True, other parts of the story don’t hold up quite as well. One Rubber Roomer’s claim that she was disciplined because she was a whistleblower is dismissed by Brill on the grounds that the school where she worked, P.S. 40, is rated highly, and, Brill writes:

I spoke with five P.S. 40 parents, who said that Scheiner [the disciplined teacher] would have had nothing to “blow the whistle” about, because, as one put it, the principal, Susan Felder, is “spectacular.”

That doesn’t really prove anything. Neither is Brill’s case in favor of rating teachers based on students’ test scores fully developed or entirely convincing.

Reformers like Cerf, Klein, Weisberg, and even Secretary Duncan often use the term “value-added scores” to refer to how they would quantify the teacher evaluation process. It is a phrase that sends chills down the spine of most teachers’-union officials. If, say, a student started the school year rated in the fortieth percentile in reading and the fiftieth percentile in math, and ended the year in the sixtieth percentile in both, then the teacher has “added value” that can be reduced to a number. “You take that, along with observation reports and other measures, and you really can rate a teacher,” Weisberg says.

But, listen, this is a New Yorker article, not a policy paper.

We’re starved these days for great urban affairs reporting in general—ever wonder what great stories go uncovered at the MTA, the Port Authority, the police department, the School Construction Authority, Albany? I do. And that’s just New York.

If Brill’s piece is a way into a discussion of what ails New York’s sclerotic school system, I’ll take it.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.