Q & A on Teacher Data Reports and Teacher Evaluations provided by the UFT with letter from Chancellor Walcott

Are Teacher Data Reports a good measure of the teacher?

No. They were created under an experimental program that has since been discontinued by the DOE. The “error margins” are huge — as much as 54 out of 100 points. This means that teachers identified as top scorers could in fact be below average, and teachers identified as low scorers could in fact be near the top. The reports also are based solely on state test scores, including results for school years where those tests were deemed so flawed by the state that it mounted a complete overhaul of them in 2010. The reports don’t take into account any other measure of teaching or learning. Even the Department of Education admits that a teacher’s performance should never be judged primarily by these flawed ratings.
Who got rated?
Only 4th through 8th grade teachers of ELA and math. These data reports cannot measure anyone else. About 12,000 teachers were assigned ratings.
Why did the UFT fight so hard against releasing them publicly?

Because these data reports don’t accurately measure a teacher’s value or job performance. In addition, they are full of errors. Teachers were rated on subjects they didn’t teach or students they didn’t have. One teacher was given a rating for a year she was on maternity leave. Some principals found mistakes in every report produced for their school.
This was only an experimental program that was never able to produce any reliable data. Disclosing teachers’ names and unreliable rankings will not help promote good teaching but will only lead to more test prep and teacher bashing. There is no reason to release the reports publicly other than to scapegoat teachers for many of the problems that the Department of Education has created by neglecting schools and overemphasizing tests.
Don’t we need to have some way of evaluating teachers?
Yes, of course. We already have several trusted methods. Teachers must pass tests to be certified, they must be evaluated for tenure, and their principal checks on them throughout the year and issues a rating at the end of each school year.
Going further, the state’s new evaluation system will take into account students’ test scores and can also include other measures of student performance, such as homework or projects, in addition to observations of teachers by administrators inside the classroom. Observation will count for the majority of an evaluation, which makes sense because we all know that teachers are so much more than their students’ test scores just as we don’t get a true picture of students just by their test scores.

Letter from Chancellor Walcott:

From: Walcott Dennis M Sent: Thursday, February 23, 2012 5:43 PM
Subject: Teacher Data Reports Release

Dear Colleagues,

Last week, the appeals process concluded, and the courts have said that we are legally obligated to release Teacher Data Reports provided to schools from the 2007-08 through 2009-10 school years. Prior to this court ruling we only released data reports without teacher names, and we’ve deliberately held off on releasing this data until all appeals were exhausted.

Tomorrow, the City will comply with that court order. This means that several newspapers and television stations that filed the original requests for the information will run stories about the data shortly thereafter. If you taught English Language Arts or math in grades 4-8 during those years, your results may be part of the data we must release.

We want to be clear on where we stand: the data is now two years old, and it would be irresponsible for the press to use this information in isolation to render judgments about individual teachers. The data does not tell the whole story of your work as a teacher. Teacher Data Reports were created primarily as a tool to help teachers improve. They show how much progress teachers helped their students make each year, compared with the progress students made in other classrooms across the City-while accounting for students’ previous academic histories, poverty levels, and other factors outside a teacher’s control. The reports gave teachers and principals one useful perspective on how well teachers were doing in their most important job: helping students learn.

However, these reports were never intended to be public or to be used in isolation. Ultimately, each news organization will make its own choices about how to proceed, and this may result in your name appearing in the paper or on media Web sites. Although we can’t control how reporters use this information, we will work hard to make sure parents and the public understand how to interpret the Teacher Data Reports.

We have been preparing information and support resources for you and your school community; these will be available by tomorrow morning at http://schools.nyc.gov/Teachers/TeacherDevelopment/TeacherDataToolkit. For individual issues or concerns, teachers should speak to their principals. For log-in or other technical questions, call HR Connect at 718-935-4000 when schools reopen on Monday.

We will continue working together to build a better teacher evaluation system that gives you the feedback and support you deserve as professionals. The State’s new system will include value-added analysis that will count for 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation-similar to the method used in the Teacher Data Reports-alongside classroom observations and other measures. This is the approach to evaluations required by State law, and it also has the backing of some of the country’s leading education researchers.

I believe that we have one of the strongest teaching forces in the country. Treating teachers with the professionalism they deserve, while having honest conversations about the ways in which we all need to improve, can only make our schools better.


Dennis M. Walcott


Here is a post from Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post education blog, The Answer Sheet, in which the P.S. 321 principal goes into great detail about exactly how and why the TDRs on the teachers at P.S. 321 are wrong.