Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brill on making teacher evaluations public

Steve Brill and I exchanged emails about whether releasing teacher value-added data (as NYC did this week) is a good idea.  I asked why he objected to my idea of only making public the overall evaluations, and asked whether he thought ALL performance information for ALL people who work for the government should be made public, like firemen, postal workers, police officers, doctors, and nurses?  He gave me permission to share his response:


Of course, I agree that the overall evaluations should be made public. Why not? But why not the components as well?


However, I would insist that no ratings be published until we had a least two years’ worth of ratings for a teacher, or maybe even three, in order to protect against flukes or errors in the system. Indeed, the most significant thing about these value-added ratings is that, however imperfect they are, they seem to be consistent for teachers across school years. (The worst stay bad for successive years as do the best; if not, “consumers” should be able to see that and, therefore, take the ratings with a grain of salt.)


(One year of TFA’s internal evaluations, however, might suffice, because TFA’s process seems to be much more intensive.)


Also, I would make sure each teacher is invited to comment on the rating – and that that comment is posted, too.


As for firemen and postal workers, they do not individually spend a year shaping the future of a parent’s child. Nor do we have any measure of their effectiveness or the ability as consumers of their service to do much about it if we did.  Police arrests and conviction rates or the outcomes of civilian complaints might be a different story – as should the rated effectiveness of the captain of the police precinct where you and I live.


As for nurses, I agree that I ought to be able to go online and see any lawsuits or disciplinary actions filed against doctors – as well as the outcome of those cases. So if there is a relevant information marker for nurses, I guess I’d go along with that.


Getting some sense, albeit an imperfect one, of the effectiveness of the teachers whom I am paying for is simple, obvious consumer information. I’m sure if a restaurant gets a C instead of an A rating from the Department of Health and has to post it in the window, it hurts the morale of the restaurant owner and even the staff. But that’s not the highest priority.

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