Streams

Examining Teacher Rankings

Monday, March 05, 2012 - 08:10 AM

Schools and teachers are still reeling from the release and publication of their performance ratings -- particularly at two Brooklyn schools, where teachers received low ratings despite the schools' otherwise excellent reputations.

The education columnist Michael Winerip looks at one school, Public School 146 Brooklyn New School, an elementary school in Carroll Gardens, where several fifth-grade teachers received rock-bottom ratings, even though the majority of their students were proficient on the state exams. Two of the teachers each scored 7 out of 100 in math. Another got a 1 in math and an 11 in English and a fourth teacher's scores were mixed up with another colleague's.

It is not a flattering portrait of the school, but it is also not a true one, Mr. Winerip writes.

The short answer is: Numbers lie.

And not only do they lie, but they are out of date, in this case covering student test results from 2007 to 2010.

Though 89 percent of P.S. 146 fifth graders were rated proficient in math in 2009, the year before, as fourth graders, 97 percent were rated as proficient. This resulted in the worst thing that can happen to a teacher in America today: negative value was added.

The difference between 89 percent and 97 percent proficiency at P.S. 146 is the result of three children scoring a 2 out of 4 instead of a 3 out of 4.

City officials have acknowledged that teachers' rankings are less reliable if they work with especially low- or high-performing students.

The Daily News looks at another Brooklyn school, Intermediate School 318 in Williamsburg, where families compete for seats and applicants have to submit a report card and a recommendation from a teacher in order to get in. Yet, the school had more low-scoring teachers than any other in the city.

According to The News, P.S. 318's new principal, Eric Windley, dismissed the ratings in a letter he sent to parents, calling the scores "unfair" and blaming them on budget cuts that he said schools in low-income neighborhoods felt more acutely. But city officials said P.S. 318's budget cut of $251,000 was below average compared with other city schools.

A poll released this Monday by Siena College found that New Yorkers are divided over the new teacher evaluation system that state union and education officials recently agreed to. Asked whether the new evaluations would improve or have no effect on public education in the state, 50 percent of the people polled sided with improvement. Thirty-eight percent said it would have no effect, about 9 percent did not know enough to respond, and 3 percent said it would worsen the state of public education.

Still, 57 percent of those polled said the evaluation system was fair to teachers. The poll surveyed 808 registered voters and had a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

And if you have yet to know the drama of putting on an elementary school play, read Helene Stapinski's piece about directing the fifth-grade musical at Public School 29 John M. Harrigan, her son’s elementary school in Brooklyn.

On Monday, the City Council's finance and contract committees will begin hearings on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's proposed budget. In today's Times, the reporter Kate Taylor writes about how some of those cuts could result in 47,000 children losing access to after-school or day care services.

At 1 p.m., the Campaign for Children will protest the proposed cuts to child care and after-school programs on the steps of City Hall.

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