Union Turns to Public Over Teacher Data Reports

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Teacher Pamela Flanagan

Having already gone to court against the city, the teachers union is now going to the public with its argument against releasing 12,000 individual Teacher Data Reports, presenting teachers who discovered their reports were full of mistakes.

Deirdre Corcoran is a 5th grade teacher at PS 321 in Park Slope. She says her principal managed to secure her report, along with those of other teachers, and that she found it was full of errors. These included providing a year's worth of data next to her name for the 2007-08 school year, a period when she was on childcare leave.

"This data is characterized as average and below average, and it is not mine," said Corcoran. "This data has brought my own personal ranking in certain areas down to below average."

If the data is released, the public would be able to see how teachers are ranked, according to a percentile figure, based on how much progress their students made on standardized tests. The Department of Education was set to release the reports, under pressure from news organizations, when the union went to court to block the release. Last week, lawyers for the union, the city and news organizations presented their arguments to a state judge, who is yet to rule on the matter.

Another teacher brought forth by the union at a press conference, Pamela Flanagan, teaches at Tompkins Square Middle School, in the East Village. She discovered her teacher data report identifies her as teaching English Language Arts to 30 students, when in fact she teaches 60 students math and science. She is worried the data could become part of her professional record.

"Parents totally deserve [to know] what's going on in our classrooms," she said. "But giving them information, giving them a report that has me teaching the wrong subject, the wrong students and the wrong kind of classroom, is not going to help them understand anything about how effective I am as a teacher," said Flanagan.

Flanagan said the report also did not acknowledge that she teaches special education students, which affects the overall performance of her classes.

Her fellow Tompkins Square instructor, Cara Cibener, recalled the shock she felt upon encountering her own report.

"To be rated as an above-average math teacher when I've never taught math, and a below average ELA teacher when that's not my subject, is hard to see. And to see students I've never taught [listed on her report] -- that just feels disingenuous," said Cibener.

The Department of Education didn't respond to a request for comment on Sunday.



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Comments [3]

Lynn from Brooklyn

Accountability, yes. Public release of assessments? I say no on two counts. First, I cannot agree that publicly sharing the information has a use beyond the shaming of those who fail this assessment. As a tool used by superiors in the system to aid decision making? Yes. To be published? Absolutely not. Imagine such a general release of information for ALL public servants. Impossible. But even if it DID have a constructive effect, the data gathering is fatally flawed. It is my understanding that separate studies have discovered the "value added" component can vary widely for the same teacher. Its veracity as a tool for assessment was determined to be minimal. Now, I would be happy if someone could correct or verify my second assertion, but right now, the thought that the DOE would go through with this is proof enough that the need of a Union to protect members rights is still a necessity. This particular course of action seems useful only as a way to embarrass "low performers", not as a tool to make things better.

Dec. 20 2010 01:50 PM
Rob from Little Neck

Unfortunately, accuracy or value of information is not a requirement under the Freedom of Information Act. The argument that information is wrong in the reports needed to be made while the reports were being created. Which means that Parents and others will receive incorrect assessments of teachers. This goes along with our chidren being incorrectly assessed by the DOE under the current Administration. Nobody benefits from this situation except those who believe in reforms that devalue everybody and everything except themselves, to wit. the DOE.

Dec. 20 2010 12:28 PM

I agree with transparency. Parents have a right to know what is happening in their child's class. Teachers also have a right to know that the information being released about them is correct and a true relfection of their abilities. Furthermore, just as standardized tests do NOT accurately show a child's growth, they will NOT accurately show a teacher's ability. I think you will also create a dangerous situation where students could be placed in classes based on how their test scores will help the teacher, principal, and school rather than on how the teacher can help the student.

Dec. 20 2010 10:08 AM

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