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Media: NYT & WNYC Publishing Old, Inaccurate Teacher Scores


You'd think it would be the small, scrappy, online-only publication that would do something rash and regrettable, not the venerable legacy media outlet.  But that's not how it's playing out in New York City, where everything is upside down right now.  Tiny GothamSchools has declined to publish individual teacher ratings and the massive New York Times has come up with a fancy app to celebrate their arrival.  

Click below for more about why the Times is going ahead -- and why doing so is a bad call from my perspective -- even though I don't mind tests (or like teachers) nearly as much as everyone else. 

You can be sure that the NYT's public editor is already doing warm-up exercises to get ready to write about this one. 


The main arguments for publishing the data over at the Times -- in collaboration with WNYC -- seem to be that (a) they didn't generate the data themselves and (b) that they're going to present it carefully and responsibly.  The first is a reference to the LA Times, which crunched raw numbers on its own (thanks, Hechinger Institute) back in 2010 and published individual ratings that it generated.  The second argument is a reference to the idea (delusional, I think) that any imaginable amount of contextualization is going to stop folks from plugging in teachers' names and sharing the scores that appear.  Margins of errors, asterisks, explanatory text be damned.  

That's what the folks at the LA Times said, too, and look at that experience. If the data require so much explanation it raises questions about why they're being used.  Plus which, they're old and no longer being used.  As GothamSchools put it, "No amount of context could justify attaching teachers’ names to the statistics." 

It's ironic that Bill Gates' oped against the publication of the data came out yesterday in the Times, where he calls publishing the data a "capricious exercise in public shaming").  But he's not the only one.  Hardcore reformers like Wendy Kopp and Michelle Rhee are publicly if belatedly coming out opposed to publishing the data. ("We have concerns that these ratings don't account for the true & whole picture of effectiveness parents are entitled to receive," said StudentsFirst spokesperson Nancy Zuckerbrod in an email.) By my count, that leaves Arne Duncan, Joel Klein, and Steve Brill as pretty much the only folks in America who still favor publishing data like this.  

Last but not least, it's sad and somewhat disturbing that the blog post penned by Jodi Rudoren explaining that it's going to go ahead with the process tries to make it seem like UFT head Mike Mulgrew might actually support the release of the data.  He's quoted encouraging teachers to participate in the validation process but his opposition to the release of the scores is well known and should have been included, as should have been a reference to the Gates oped, right? A previous post, by Mary Ann Giordano, wonders why Gates would weigh in on such a local issue (though it does note that these data are being released because of media requests and legal actions).

Previous posts by me on this topic:

How Reporters Got Sucked Into Value-Added Debacle March 2011

Hechinger Head Disavows LA Times' Value-Added Decision September 2010

Former LA Times Journo Bashes LAT September 2010

Premature, Inappropriate Uses Raise Red Flags February 2011


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I'm betting the public editor will ignore the whole thing. When it comes to mainstream media puffery of and participation in corporate education reform fads, self-scrutiny doesn't occur and criticism is ignored, in my rather extensive experience.

You underscore these corporate reformists' real objection to the fiasco:
"If the data require so much explanation it raises questions about why they're being used."

It's about time some questions were raised.

Do not forget NYT is trying to go out of "the struggle of the old newspaper". It is not startling that it will catch this opportunity to show up something different, attention-attracting.
In my opinion, this issue does not sell from itself. It is just something new: "democratization of schooling".
The purpose of publishing individual teacher ratings itself is not clear and not appropriate.
If its purpose is for Teaching Control, Teaching Control has had the appropriate "democratic" area, that is, the school, which is autonomous and independent academic "country". These following democratic principles has had their own place of application, that is, the school itself: "the country of school", "the authoritative people of school", "the authoritative government of school"; "from, by, and for the people of school".
Therefore, it is logical fallacy and in vain that Teaching Control in school area and for humanistic objective is blown up to all over the world for unclear and inappropriate purpose!

I don't think the New York Times is trustworthy anymore. I read that Apple neglected to invite NYT to a recent unvailing of the OS X Mountain Lion, after which NYT started publishing articles about labor right issues connected with Apple employees in China. Kinda petty if you ask me. I'll stick with my Bloomberg Businessweek.

awesome..this is so cool and saves so much time..thanks

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