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Should a Teacher's Value-added Score Be Made Public?

New York City's teachers' union wants to keep teacher performance data from being released. What's to hide?

Should the names of teachers and the test scores of their students be made public? Not according to the United Federation of Teachers, which represents New York City's public school teachers. Earlier today, the union's lawyers presented oral arguments to the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan to keep the New York City Department of Education from giving media outlets the names of teachers and their student's test results

These "Teacher Data Reports" for the city's fourth through eighth grade math and English teachers include what the union calls, "fundamentally flawed" value-added data, "based on the students' standardized test scores, which themselves were found to be inflated and inaccurate."

The margin of error in the data is troublesome to critics, which ranges from "plus or minus 27 points, or a spread of 54 points. That means a teacher who shows up in the 85th percentile might actually be in the 58th percentile, making him or her closer to average than above average."

Two years ago, the Department of Education agreed not to disclose such data. But media demand for value-added performance has grown since August when the Los Angeles Times published an online database that ranked the performance of 6,000 elementary school teachers in Los Angeles.

The teachers were given grades ranging from most to least effective according to their ability to boost students' math and English scores. In the aftermath, one teacher committed suicide and the United Teachers of Los Angeles called for a boycott of the newspaper.

The Department of Education says that New York's Freedom of Information law requires them to hand the reports over to five media outlets, including the The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, both of which filed court briefs requesting the data.

The union claims that turning over the reports to the media is not only a breach of confidentiality, but one that will do irreparable damage to the city's teachers.

Do you agree?

Photo (cc) courtesy of Flickr user GothamSchools

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