Albany Considering Limiting Release of Teacher Reports

The question of whether teacher evaluations should be released to the general public may be heading to a resolution in Albany next week.

Anna M. Phillips reports in The New York Times on Tuesday that legislators are increasingly open to the idea of allowing parents to see the evaluations of their child's teacher, but not releasing those reports generally. The New York Post reported on Monday that such a compromise is being widely discussed in Albany.

While both Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have favored public disclosure of teacher evaluations, in the name of accountability, it is not clear how hard they would fight to defeat any restrictions, The Times's report says.

Equally unclear is how such a system would work: Which parents -- those in a class this year or those in the following year's -- will be able to see the reports? What happens if the parents choose to publicize the results? What exactly will be revealed to parents -- the teacher's success at raising student scores on standardized exams, which account for up to 40 percent of a teacher's overall evaluation under a system that will be imposed statewide, or the entire evaluation, which includes principal and other observations?

Discussions of such a measure have been going on since February, when the rankings for about 18,000 city school teachers were released to the general public and published online by various news organizations, including SchoolBook. The release of the rankings, which were admittedly flawed and had large margins of error, was denounced by teachers and their supporters.

But many parents embraced the opportunity to learn more about the quality of their child's teacher, and a Quinnipiac poll in March showed a majority of New York City voters favored the release.

A New York Post editorial labels the very idea of a limited release "nutty," "wacky," "inane" and "tragic."

As The Times reports, the matter is heading toward a showdown and may be resolved next week, when the State Legislature reconvenes in Albany.

Also in the news this Tuesday of spring break for New York City public school students and staff: The Daily News reported that parents at a Williamsburg school had been keeping their children home from a school building that was tainted by mold -- and are demanding that the school be moved to a different building.

Attendance at Middle School 577 on North Fifth St. has tanked since word of the mold outbreak started last month. Roughly 80% of the 444 students have gone to class last week with the biggest dip coming last Tuesday at just 73%. The school’s attendance usually soars into the high 90’s, according to sources.

“They should send these kids to a different school,” said Wiliamsburg mom Danielle Obloj. “They aren’t looking out for their safety.”

As The News reports, seven classrooms on the fifth floor of the building -- which also houses P.S. 17 Henry D. Woodworth -- had mold caused by leaks in the roof. But Education Department officials insist the roof has been fixed, the mold has been removed and the building is now safe.

“After testing the entire building for mold, thoroughly cleaning any affected rooms, and testing again, the results are conclusive: the building is completely safe for students and staff,” said DOE spokesman Frank Thomas.

“We will continue to take additional steps to prevent water from leaking into the building."

But parents aren't buying it, and local officials are supporting them.

City Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg) said there are 4,000 available seats in the district and is pushing the DOE to move both schools.

“The city cannot put these children at risk when there are safe alternatives available," said Reyna.

And parents in District 9 in the Bronx have been protesting the quality of their schools, The News reports.

The New Settlement Parent Action Committee led the “26 Schools in 26 Days” campaign through District 9, which has been designated “In Need of Improvement” for the last seven years. The area covers parts of the Concourse, Highbridge, Claremont and Morris Heights.

“More than half of them are failing schools,” said organizer Sasha Warner-Berry. “It brings home the message that our whole district is in a crisis.”

The march, which started on March 9 and ended last Wednesday, will culminate in a community forum this month, "where educators, elected officials and parents will draft a new plan for the district, The News reports.