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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

New York releases teacher ratings by name: Could Florida be next?



After a year-long legal battle, the New York City school system has made public its value-added rating of teachers, which is based on statistical projections of how much academic gains their students are expected to make compared to the actual performance.

The NY Times reports that the release is galvanizing teacher unity in opposition to the release, while also focusing attention on the educators listed as the best.

The ratings are complicated. Some argue the lists put the attention squarely on classroom learning, where it should be. Many have questioned whether boiling the myriad factors that go into teaching and learning into a ranking would cause humiliation for those low on the list, particularly as the system has a fairly large margin of error. (Count Bill Gates, who's underwriting Hillsborough's new teacher evaluation model, as an opponent. Read his recent column on the issue here.) 

Yet like Los Angeles before it, New York has put the information out there for the public to see. And Florida could be next.

Florida's public records law already makes its teacher evaluations open for viewing a year after they're filed. SB 736 required the state to create an annual list of teachers by their new evaluation ratings (highly effective through needs improvement), while also mandating that schools inform parents if their children are in classrooms with teachers needing improvement.

The parent trigger bill now coursing through the Legislature would amp up these requirements, going so far as to bar schools from placing children in a classroom with a teacher needing improvement two years running.

Hillsborough already has annually released its list of teachers receiving merit pay bonuses, while Jeb Bush's education foundation has issued lists of teachers by name each year who it said had the best FCAT results.

It seems almost a logical progression that the value-added rankings of teachers, which Florida is in the process of creating, will be the next thing to hit the internet. Nominally, this is done to help parents make more informed choices about which teachers they want their children learning from. It's also to help find those who are most successful, so others can learn from their efforts.

But on the other hand, teachers who earn low ratings are supposed to be given feedback so they can have a chance to improve. In the case of new teachers, a "needs improvement" rating is supposed to be considered "developing" because they likely will not have mastered all the skills having just come out of college. Yet they could all be painted with the same broad brush.

And parents, who often just go straight for the bottom line list, probably won't look much farther than how high or low their teacher lands. After all, who wants their kid in the classroom of the teacher with the worst results in the school (or even the district, for that matter)?

Cynicism is already thick in the Florida education air. Is this destined to be yet another brick in the wall?

[Last modified: Monday, February 27, 2012 10:07am]


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