Michigan Association of School Administrators

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Another look at releasing teachers’ names and rankings

eLeader Editions

Our colleagues at Public Agenda have weighed in on the release of teacher names and rankings compiled by student test scores in New Your City. The op-eds and research they cite can be useful in shaping conversations around accountability in your district.

After an intense and lengthy legal battle between the Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers, the New York City media last week publicly released the names and rankings of 12,000 teachers in grades 4-8, based on how their students performed on state exams. This move has been controversial, and teachers, principals and parents alike question whether the public release of these rankings, which have a wide margin of error, is even useful.

In an op-ed for The New York Times last week, Bill Gates called the court ruling leading to the release a “big mistake” and added that “publicly ranking teachers by name will not help them get better at their jobs or improve student learning.” In coverage for The Wall Street Journal, UFT president Michael Mulgrew called the ratings “unreliable.” A Brooklyn parent said that good communication with teachers matters more to her than high rankings on tests.

These sentiments echo recent research from Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation, which suggests that an overreliance on quantitative accountability measures alone can actually undermine the public’s trust. In their findings, the public values things like demonstrated ethics and responsiveness at least as much as data and transparency from their leaders.

Yet most teachers, education leaders and reformers agree that thoughtfully-designed, well-rounded and substantive teacher evaluations provide valuable feedback for teachers and are an important tool for improving the education of our nation’s youth. They also agree that student test scores alone are not a substantive enough measure to gauge teacher effectiveness.

The challenge, then, is to determine what makes teacher evaluation a valuable tool for improving outcomes for both teachers and students. We believe that the perspective of teachers must be included in this conversation in order for teacher evaluation policy to be sustainable, workable and valuable.

Read more at Public Agenda's Web site.