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Explore the blogs of students at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
As a former teacher, I have mixed feelings about publishing teacher ratings. With the recent release of teacher data in New York City, I have spent some time thinking about why I cannot easily make up my mind on whether or not revealing this data is positive or negative. A recent discussion in my Qualitative Research Methods class did little to help me decide. The class debated how much responsibility the researchers versus the consumers held in terms of understanding data. Without getting into the debate, let me just say that it left me conflicted about the release of teacher ratings.
On the positive side, I believe that parents have a right to know how educators perform. These teachers, after all, are responsible for the education of their children. In college, I often spoke with other students to learn more about professors. Did the professors actually teach? Did students feel like they had learned something from the class and the professor? Parents should have this type of information to determine if their students will have an educator who actually teaches. Furthermore, if teachers know that parents and students will have an opportunity to see their performance ratings, then perhaps it will motivate them to perform better. This is the reasoning behind grading students.
On the negative side, I cannot support the release of data based on standardized test scores. These test scores do not accurately measure a teacher’s ability. They do not capture all that a teacher does in a classroom and they ignore the other influences on a student’s performance. A student’s performance on a single test will vary depending on something as simple as missing a bus. Test anxiety, something else outside of a single teacher’s control and increased by the pressures of high stakes testing, also influences a student’s performance. Having taught a tested subject area, I witnessed this every year. I watched a responsible, level-headed student become increasingly nervous as the test for my class drew nearer. I had a panicking student run into my classroom on the day of the test because the bus had passed her without stopping and now she was late.
As much as I want parents and students to have the information about their teachers, as much as I think teachers must be held accountable for how students learn in the classroom, I worry that the data being released does not represent how well teachers perform. Furthermore, if teachers can easily identify flaws in the data and parents question how the release of the data affects the classroom, I wonder why the information was released at all.
At this point, especially given the way teachers have identified mistakes about details as basic as the number of students they taught, I think that the release of the rankings was a poor idea. I’m not sure how parents should learn about how well teachers perform, but I believe that this was not the way to do it.