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New York City school teachers fall victim to a computer error that exposes controversial -- and very private -- information

Reader Comment: Reason 1,385 why I wish I had thought this whole teaching thing more thoroughly through before I staked 4 years and thousands of dollars to become a teacher. Teaching is no longer about teaching anymore.

Ohanian Comment: Of course the teacher privacy issue is huge but of much greater concern is the student privacy issue. With a child's every breath tied to computer data banks from conception to interment, a whole lot can--and will--go wrong.

by Ben Chapman and Rachel Monahan

School officials were scrambling Tuesday to correct an egregious security error that made sensitive information about teachers available to all of their colleagues.

As city officials prepared to send teachers copies of a controversial part of their evaluations that judges them on how their students did on standardized tests, some teachers discovered that their scores were already posted on the Education Departmentâs internal computer system for all educators to see.

âIt wasnât appropriate,â said Joseph Biernat, a sixth-grade math teacher at Pelham Gardens Middle School in the Bronx who scored a zero out of 20 on the test score measure because his seventh graders at a different school last year posted bad scores.

âI donât have a problem with other people knowing what my score is, but I donât think thatâs what they intended to do.â

Schools officials declined to comment on how widespread the security problem was, but said they were trying to fix the issue.

âWe are working to ensure that only administrators or other authorized staff have access,â said schools spokeswoman Erin Hughes.

Union president Michael Mulgrew was less diplomatic, saying, âThis is why the teachers in New York City donât trust the Department of Education to do anything right.â

The union has vigorously opposed releasing the information.

After city officials last year published the test score grades for all teachers, the union successfully lobbied Albany to pass a law barring school districts from making that information public.

Under the new state law, parents will eventually be able to request the overall rating that their childâs teacher received â one of four categories from ineffective to highly effective â but wonât be able to see individual components like the standardized test rating.

Some parents complained Tuesday that they should be allowed to see more.

âIâd like to see anything on teachers,â said Brian Dorf, who says his son Kyle, 7, a second-grader is now having a great experience at Brooklynâs Public School 29 after a bad experience with burned-out teachers at another Brooklyn school last year.

But most parents at the Cobble Hill school said they didnât mind if the scores remained private.

âI donât think tests were designed for these purposes, so I donât think thatâs a valuable way of rating teachers,â said Aric Kupper, 42, whose daughter Amelia, 6, is a first-grader at the school.

The test score ratings are based on how well a teacher improves his or her studentsâ scores on state standardized tests in reading and math. They are designed to factor in studentsâ previous performance on state exams as well as poverty and special education needs.

Roughly 10,500 city fourth- through eighth-grade teachers were slated to receive their scores by email on Tuesday, city officials said.

Biernat said he scored a zero out of 20 for his work as a Bronx Academy of Letters seventh-grade math teacher last year. He raised objections to the stateâs formula, saying it unfairly judges teachers for things that are beyond their control like poverty.

âThe way they adjust for poverty is fairly criminal,â he said. He added, however, that he hopes to improve his craft this year to help more of his students improve.


— Ben Chapman and Rachel Monahan
New York Daily News





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