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Joel Klein To NYC Public School Teachers: My Word Is Worthless

As part of an agreement between the NYC DoE and the UFT on the then new Teacher Data Initiative [TDI], a “Dear Colleague” letter was sent by Chancellor Klein to all New York City public school teachers in October 2008. According to the letter, the TDI was to be:

…a new tool to help teachers learn about their own strengths and opportunities for development …The teacher Data Reports are not to be used for evaluation purposes. That is, they won’t be used in tenure determinations or the annual rating process.

Contemporaneously, then Deputy Chancellor Chris Cerf sent a letter to then UFT President Randi Weingarten which affirmed that

It is the DOE’s firm position that Teacher Data Reports will not and should not be disclosed or shared outside of the school community, defined to include administrators, coaches, mentors and other professional colleague authorized by the teacher in question…

On Sunday, Joel went to the op-ed pages of the New York Post to declare that

First and foremost, we believe that the public has a right to this information [individual Teacher Data Reports, with teacher names attached] under the Freedom of Information Law.

Yesterday, Klein sent yet another “Dear Colleague” letter to NYC public school teachers, with no mention of his 2008 promise to keep the TDI reports confidential. Klein chose the venues of an letter and an op-ed because it meant he would not have to answer reporters’ embarrassing questions about his broken promise to NYC public school teachers. To protect himself, he has been sending surrogates to do his dirty work with the press. Chris Cerf’s successor, Deputy Chancellor John White, let the cat out of the bag in an interview with the New York Daily News: “White defended the city’s efforts to release the ratings, saying the data would strengthen the city’s case for changing the policy on firing teachers…”

Now that his claims of great educational progress on the basis of New York State English Language Arts and Mathematics exam scores has been shown to be one grand chimera, Klein is desperate and will do anything — include break his public promise to New York City public school teachers — to change the conversation to his old, tired “blame the teacher” trope. It doesn’t matter that the NYC DoE Teacher Data Reports have been discredited as meaningful measures of student learning: based entirely on state exams found to be invalid by national testing expert and Harvard University Professor Dan Koretz, using an underdeveloped methodology that has as many as 1 in 4 teachers fluctuating from the highest to lowest percentiles year to year, and filled with dirty data that misidentifies the students a teacher has taught, the TDRs are just the latest example of deliberate misinformation from Tweed promulgated solely for political purposes. As Juan Gonzalez so aptly put it, “Klein couldn’t wait to release the names, along with his arcane rating system that claims to show how much “value” each teacher added to the reading and math scores of their pupils… He didn’t seem to care about unfairly tarnishing the reputations of city teachers…”

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