the DOE and unfortunately failing our children."
ABOUT THE RATINGS
All data contained in this story is taken from the teacher data reports, which are provided by the NYS Department of Education, and are presented here without editing and in their entirety. As such, readers will be able to evaluate for themselves the ratings contained in the Reports and the DOE's methodology that underlies those ratings. In addition to the reports in their native format, NY1 is providing a simplified version of the ratings with plain-English explanations of the categories. In publishing the ratings, NY1 News makes no judgment regarding the veracity of the data or the value of its role in the evaluation of teachers.