Even people who don’t agree with a court’s decision to release data rating individual teachers in New York City public schools probably took a peak at the scores for teachers at schools near where they live. How couldn’t they? Everyone loves to look at rankings.

The problem is: the numbers, like many numbers released by New York City, appear to be incredibly unreliable.

Recently, I took a look at data for the Robert E. Simon School (PS 165) on West 109th Street to see how the teachers there did. One rating in particular caught my eye. A teacher named Tony Toral teaches both fourth and fifth grade. His rating for his fourth grade class was 94, putting him at the very top of his peers, probably eligible for a massive raise and tenure for life and afterlife.

His rating for his fifth grade class was 8, the worst of all of his peers. Clearly, that’s the kind of number that can get you fired. So either Mr. Toral napped through the entire fifth grade class’ English lesson, or these numbers are bordering on ridiculous.

A former teacher and stats nerd named Gary Rubinstein says on his blog that this kind of variance for one teacher is actually pretty common: the average difference between the scores for the same teacher who taught two different grades is 30 points: for 28% of them, the difference was more than 40 points.

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Photo via PS 165.

    1. Batya Lewton says:

      Excellent article. Teachers are demoralized and angry. They can’t teach. They must teach to the damned tests.

      I taught elementary school for 16 years in Central Harlem and I mean TAUGHT. I could teach my students critical thinking skills, how to do research (before google), etc. Standardized tests were secondary. My 5th and 6th graders had very lively and interesting discussions.

      I am still in touch with many of them even though I taught a long time ago.

      Tests really don’t measure a student’s real knowledge. I remember a student who basically was reading on a 2nd grade level – as measured by an open book test -filled in the the middle letter for the entire reading test. His score was 7.0!!!

      Please – allow teachers to teach. Stop all this insane testing.
      Batya Lewton

      I highly recommend Diane Ravitch’s website. http://www.dianeravitch.com/