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Department of Unintended Consequences: Posting Teacher Ratings

February 27, 2012

As noted in earlier posts, at the behest of Mayor Bloomberg the NY BOE posted ratings of teachers based on a complex “value-added” calculation using test data that was discredited several months ago. The direct and indirect results of this decision came through in several articles in today’s NYTimes.

One consequence of the release was to hand the union president a “rallying cry” to dig in his heels in the ongoing negotiations with the mayor over teacher evaluation. Mike Mulgrew, the UFT President, was inundated with emails from teachers. The NYTimes analysis of the court’s decision to release the ratings was summarized in this one paragraph:

But the legal defeat a court dealt the union, by green-lighting the release, may yet be a political victory for the union — by galvanizing members and mobilizing allies on the left, including the Occupy movement andChange.org, through which scores of people signed petitions and sent letters to news organizations last week protesting the publication of the ratings.

My sense is that people understand that the ultimate purpose of any evaluation is to improve performance and that the data gathered for the purpose of evaluations should be kept confidential.

An article profiling the top performing teachers found some degree of consistency among the group— all were hard working and focussed on improving the scores. But none of the group advocated for the publication of “winners” and “losers”…

A third article in today’s paper profiling Michele Rhee intimated the dark side of motivating by fear: cheating to get higher test scores. It seems that every time an urban district gets a success story, there is a cheating scandal lurking in the wings… especially when the urban superintendent wants to fashion themselves after a private sector CEO. It seems that both Rhee and the Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall hired the same firm Caveon to conduct an internal review of their cheating scandals. In both cases Caveon found the claims to be “unsubstantiated”…. findings that were later undercut by independent investigations done by government officials. Sound familiar? When public officials are asked to make their organizations mirror private sector “success stories” don’t be surprised when they mirror the behavior of Enron…

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