New York “State officials admit problems with new teacher ratings” is how the headline reads. More specifically, it seems that New York State Education Department officials are acknowledging “significant flaws” with their new system of rating more than 126,000 teachers statewide by their effectiveness, and these errors are causing the state to push back the public release of these data.
While the state did not disclose any details to help define with what types of “significant flaws” the state was dealing, anecdotal evidence suggests there may be rating errors across similar tests and scoring errors whereby teachers who score consistently across subject areas are scoring below par in their overall categorization/ranking.
In addition, this release is only to be pushed back until around March, even though the data to be released are about teacher performance from the 2012-13 school year. Yes, teachers will be getting their data this March from last year.
Here’s the deal on this one. One of the biggest drawbacks of such teacher evaluation systems is that they have literally no instrumental value; that is, no states across the country have yet figured out how to use these data for instrumental or change-based purposes, to inform the betterment of schools, teacher quality, and most importantly students’ learning and achievement, and no states yet have plans to make these data useful. These systems are 100% about accountability and a symbolic accountability more accurately that, again, has little to no instrumental value. No peer-reviewed studies, for example, have demonstrated that having these data actually improves, not to mention does much of anything for schools, since such data systems have been implemented. This is largely due to a lack of transparency in these systems, high levels of confusion when practitioners try to consume and use these data (many times because the data reported are far removed from the realities and content particulars they teach), and issues like this. Oftentimes, by the time teachers get their evaluation reports, students are well on their way in subsequent grades, and in this case almost onto two grade levels later.