Release of New York Teacher Data Put Off

By Alain Jehlen

The proposed release of controversial “value-added” scores for New York City teachers has been postponed until next month to allow time for a court hearing on whether the release should be permanently blocked.

The United Federation of Teachers, representing the New York teachers, went to court last week to block the release after the New York City Department of Education announced they would be given to media representatives who asked for them.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel called on the Department of Education to work with the UFT to resolve the dispute in a way that protects the privacy rights of teachers.

“It is unconscionable to evaluate teachers in the public square,” Van Roekel said. “Releasing confidential data to media outlets is irresponsible, unethical and an unwarranted invasion of our members’ privacy.

“It is even more problematic in this circumstance because the value-added methodology being used here has been shown to be an inaccurate, unreliable, statistically invalid measure on which to base important decisions.”

The New York confrontation follows publication by the Los Angeles Times in August of “value-added” scores that the newspaper calculated for 6,000 teachers based on student scores supplied by the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Value-added” scores are intended to compare the effects of teachers in raising their students’ test scores. In New York, such scores are used as part of the process of evaluating teachers.

But scholars have warned that “value-added” scores do not live up to their name. A report from the National Academies of Sciences concluded that “high-stakes” decisions should not be based on these scores because they have not yet been scientifically validated.

Researchers note that many people and circumstances influence students’ scores, not just one teacher. They point out that many teachers who are at the bottom in “value-added” scores one year, find themselves near the top the following year. In Houston, for example, 23 percent of the lowest performers one year were among the top performers the following year, according to a report from the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

In the New York case, the data are especially problematic because the tests used to calculate them are themselves under fire for painting an inaccurate picture of student achievement.

“This is bad information based on bad data and he’s (Chancellor Joel Klein) trying to mislead parents,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.