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Teachers: An Invitation to Respond to Your Data Report

Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 10:55 AM

2:03 p.m. | Updated Under a court order based on the Freedom of Information Law, the New York City Department of Education plans to release its Teacher Data Reports -- individual ratings of thousands of the system’s educators determined by how much progress their students made on standardized tests while in their classrooms.

The Education Department said Thursday that it plans to release the reports Friday morning.

The city used these so-called “value-added” ratings, which cover the school years of 2000-8, 2008-9 and 2009-10, as part of its yearly evaluations of teacher performance, and factored them into tenure decisions.

The New York Times was one of a number of media organizations that sued for access to these records, and The Times plans to publish them on SchoolBook upon their release.

About 12,000 fourth through eighth grade public school teachers who teach math, English or both were rated for each of those school years.

The ratings are imperfect, according to independent experts, school administrators and teachers alike. There are large margins of error, because they are generally based on small amounts of data. And there are many other documented problems, like teachers being rated even when they are on maternity leave.

But the data figured in high-stakes decisions about public employees, and the debate about value-added ratings is continuing as the city and state overhaul the evaluation process.

With SchoolBook's partners at WNYC, The Times has developed a sophisticated tool to display the ratings in their proper context, a hallmark of our journalism.

But we want to take that a step further, by inviting any teacher who was rated to provide her or his response or explanation. We are seeking those responses now, so they can be published at the same time as the data reports.

If there were special circumstances that compromise the credibility of the numbers in particular cases, we want to know.

We plan to include those responses alongside the ratings themselves, so readers can consider them together.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in an e-mail message Thursday afternoon: "The UFT encourages teachers to comment on their reports, particularly if they contain significant errors."

Teachers, to submit your response to your data report, fill out this Google form or scroll down to the bottom of this page. You will need your most recent teacher data report or an @schools.nyc.gov e-mail address so that we can ensure that only you respond on your behalf.

The responses will live on our site with the numbers, and may also be used in reporting articles about the ratings.

There will also be plenty of other opportunities to communicate with SchoolBook using other platforms we intend to make available. And WNYC will offer a broadcast forum for the conversation, taking your calls when the data is released and in the days following.

Since the recent court ruling that opened the gate for the release of the ratings, SchoolBook has reported on the unfolding debate and invited teachers, parents, administrators and other interested parties to weigh in.

“Can you think of any other employees, from the public or private sectors, who have ever had been subject to having their job evaluations printed in the newspaper?” asked Leonie Haimson, a leading critic of the Bloomberg administration’s school policies, in a fairly typical comment. “Yet another method to further undermine teacher morale.”

Editor's Note: This post was corrected to reflect clarification of the number of teachers affected. It is about 12,000 for each year of data, but nearly 18,000 records total. In addition, the Education Department is releasing three years of data, not two.

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