Sand: Publicizing Evaluations Isn’t About Shaming Teachers

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, argues that teacher rankings should be made public, and that far from being merely an attack on teachers and unions, they fulfill the vital function of making parents and legislators more aware of education debate.

Teaching unions were recently angered by the decision in New York to continue to allow teacher evaluations to be made public and there has been recent publication in the New York Times of teacher’s value-added rankings.

The value added technique of rating teachers is “based on their students’ progress on standardized tests year after year. The difference between a student’s expected growth and actual performance is the ‘value’ a teacher adds or subtracts during the year.”

Unions feel that rankings and evaluation data should only be seen by select individuals such as the Principal, the teachers themselves and perhaps the school board. That to release this information to the public is tantamount to an invasion of privacy. That putting the information in the public domain is publicly shaming the poor teachers.

If we ignore for the moment the argument that a little shaming might be good for teachers who are failing in their responsibilities to educate children else the failing system simply perpetuates and a wide range of societal problems ensue, then there is still a definite case for the information being available to the public as it is ultimately they, as taxpayers, who fund the teachers’ salaries.

Sand compares this publication of data to publishing a baseball player’s batting average. Some will take offense at this analogy and say that education is far more important than sport. However as Sand points out this is exactly the point:

So if there is any shame to be identified, it is that, as a country, we are more informed about the intricacies of baseball than about how best to assess the people who are educating the next generation of Americans.

If nothing else, the posting of teachers’ VA scores has opened a Pandora’s Box which the American public must deal with sooner rather than later.

This also addresses the second point of contention that people arguing against the release of ranking often make; that the statistic in question is unfair and unreliable. Few argue that VA is a perfect measure of a teacher’s ability. However, as the public and educators become more involved in the debate over education, better statistics and measures will be developed and the education knowledge of people will advance.