First, from the Daily News:
The latest school grades released by the city's Education Department are bogus. An astonishing 84% of 1,058 elementary and middle schools received an A (compared with 38% last year and 23% in 2007). Another 13% got a B. Only seven schools rated a D or an F.And from the Times:
Four schools labeled "persistently dangerous" by the state got an A from the city, and three of these deeply troubled schools got a B. Three schools that the city wants to close because of low performance got an A. Every school that got an F last year got an A or B this year.
The problems with the report cards were apparent from the start. When the system was launched in 2007, testing experts warned that it relied too heavily on single-year changes in standardized test scores, which are subject to random error and therefore unreliable. But the Education Department did not listen. . . .
As the city’s students return to school on Wednesday, thousands will enter classrooms led by a teacher that the Department of Education has deemed low performing on internal reports. But in a sign of how complicated and controversial the reports are, many teachers never received them, and there are no plans to release them to parents.
The reports use standardized test scores to monitor how much teachers have helped students improve from one year to the next and whether they are successful with particular groups of children, such as boys or those who have struggled for years.
During the last school year, education officials distributed some 12,000 reports that considered how well teachers did in educating students, producing a report for any teacher who taught fourth through eighth grade for the last two years. The reports put New York at the center of a national debate over ways to measure the effectiveness of individual teachers and the role that test scores should play in the evaluations.
“We’ve always said that we need to be able to understand where teachers are successful and learn from that,” the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, said in an interview last week. “Nobody thinks you can boil down teacher effectiveness to a single criteria, and we also should not ignore student performance as an important criteria.”
Last year, the State Legislature passed a law prohibiting using student test data as a factor in tenure decisions, at the urging of teachers’ unions. And in a deal with the United Federation of Teachers, the city agreed not to make the results public.
While Mr. Klein has repeatedly said that the data reports would not be used to shape teacher evaluation and pay, he has also said that he wants to move away from the practice of lockstep pay and salary increases based solely on seniority. He said he would continue to push for such changes in the coming teachers’ contract, but it remains unclear if Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg would pursue such changes in the negotiations, particularly in an election year.
President Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, have pushed states to use student performance to evaluate teachers, declaring that states that banned use of student data would be ineligible for billions of dollars in competitive grants from the federal government. Last week, the Gates Foundation announced that it would work with the city and the union to develop a new way to measure teachers by using student performance on tests along with extensive classroom observations and videotaped lessons.
Last week, the school system released another set of marks, letter grades for each school, in which 97 percent received an A or B. In contrast, on the teacher reports, 20 percent earned “low” performance marks, 60 percent were called “middle” performers and 20 percent “high.”
While both grading systems were based largely on test scores, schools were able to earn A’s and B’s if more of their students passed the tests. Teachers were essentially ranked against other teachers, both citywide and those who taught demographically similar classrooms. . . .