Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WSJ Wednesdays - Release of Teacher Ratings

The front page of the Saturday/Sunday, February 25 -26, 2012 edition of The Wall Street Journal had an article about the publishing of teacher evaluations in New York City. Titled, "Teacher Ratings Aired in New York," this article by Stephanie Banchero discussed how if school districts across the United States followed suit, this could add pressure on school administrators to "improve or to remove their weakest teachers."

Initially, one might think, so what. Not only do our tax dollars pay teachers' salaries, but they are responsible--along with parents/guardians--for preparing children for the future.  If your performance is less than adequate in a private sector non-union job, you risk getting fired. Why should a weak teacher be able to hide behind her union and keep her job?

According to the article, Michelle Rhee, Executive Director of StudentsFirst (a nonprofit group whose goal is to overhaul teacher evaluation and pay systems), says parents should have access to teacher ratings, claiming if we want parents involved in their kids' education they need all the information. The article states teachers unions across the nation have been opposed to the release of this data. If what Banchero's article says is true, one can understand the concern. The scores are said to have wide margins of error because "they are based on limited numbers of students and school years." In New York, the data cover grades 4 through 8 in reading and math, leaving 80% of teachers not covered by the analysis. Banchero's article also states that one of the obstacles to evaluating all teachers is only 30% of teachers in America's classrooms work in grades or subjects covered by state standardized tests. These tests are key in generating the data being made public.

This certainly sounds like a sticky wicket.

I have one child who graduated from the public school sytem and two that are currently in it. Overall, I've been impressed with the level of dedication displayed by the teachers and administrators here. It appears this data would isolate the underachievers who deserve to be removed. But do parents truly want this information? Is providing this information really going to make parents get more involved in their child's education? I'm not so sure of the answers on those questions.

What do you think? Should this data be released? Will it encourage more parents to get involved? What other solutions might there be to this issue?


Pricilla said...

Parents are either involved or they are not. Releasing incomplete data will only bring out the worst in the uninvolved allowing them to lay the complete blame on the teacher when it may not completely belong there.

There are bad teachers. There are also bad students. Not to mention bad parents. Combine the three and you have a world of problems.

I completely agree that tenure is a bad system and needs to be eliminated but I don't think what I read in this post is complete enough to do so.

Sorry for the length....

Cheryl said...

I'm afraid you're right. How can you blame a teacher for underperforming students when the students hold a large responsiblity for their own performance?

Thanks for the comments. Good thing you don't have these issues with your goats, huh?

Mayra Calvani said...

That's a good point, but there are also good students who perform poorly because of a bad teacher. A good or bad teacher can have a direct influence on a student's performance. I wouldn't mind at all having access to this information, if only to be better informed and advise my child accordingly. Great post, Cheryl.