2011-01-13 / Front Page

Public Report Cards for Teachers?

Staff Reports

On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Cynthia Kern ruled that the New York City Department of Education has an obligation, under the Freedom of Information Law, to release the performance rankings of its 12,000 teachers, according to the New York Post.

Before the school budget votes last May, the Putnam County Courier published the names and salaries of the county’s highest paid teachers, sparking a debate on school finance transparency in what is America’s 12th most highly taxed county. On Tuesday, the Courier sought the opinion of Putnam school administrators on whether there should also be transparency regarding the quality of teachers. Currently, teachers are paid based primarily on seniority, rather than on job performance.

Thomas Manko, Superintendent of Mahopac Central School District, told the Courier that as long as “data is fair and balanced,” he doesn’t have a problem with teacher ratings being available to the public. “I know that there are many shades of gray when it comes to this particular topic, but I think transparency is best,” he told the Courier. “Parents have a right to know how their children are doing, and of course, it is an assumption that there is a direct connection between the quality of instruction and how well the children perform.”

“Using the state education department’s websites, we can certainly drill down and find specific information about each child in each teacher’s classroom, but we don’t rank the teachers ‘good, better, best’ or ‘one through ten,’” Manko added.

“There are too many variables and factors,” said Dr. Jane Sandbank, Superintendent of the Brewster Central School District. “I would have to have a lot more information before I could weigh in on [teacher rankings].”

Brewster currently evaluates teachers “very carefully,” but does not rank them, Sandbank told the Courier.

Andy Irvin, assistant superintendent for the Carmel Central School District, is skeptical of individual rankings coming from a large government agency, such as the New York City Department of Education. In any given year, Irvin said, a teacher might be given a very challenging class, influencing his or her ranking. He thinks that releasing information based off of a variable outside the teacher’s control might lead parents into making a bad decision about their children’s education.

“I think it is up to the district to evaluate the teacher,” Irvin said. “If we work with teachers and give them all the tools they need, and the teachers are not able to get students to [the required level of proficiency] then it is the school district’s responsibility to take the appropriate steps.”

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‘No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.’ ~Hal Borland