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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

NYC teacher ratings ineffective, unfair

Imagine that all the high school students across the country were ranked based on test scores. What if, then, these scores were released to the public and the press nationwide? Sounds awful.

That nightmare was put into reality not for students, but rather their teachers. On Feb. 24, after a long court battle, the New York City Department of Education publicly released performance rankings of over 18,000 school teachers, known as Teacher Data Reports. These reports use standardized math and English exams to rank teachers based on their students’ improvement.

This incident is not the first in a string of many related problems. Over the past decade, there has been a shift toward evaluating teachers with numbers and statistics, such as API scores and school rankings. Instead of basing their effectiveness on the opinions of their students and administrators, teachers are now being judged on cold, hard data, such as the New York City teachers’ rankings.

But data can sometimes be misleading, and that is the case with many of the New York numbers. Officials stated that only 77 percent of teachers whose rankings were released were still teaching for the Department of Education. Of those who were, many had moved on to different subject areas, grade levels, administrative positions, or even schools, resulting in the reports being hard to utilize—which makes it questionable as to why the city decided to release them in the first place.

The scores also turned out to have large margins of error due to, in some cases, the small number of students tested to rate each teacher. For example, some teachers only had 10 students tested.

In addition, the scores spanned over a different number of years for different teachers. This also skewed the rankings.

To add to the problem, the overall idea of rankings is unjust. The notion that the effectiveness of a teacher can be measured by their students’ improvement on one type of test is somewhat incorrect.

The teachers have students of different backgrounds, which can either aid the education process or make it more difficult. Students who are motivated are easier to notice improvements in than students who lack interest in school, have complicated family situations, have a disability, or even only speak English as a second language.

Many factors play a role in student test score improvement other than the effectiveness of a teacher.
For example, students in more well-to-do areas often have better conditions in which they are learning. They may perform better on these tests even with a less effective teacher than the students who come from lower-income areas, even if they happen to have a superior teacher.

While some parents may feel that they have the right to know how effective their students’ educators are, a set of test scores is not the proper way to accomplish this. Rather, a teacher’s reputation at school, the way they are thought of by their students and administrators who truly know their capabilities, is much more valuable.

The release of these unfair teacher rankings could also damage the respect teachers are given by their students and their families. Parents may even attempt to move their kids out of a “below average” teacher’s class to an “average” or “high” ranking teacher’s class. In many cases, students’ and their parents’ opinions about a teacher would be influenced by the state’s views, instead of being based solely on their first-hand experience.

It is clear that these rankings are nothing short of unfair. The New York City Department of Education’s attempt at increasing teacher effectiveness did exactly the opposite. Now that rankings are released, students, teachers and families alike will start to see the negative effects. Students and families should recognize the faults of these ratings and not allow them to cloud their judgements of the teachers.

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