by Jason Song – LA TIMES/LA Now blog | http://lat.ms/dvaohd
October 21, 2010 | 4:18 pm - The New York City school system agreed Thursday to delay releasing teacher effectiveness ratings based on student test scores until after a court hearing in late November.
The nation's largest school district announced plans earlier this week to give several media groups "value-added" scores and other data for nearly 12,000 teachers. The teachers union filed a lawsuit to stop the action Thursday in Manhattan Supreme Court.
The New York City Department of Education has calculated value-added scores for many of its instructors since 2008, but had agreed to try to keep them private under an agreement with the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York's instructors.
Value-added analysis uses a student's past performance on standardized tests to estimate a teacher's effectiveness in raising scores.
The Los Angeles Times published a series of stories in August based on a value-added analysis of seven years of test scores obtained from the Los Angeles Unified School District using the state Public Records Act. Several New York media organizations filed requests for city schools' value-added results for individual teachers shortly after The Times began publishing its series.
New York City education officials said they could find no exemption in state law to keep the scores private and planned to release the scores to the groups Friday.
The department agreed with a judge's request to delay releasing the information until after a hearing Nov. 24. A spokeswoman said the department still believes it is obligated to release the data.
October 21, 2010, 6:13 pm (Eastern Time)
City and Union Agree to Wait on Release of Teacher Data
By SHARON OTTERMAN | NY Times - http://nyti.ms/91zy7z
In an agreement with the teachers’ union, the city Department of Education said Thursday it would delay releasing the internal performance reviews of some 12,000 teachers that rank them according to their students’ progress on standardized tests.
The New York Times and other media organizations have requested the reports, which are used in tenure decisions and internal evaluations of the teachers.
After the city announced that it was about to release the information, the union, the United Federation of Teachers, went to State Supreme Court in Manhattan to request a temporary restraining order, arguing that the reports were “unreliable, often incorrect, subjective analyses,” according to their court filing.
Outside the chambers of Justice Cythnia Kern, city and union lawyers agreed Thursday afternoon to the compromise to allow the court time to weigh the merits of the case.
“We agreed with the court’s desire to delay releasing this data until they have ruled on the U.F.T.’s motion on Nov. 24,” said Natalie Ravitz, communications director for the Department of Education. “We continue to believe it is our obligation under the law to provide this data, but we will await the court’s ruling.”
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the union, praised the agreement, saying the rankings, based on standardized tests the state has acknowledged were flawed, would only confuse parents, not help them.
“It’s really a victory for the parents who have just been inundated with bad information from the Department of Education,” he said.
Union Plans to Try to Block Release of Teacher Ratings
By SHARON OTTERMAN – New York Times | http://nyti.ms/aZoczE
October 21, 2010 - The city’s teachers’ union said on Wednesday that it would request a restraining order to prevent education officials from releasing reports that rate thousands of city teachers based on how much progress students made on state standardized tests
The release of the reports, if a judge does not block it, would propel New York City to the center of a national debate about how student test scores should be used to evaluate teachers and whether news media organizations should release the ratings of teachers to the public as a measure of their performance. The reports include the names of teachers and their schools.
The city’s public school principals have received the reports for the past two years, and last year, they were instructed to use them in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. But education officials have repeatedly refused to make the reports public because of an agreement with the teachers’ union and because of concerns that their release could compromise student privacy. Several news media organizations, including The New York Times, requested their release.
Against a shifting political backdrop, however, including the exploding use of test scores in other cities and states to evaluate teachers, New York City education officials announced on Wednesday that they had shifted their position. The United Federation of Teachers, the union, then said it planned to go to State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday to block the release.
“While we respect U.F.T.’s right to sue, we believe that the public has a right to this information under the law,” said Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers’ union, said the union would seek to prevent the release because the reports remained “unreliable and in a developmental stage.” In some cases, he said, they attribute the wrong students to the wrong teachers, and over all, they “rely on a methodology which national experts consider unproven.”
The reports use a complicated method known as value-added modeling to measure whether a teacher exceeds or falls short of expectations in helping students improve on standardized English and math tests from year to year. A formula factors in variables including ethnicity, past years’ scores and class size.
Many experts have cautioned against making value-added modeling, a relatively new practice, the sole or primary measure by which a teacher is judged. A variety of studies have found that the results for individual teachers can swing widely from year to year. In New York, additional concerns have been raised because the state standardized tests at the heart of the model were recently judged by state officials to be too predictable and easy to pass. Other experts have defended the methodology, and Ms. Ravitz, the Education Department spokeswoman, said on Wednesday, “We believe that value-added data is an indicator of a teacher’s effectiveness.”
There has also been concern about the release of the data to the public, with some experts cautioning that teachers could be unfairly maligned. The release of a searchable database of value-added scores for 6,000 teachers by The Los Angeles Times this summer became a lightning rod for the issue.
New York City has a $1.1 million contract with a group at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research to produce the reports, which currently exist for more than 12,000 city teachers in the fourth through eighth grades, through the 2008-9 school year, with data from 2009-10 expected soon.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 21, 2010, on page A32 of the New York edition.
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