There are an estimated 345,000 homes in foreclosure or delinquent status in New York State alone. But a new $25 million dollar settlement between federal and state governments and five major banks could provide mortgage relief to many of these home owners, if they can figure out how to get it.
BY NAT HERZ
The week long February school break came to an abrupt end today for a large group of New York City public school teachers. After much anticipation and controversy, the city released the individual ratings of about 18,000 teachers to the public.
The teacher data reports were released at noon today and show what is called a “value added” rating of fourth through eighth grade language arts and math teachers from three separate school years. A formula was used to calculate a score between 0 and 99 based on the predicted standardized test scores of students, the actual scores, and factors such as whether the student is economically disadvantaged or disabled. Teacher Tristan Schwartzman says that it makes sense to compare teachers at a school level, but the ratings should not be used to compare teachers in general. “Where a teacher teaches at a school where students come in already possessing the skills they need to pass an exam like that- their students all pass that exam, versus where my students, 40 percent is solid. I’m happy with forty percent,” he said.
Schwartzman has been teaching for six years at an alternative program for high school students who need to retake earlier grades or classes that they have failed. He isn’t planning on looking at his score if it is published, but he says there may be value to releasing the scores. “It really does reflect on our performance as teachers,” he said, adding, “basically all we’re doing is trying to push them through those exams .So it is of value to know how successful we are.”
Some teachers and activists question the value of the scores. Independent experts say that the relatively small sample size has created an enormous margin of error. For example, a math teacher could have a 35-point discrepancy in their score. That means a rating of 60 could actually be as low as 25, or as high as 95. The scores are from 2007 to 2010 and the state has admitted that some scores were inflated or contained factual errors. The United Federation of Teachers tried unsuccessfully to block the release of the scores in 2010 but was overruled and lost an appeal with a state court last week. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that the data should not be used against teachers. “When you are saying that this is a judgment of people, you have to say what is reliable and what is not and these scores are just wrong and misleading,” Mulgrew said.
Many parents responded to news of the release by posting comments on media website. Reactions were mostly against the release of the data, although some parents expressed interest in the information. Elizabeth Weiss is a clinical social worker with a daughter in 3rd grade at the Lower Lab School in Manhattan. She says she would probably be curious by the information, and thinks that there a lot of parents may want to see it. “I think a lot of New York City parents are obsessed with this sort of thing because it reflects on their children,” Weiss said.
Weiss says that she trusts her daughter’s current teachers and most likely won’t look up their data, but may be tempted when shopping for middle schools. She says that while she’s glad the information is out there, it should be looked at in context of the whole school and it doesn’t reflect all aspects of a teacher. “If for example teachers get poor ratings because of these scores- is that a direct reflection on them or a lack of support they’re getting from their school, or parents, or the city?” Weiss asked. She says the individual ratings won’t weight too much for her.
New York City stopped producing the ratings after 2010 and adopted a new evaluation system last week that includes test scores, but also classroom observations and other factors. In response to the city’s actions today, the UFT kicked of a newspaper advertising campaign featuring the slogan “This Is No Way to Rate a Teacher” above a complex mathematical formula intended to highlight what they say is a problematic way to rate teachers.