Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is upping the ante on the debate over teacher evaluations by calling on the mayor to release evaluations of staffers from his office.
De Blasio — who is expected to run for mayor in 2013 and who frequently gets headlines for criticizing Bloomberg — is rallying around the city’s controversial release of teacher evaluations, likely as a way to, well, appeal to teachers and its powerful union.
In a letter sent out yesterday, de Blasio says that if Bloomberg is willing to release data on teacher evaluations to the public, then he should be releasing evaluations of his senior City Hall staff who play a vital role in government.
The mayor’s office says that it was required to release the data because news outlets requested the evaluation through the Freedom of Information Act, and Bloomberg has also repeatedly said that parents have a right to know how their students’ teachers are doing. Critics, though, argue that the evaluations and the methodologies are deeply flawed and that no other sector of government is subject to this kind of high-stakes public scrutiny.
De Blasio’s letter comes on the heels of comments from Bloomberg last week saying that if the evaluations were released only to parents and not the general public, as proposed by Governor Cuomo, it would lead to “chaos.”
It would be hypocritical for the mayor not to release evaluations of his staff, de Blasio said, also noting that police, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, social workers are not subject to this.
In comments earlier this month at a press conference we attended, Bloomberg said that teachers are different than other city employees, since parents have to make decisions about where to send their children, whereas they can’t choose the cops that are on the beat, for example. “You do have to make a decision based on the quality of the teacher and the ratings are the best you have. It’d be nice if they were more accurate…but this is what parents have to go on,” he said at the time.
Today, the mayor’s office declined to comment.
De Blasio has criticized the mayor in the past for his stance on evaluations.
The full letter:
April 29, 2012
Hon. Michael R. Bloomberg
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
I firmly believe your Administration made a major mistake in releasing the individual evaluation results of thousands of New York City teachers earlier this year. In the two months since that decision, you have advocated for the broad public release of data from future evaluations.
While evaluations are critical to assessing the quality of the teachers in our classrooms, no other class of public or private employees are subject to the public release of that information. Police, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, social workers–none of them are subject to this level of invasiveness.
The deep flaws within teacher evaluation data–noted by some of the most ardent voices for education reform–make the public release of this data all the more damaging. Even the developer of the value-added system, William Sanders, warned that “if your population of teachers [is] improving, you basically will not be capturing [that].” Sanders also cautioned the data’s public release would be “totally inappropriate.” Bill Gates, as ardent proponent of improving teacher performance as anyone, has called the release of this data “a capricious exercise in public shaming.”
I hasten to add that members of your own Administration–including Agency Commissioners and staff within the Mayor’s office–are not subjected to the public release of their evaluations, despite their critical roles in government.
If accountability to taxpayers and adherence to data are truly your motives in pushing for the public release of teacher evaluations, I call upon you to immediately release the evaluations you have conducted for all Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, as well as for staff within the Mayor’s Office. You should demand nothing less of one group of City workers than you are asking of those in your own office.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York