Teacher Data Reports and the Role of the Media

The release of Teacher Data Reports in New York this week has set off a firestorm of reaction among teachers, parents, and pundits. There’s not much to say here that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but a few key points seem worth noting:

1. These reports provide no useful information. The data they provide is so unreliable that even the New York affiliate of Fox News is refusing to publish them.

2. The media that are publishing these reports know that they are meaningless. The New York Times, in one of the saddest pieces of journalism I’ve ever seen, actually acknowledged that the scores have a “wide margin of error — on average, a teacher’s math score could be 35 percentage points off, or 53 points on the English exam.” 35-53 points is not a margin of error– it’s an admission that these data are so flawed as to be without value.

3. Many news media, including The New York Times, are publishing them anyway.

I cannot think of another example when a newspaper announced that a source of information was unreliable or meaningless, and then went ahead and published it anyway. Why would the Times do this? What role do they intend to play in education reform?

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