Teacher Rankings

January 11th, 2011

A Manhattan Judge of the New York State Supreme Court has ruled that New York City may release to the public the performance rankings of thousands of teachers.  The Union, which is now appealing, had sought to keep the teachers’ names confidential.  The rankings are being withheld pending the appeal.

The rankings, known as Teacher Data Reports, grade more than 12,000 of the City’s 80,000 public school teachers based on how much progress their students made on standardized tests. They were developed four years ago as a pilot programme to improve instruction.  They have also become a factor in tenure decisions. Several news organizations, including The New York Times, requested access to the data.

Because the rankings are based on limited snapshots of student work, many education experts caution against making them the sole or primary measure of teachers. In practice, the rankings of many teachers in the city have varied widely from year to year, and their performance generally falls within a broad range. The City’s Department of Education agrees that the rankings should not be used in isolation, but it has defended them as the best available quantitative measure of teacher performance, particularly for teachers who rank consistently high or low.

 “This information is of interest to parents, students, taxpayers and the public generally,” the Judge said.

This is a hot topic throughout the United States, and may well cross the Atlantic.

James Goudie QC

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