De Blasio suggests treating Bloomberg’s staffers like teachers

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Bill de Blasio. (Dan Rosenblum)
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It's like teacher evaluations, but for City Hall staffers: Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to release publicly evaluations he's made of his commissioners and assistant commissioners "as well as for staff within the Mayor's Office."

In an April 29 letter sent to the mayor and distributed to the press, de Blasio explained the gesture by criticizing the mayor's release of "individual teacher evaluation results" and arguing that "no other class of public or private employees are subject to the public release" of that type of information.

Bloomberg is fiercely loyal to his staff and gives wide latitude to his commissioners to run their agencies, often defending their unpopular decisions as demonstrations of real leadership.

The administration's official position is that they had to release the teacher evaluations because they were requested under the state's Freedom of Information Law by various news outlets, even as they acknowledged flaws in the evaluation system. The state is currently working on revamping the system, even as school districts attempt to hammer out details with local teachers unions.

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In addition to the methodology, there's a debate about how widely the data should be released. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said parents should be the only ones to get the information. On Friday, Bloomberg said it should be made widely available, arguing that once parents got the information, they'd share it anyway, and it would trickle out to the broader public and media in a haphazard way, leading to "chaos."

Here's de Blasio's letter:

April 29, 2012

Hon. Michael R. Bloomberg

City Hall

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.

    Sincerely,

 

Bill de Blasio

Public Advocate for the City of New York