Threading the needle on public access to teacher ratings

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The following post was written by Peter Cipparone, a 4th grade teacher at a Harlem elementary school who is a member of Educators 4 Excellence.

When New York City newspapers released teacher data reports this spring, teachers' reactions at my school ranged from slightly fearful to totally outraged. Even our principal wrote in her announcements, "They're out to get us. Do not trust data reports." Throughout the day, my colleagues held clandestine conversations about teachers whose scores were surprisingly high or low. Clearly the release of these scores had a profoundly negative impact on our school culture. Parents deserve to know whether their children's teachers are effective, but public shaming of teachers will not help us improve our practice.

Last Thursday, however, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State legislature passed a bill that will provide valuable information to parents, yet shield teachers from public humiliation: Parents will be able to request and receive information on their children's current teachers, and the public will be able to see teacher evaluations with teachers' names removed. I believe the new law strikes an effective balance, both protecting teachers and holding us accountable for student success.

I also hope that this law will help teachers view the state's new evaluations not as a tool for blame but as a positive way to improve. In a drastic improvement from our current satisfactory/unsatisfactory binary ratings, the new evaluations will include a four-part rubric with specific examples of what good teaching looks like. The NYC Department of Education and the United Federation of Teachers have yet to strike a deal about the details of the new system, but Cuomo's new law should provide reassurance to teachers that their ratings will stay private, allowing us to stay open to evaluations that will help elevate the status of the profession. By providing the public with information on teacher performance while allowing teachers to reflect on their performance in a supportive environment, Cuomo's bill is in the best interests of parents, teachers and students alike.

Peter Cipparone