Updated 02/26/2012 05:28 PM
Local News Outlets Vary Greatly As They Publish City Teachers' Rankings
The Department of Education's rankings for more than 18,000 city teachers that were released for the first time on Friday are bound to confuse even the most savvy parent. The DOE did not publish its own rating but gave them to news organizations, and as NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ explains, parents will find very different information depending on where they look.
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NY1, the New York Times, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal and DNAinfo.com all have city public school teachers' percentile rankings online. These rankings are based on a complicated formula that may be unreliable, or even inaccurate, yet are used by the Department of Education to decide tenure.
"It's something brand new, people are going to raise questions about it," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.
But without an official DOE database, the answers are being answered by news organizations.
"Most of us, myself included, with a Ph.D in economics, it takes some time to understand," said Sean Corcoran of New York University.
Only NY1 published an unedited version of the DOE data. The massive Excel files include three years of individual scores, each based on almost 100 different numbers.
NY1 was also the only one to publish the 2008 and 2009 rankings, in addition to the most recent ratings from 2010. Simpler versions of the spreadsheets are also posted, and NY1 Noticias put up the only Spanish language version.
But while NY1 posted the most information, the Wall Street Journal created the most sophisticated platform to navigate it. Searching by school or teacher, you will find color-coded breakdowns, explanations and graphics.
The New York Times, working with WNYC, created a similar database. It highlights the percentage of teachers rated "above average" or "high" at each school.
But although one of the biggest concerns with this data is the wide margin of error for many scores, the Times does not give the exact numbers, instead showing it with a black line instead.
As of Saturday, the Post and DNAinfo.com did not include margins of error at all. So for example, list a teacher was ranked in the 72nd percentile for math, but the news outlets did not include that her score could really be anywhere form the 46th percentile to the 88th percentile.
The Daily News was the most cautious, deciding not to publish the names and scores of teachers whose rankings were based on just one year of data.
But publishing the scores at all remains very controversial.
"Hopefully parents will take these with a grain of salt and understand that these are one measure. They’re not at all a perfect measure," said Corcoran.
It is an imperfect measure in many different forms.
UPDATE 2/26/12: Since this story first aired, the Post updated its database to include margin-of-error numbers with the rankings.