Perspectives on the release of Teacher Data Reports: readings for a sad day

12,000 NYC teachers of students in grades 3-8 are having their faulty data reports released today. I said my piece yesterday on my blog, and left the following comment on for the New York Times:

It is very disappointing to me that a a paper with the integrity of the New York Times would make the decision to publish this deeply flawed data with individual teachers’ names attached to it. I would like to applaud Gotham School schools for choosing not to do so. I would further ask the Times why they are choosing to publish teacher’s scores when they have not published principal’s ratings in the past.(In the interest of full disclosure, I serve on an advisory board for Gotham Schools, though was not consulted on this decision. I also write for Schoolbook.)

Publishing these scores will bring unfair attention to thousands of individual teachers who work hard every day, and will ultimately make it more difficult for them to improve

Nonetheless, teachers will come under the microscope today.  My favorite NYC teacher blogger Jose Vilson is one of them, and took offense to the Times’ invitation to respond to his report:

No. I don’t want to justify or get validation for whatever the reports say about me. With this huge body of evidence and the growing backlash against such reports, why would any respectable publication diminish their own journalistic credibility by publishing them and systematizing them in their website? I have serious doubts about the validity of doing this insofar as asking teachers to contribute to the further deprofessionalization of teaching.

The logic is simple: if we give in to telling the New York Times about our data reports, then we’re actually responding, and by responding in the manner they’ve chosen, they’re actually telling us to defend ourselves in the court of public opinion.

Read the rest of the post here, and some of Jose’s other thoughts on what he’s looking for if teachers are rated publicly.

Gotham Schools appears to be the only major education media outlet making a responsible journalistic decision. Please read their entire explanation.  Here’s just one highlight:

But before we publish any piece of information, we always have to ask a question. Does the information we have do a fair job of describing the subject we want to write about? If it doesn’t, is there any additional information — context, anecdotes, quantitative data — that we can provide to paint a fuller picture?

In the case of the Teacher Data Reports, “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced in 2009 and 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8, the answer to both those questions was no.

Finally, if you haven’t read it yet, read Bill Gates’ argument against releasing these scores.  I disagree with his claim that using the test scores of currently existing tests should ever be used to evaluate student learning, let alone teacher effectiveness, but the rest of his argument is spot on:

But student test scores alone aren’t a sensitive enough measure to gauge effective teaching, nor are they diagnostic enough to identify areas of improvement. Teaching is multifaceted, complex work. A reliable evaluation system must incorporate other measures of effectiveness, like students’ feedback about their teachers and classroom observations by highly trained peer evaluators and principals.