I get the public accountability piece of education, I truly do. We are accountable in a myriad of ways from our requirements through the Freedom of Information Law, the public reporting and necessary voter approval of our budget, our FOUR different required auditors we work with, See Through New York and their reporting of employees and their salaries, PLUS the every day accountability of 1000+ students and parents who talk about what’s happened in school. I support all of that, we have nothing to hide, we are a public institution.
I’m supportive of our new requirements for a better teacher evaluation system and a deeper analysis of and accountability for student assessment data. I believe that data inquiry teams are a long time coming and as I’ve said over and over again, we are better together than we are apart—teachers working together to learn from each other and improve instruction for every student is the key to our future success.
What I can’t support is vilifying our entire profession. Even with all of the changes we are implementing and all of our obvious accountability measures—somehow the public perception of teachers and public education as a whole is fraught with negative, mean spirited, ill intended criticism. Every time an article about education is printed in a newspaper, I prepare to read the ANONYMOUS comments left by our citizenry. Self appointed experts who know everything there is to know and are happy to tell you what’s wrong with what you’re doing without even owning their statements.
So now we’re going to publicize our teachers composite scores? How each classroom of kids performs every year? And by the way, that’s not even right for our kids–in a small school such as ours it doesn’t take long to figure out who those kids are or from what families. That’s just what we need– a community pointing it’s fingers at each other because we’re not doing better based on “your kids”.
Should we analyze that information and evaluate it? YES. Should we do our jobs as administrators and hold low performing teachers accountable? ABSOLUTELY. Should the public be entitled to what is otherwise known as a confidential personnel matter? NO.
Read Diane Ravitch’s post on this topic, “Why Naming Names is Wrong”. She’s much more eloquent than I am and makes the point perfectly. Here’s a portion of what Diane writes,
I recently had an email exchange with Thomas Kane, the Harvard economist who advises the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on these issues, and he told me he opposes the public release of names linked to evaluations. I asked if I might quote him, and he authorized me to say exactly what he told me. He wrote:
“My reason for opposing public release of teacher-level value-added data is to preserve some minimal level of privacy in the supervisor-employee relationship, to maintain some space for teachers to brainstorm with their peers and their supervisors about ways to improve. I’m sure many Americans would not want their performance appraisals published in the newspapers or to have their supervisors write a letter to the editor about their latest annual review. Without some privacy, people will not have the ‘space’ to have an honest conversation about strengths and weaknesses, areas where they are working to improve. I treat the feedback I get from peer reviewers (on journal articles, for instance) and from employees (in the form of confidential employee surveys) very seriously, and use them as a chance to improve. I’m not sure I could do that if they were published in the newspaper. I’m also not sure referees, supervisors, and employees would be as honest if they knew their comments would be made public.”
We need our teachers working together to solve educational problems with our neediest children, without competition and fear of condemnation.