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Queens Chronicle

Queens questions teacher data

But some say it will be helpful for borough parents

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:38 pm, Thu Mar 8, 2012.

Queens parents, educators and legislators gave mixed reviews of the controversial rankings of about 18,000 public school teachers that the city released last week, with some citing concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the numbers and others saying they’re important tools for parents.

The city Department of Education released what are known as teacher data reports — assessments of math and reading instructors on their students’ progress on standardized tests from 2008 to 2010 — after a number of news organizations sued the city for access to the information.

New York City is the second in the country to release such data, which list teachers’ names, after Los Angeles did the same last year.

“There’s a lot more that goes into teaching than tests,” said Nick Comaianni, president of Community Education Council 24, which covers schools in much of mid-Queens. “So it’s OK if the city sees it, or the teacher’s supervisors, but I don’t know if you should be isolating people and printing their names. It’s a question of privacy.”

But Nancy Northrop, a parent of a child at PS 101 in Forest Hills and another at Baccalaureate High School in Long Island City, said she believes the information will be helpful for parents.

“If you’re looking at your own child and you see your child is weak in math or English, and you see they’ve been matched up with a teacher who’s weak in the same area, this might help you to go in and lobby for a teacher who’s stronger in that area,” Northrop said.

A number of city officials, teachers and legislators have criticized the release of the data, saying they’re an incomplete picture of a teacher’s worth.

Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky said the data should be interpreted carefully and emphasized that the reports potentially have wide margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average.

“We would never advise anyone — parent, reporter, principal, teacher — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone,” Polakow-Suransky said at a press conference on Friday.

The United Federation of Teachers sued the city in an attempt to stop the ratings from being released, and UFT President Michael Mulgrew said during a press conference last week that test scores should not be the main indicator of an instructor’s success.

“If we’re going to buy the argument that the only value to schooling is test scores, we’re going to send a whole generation of kids down the wrong path,” Mulgrew said. “It’ll take maybe 10 years before we realize we’ve made a mistake.”

A number of people raised concerns about releasing the teachers’ names, and the UFT said it has documented a number of reports of teachers being harassed at their homes because of the data.

For example, the UFT reported that Pascale Mauclair, a teacher at PS 11 in Woodside who received one of the lowest scores in the city, had to call the police a number of times to get reporters to leave the area outside her home.

While Mauclair received low marks on her teacher data report, PS 11 officials told the UFT that the data is deceiving because she teaches students who speak little to no English. Many of her students have been in the country less than a couple of months before they have to take the standardized tests.

PS 11 Principal Anna Efkarpides said she would not comment, but the UFT reported that the school leader said, “I would put my own children in her class.”

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) agreed with concerns about publishing teachers’ names.

“Using incomprehensible statistics simply to embarrass and punish teachers does not help our schools improve,” Miller said.

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