Do Parents Want Teachers' Grades?

The debate over whether to release teacher report cards is overheating, but what do parents think?

The latest salvo in the debate over whether the value-added ratings of 12,000 New York City teachers should be made public is a threat from the United Federation of Teachers that it will assist teachers in suing the city's Department of Education should the data be released after a hearing in late-November.

According to a piece in the New York Daily News: "Teachers charge there are simple mistakes in the Teacher Data Reports ... Mistakes—like the wrong number of students or counting the wrong kids - could mean the ratings are way off, teachers said."

One of the key questions in this imbroglio is whether parents want and will use this data, if it's made available.
In the case of Los Angeles, parental feedback had been mostly positive, said L.A. Times reporter Jason Felch, who was one of the journalists behind the release of scores of more than 6,000 teachers. During a conference call in September, he told other education journalists:
I think some of what we wrote connects with people's everyday experience—where there are some good teachers and some bad, and you don't always know who you're going to get, or who your child's going to get. So there was I think a lot of gratitude from parents that we heard from saying that it was really important to address these quality issues in education and providing this information to us is a huge public service. I don't remember too much push back from parents saying this is unfair. I'm sure there was some of that.
Beth Fertig, the education reporter at WNYC Radio, talked to New York City parents about their feelings on the possible data release. She surveyed fewer than 10 parents, but found that those who liked their child's current school didn't much care.
[P]arents who figure out how to get their children into good schools are generally pretty savvy. ... They move to certain neighborhoods to get into the right zone for a good school, or send their child to take gifted and talented exams at age five. They don't need teacher ratings. If they have any problems, they'll seek out solutions. But parents who aren't as knowledgeable about the education system, or who have been burned by past experiences, aren't likely to feel as secure.
One parent, however, according to GothamSchools, found himself in the crossfire of the debate. He accused The New York Post of publishing an op-ed piece with his name attached expressing support for releasing the teacher data, which he actually opposes. The parent, Brian Rafferty, told a meeting of the Queens Community Education Council (of which he is a member) yesterday that "the private information and the names of teachers associated with those ratings, to release that, would be just as harmful as it would be to release the names of poor performing students."
As Fertig asserts in her Huffington Post piece, New York City has a daunting educational landscape, with more than 1,600 schools and 75,000 teachers, and the data could prove useful to a subset of overwhelmed parents.
The question is, if the parents have the data at their disposal, will they be able to effectively use it—being able to easily move their child from school to school around the city? Or does this create the likelihood of a frenzy where some students win and others lose out—something akin to a charter school lottery?
via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

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