AFT: Don’t publish teachers’ names

Parents have a right to know how their children’s teachers are rated on employee evaulations, Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Los Angeles Times. However, she asked the Los Angeles Times not to go forward with plans to publish the names of more than 6,000 elementary school teachers ranked by their record of improving students’ reading and math scores over a seven-year period.

Teachers “look at this as a hammer, a sledgehammer, and they’re scared about it,” she said. “They’re schoolteachers; they’re private individuals…. They’re not public figures.”

More than 1,100 teachers have requested and received copies of their value-added rankings, the Times reports. “More than 100 have submitted comments on their rankings that will be published as part of the database.”

When done properly, value-added analysis could be a valuable part of assessing teacher performance, Weingarten said.

“There’s a right way to do evaluation, and we have to keep everybody’s feet to the fire,” she said.

She added that the system of teacher evaluations had been “broken for years,” and needed drastic reform. She said a good system of teacher evaluations would ensure that struggling teachers receive the help they need to improve, but would also make it easier to fire teachers who were unable to change.

Third Street Elementary teacher Karen Caruso, who was named in the Times’ story as ranking among the bottom 10% of elementary teachers in the value-added analysis, is   “the most beloved teacher in the school,” Weingarten said.

(Caruso) is known for helping her students become more critical thinkers and better problem solvers — skills, she implied, that wouldn’t necessarily be reflected in standardized test scores.

United Teachers of Los Angeles strongly opposes efforts to consider student test scores in teacher evaluations. The union has called on teachers to boycott the Times.

On California Watch, Louis Freedberg looks at the ethics of “outing teachers” and questions the validity of value-added analysis; a Times reporter responds.

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  1. tim-10-ber says:

    How else are parents going to know how the teachers perform if the data is not published? Districts won’t do it and it is public data…Interesting challenge

  2. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Teachers probably (and I stress the uncertainty of “probably”) not public figures for something like a Times-Sullivan defamation analysis.

    But it’s hard to argue that as public employees providing a public service they aren’t public figures in the sense that their job performance should be made available to their constituency.

    The question of whether the data in question is valid “job performance” data is another matter entirely, but I think it’s either false or misleading to say they are “private individuals.” It’s false in the sense that they are public employees. It’s misleading in the sense that if it’s true at all, then it’s true only in the sense that the President of the United States is a “private individual” as well — that he is a person with his own personal rights and isn’t a piece of public property.

    NB: Probably the only people who aren’t “private individuals” in that sense are people in the military. Your soul may belong to Jesus… but your ass belongs to the (insert branch of service).

  3. I applaud the LA Times (probably the first time ever). I’m tired of waiting around for everyone to agree on the “perfect” system for rating teachers (or anyone else). There is no perfect system. Maybe the Times could do it differently or do it better, but the most important point is that they are doing it and I trust them more than I trust a member of the educational establishment. Name names! If they don’t than everyone will just relax and go back to what they were doing before. The impetus for change is lost.

  4. Do we do this for police officers? let’s tell the public what the crime rate is on their beat… how many cases they’ve had, and closed successfully.

    Or firefighters. How much damage do they cause to property when they’re putting out fires?

    Or the department of transportation – do the people to whom they grant licenses obey the speed limit? Are they reducing the number of accidents?

    Doctors at public health clinics – do people in that neighborhood wash their hands often? Do they exercise regularly and eat healthy foods?

    It just seems to be Shark Week for teachers – only it’s been a good bit more than a week. “Your test scores are low. You must be doing something wrong. Since we don’t know what you’re doing wrong, we can’t help you get better, so we’re going to first humiliate you publicly, then fire you.”

    If this district thinks it has too many bad teachers, I bet I know why that’s so…

  5. Thanks Clix.

    I was beginning to worry that no one would rise to the challenge of explaining why teachers have no responsibility to demonstrate professional skills and you’ve more then put my worries aside with your specious and self-serving examples in pursuit of that ignoble goal.

    The real problem with LA Times piece is that beyond briefly embarrassing the LA school board and maybe a few teachers the article can have no lasting impact. Since there’s nothing remotely shocking or inherently unjust about trying to discriminate between good professionals and lousy professionals the lack of a means of doing so is ultimately a function of the public education system.

    Yes, the union will certainly resist any effort to determine teaching skill but the absence of such testing policies long predates the evolution of teacher’s unions so the responsibility for their absence lies elsewhere. Until the factors that result in institutional indifference to the professional skill of teaching is addressed determining or rewarding teaching skill will be a surface phenomenon and just as ephemeral.

  6. Allen, you’re so welcome. You know, I’m always delighted to have my words distorted by teacher-haters, so really, I should be thanking you!

    Thank you for ignoring the fact that at no point in my comment do I say that ‘teachers have no responsibility to demonstrate professional skills’ (emphasis mine).

    I’m sure you will also ignore any attempt I make to clarify that my problem is not with accountability overall, but with teachers being judged (a) on the actions of others, NOT on their own actions, and (b) based on limited data from (c) standardized testing that (d) compares students to each other rather than to their own previous levels of achievement.

    Ooo, I just can’t WAIT to see how you purposefully misinterpret this one!


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