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Two Chancellors, Two Different Public Views on Teacher Ratings

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 02:30 PM

In recent days, schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott has portrayed himself as a reluctant participant in the city's release of the individual ratings for more than 18,000 teachers.

"I don't want our teachers denigrated, I don't want our teachers stereotyped," he told NY1's "Inside City Hall" on Wednesday.

Mr. Walcott made similar comments in an interview with The New York Times last September when he said he didn't want to see any headlines referring to "the dirty 30" or anything else along those lines.

"We have to make sure from a professional point of view that we, me, are out there explaining what it actually means," he said. "And so that will be something that we will have the responsibility to do on a regular basis. But I can’t stop the headlines."

It's not known what views Mr. Walcott shared with his colleagues in the Bloomberg Administration when he was a deputy chancellor, before becoming chancellor last April. However, his predecessor, Joel I. Klein, actively led the charge to release the ratings to the public when he was chancellor.

Mr. Klein told WNYC during an "exit interview" in late 2010 that the teacher data reports were a valid measurement, despite the objections of educators.

"Of course," he said. "It’s just part of a larger system. But of course it is. Look, any parent I know would rather see a teacher getting substantial value-add than negative value-add."

Value-add is a term for isolating an individual teacher's impact on student achievement. Listen to a segment of the interview below.

WNYC WNYC's Beth Fertig interviews former chancellor Joel Klein

"Wherever they start we want them to move forward," Mr. Klein explained. "Let’s back up a second. What’s the ultimate measure? First and foremost children need to graduate high school. When I came here in 2002 about 45 percent of kids were getting a Regents or a local diploma. Today that’s 20 points higher."

He said data alone does not tell the full story and he criticized the teachers' union for not offering ideas for measuring effective teaching.

It was earlier that same year that the union took the city to court for the first time to block the release of the teacher data reports. The union claimed the city didn't have to release the names of teachers because of an exemption in state law protecting their rights to privacy. But the city's attorney argued any exemptions under the law for privacy are to prevent harm, not "temporary embarrassment.

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