Raising the Bar for New York Teachers A NYCAN explainer on the state’s new teacher evaluation system
The rules have changed for evaluating New York teachers. In February 2012, at the urging of Governor Andrew Cuomo, state officials announced an historic compromise with union leaders to measure teacher quality based on student achievement, parent and student feedback and multiple classroom observations. Under the compromise, New York’s education commissioner has the special authority to approve or disapprove a local evaluation system based on its caliber. The deal also preserves the autonomy of school districts and unions to collectively bargain over the system. Importantly, it also includes an evaluation that, unlike in the past, will not be announced ahead of time. School districts have until January 2013 to revamp their evaluations or risk losing a four percent increase in state financial aid. The incentive, stipulated by Governor Cuomo, will ensure that school districts adopt a tougher grading system for their teachers. A new deal: the facts As a result of the compromise between education officials and union leaders: • Classroom observations will occur more frequently, and teachers will not always know when they are scheduled, making for more accurate results. • Teachers will be graded on a scale of 100 points, with student achievement counting for 40 points and carrying the most weight. • New York’s education commissioner will have the power to review local evaluations and make sure that school districts are using state-approved measures of student progress. • How a teacher scores on his evaluation will impact decisions about promotion, tenure, termination and pay.
The rating system Just one month before the deal was sealed, NYCAN: The New York Campaign for Achievement Now had this to say: “At the same time that New York public schools are failing thousands of our students in their preparation for college or careers, we bestow the vast majority of our teachers with positive job evaluation.” Simply put, that will no longer be the case. That is because teachers will rate as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective in a number of categories. The largest category accounted for is student achievement and if a teacher is deemed “ineffective” by that measure, he cannot earn a “developing” score overall. The points When it comes to evaluating New York teachers, the most contentious debate has revolved around the 40 points set aside for student achievement. More specifically, education officials and union leaders have strongly disagreed on how many of those points should be measured by standardized test scores. Under the February agreement, standardized test scores will count for 20 points. To score the remaining 20 points, schools may choose from a menu of options: Devise their own tests, use tests created by a third party and approved by the state, measure the progress students make during their time with a particular teacher or another option approved by the commissioner. School principals and other trained observers will score the remaining 60 points, mainly through classroom observations. And the standards for how to conduct observations have improved. Rather than visiting a teacher on two agreed-upon occasions, principals will visit three times. At least one visit must be unannounced, providing a more accurate portrait of how the classroom runs on a daily basis. Parents and students have a say, too. In addition to classroom observations, a school principal may incorporate student and parent feedback when evaluating a teacher’s performance, as long as the information is collected in a way the state approves. The commissioner’s authority In a first for New York, the deal will give the state’s education commissioner authority to approve or deny a local district’s plan for teacher evaluation based on its quality. If standards are not rigorous and thorough enough, school officials will be forced to revise and resubmit their plan. The deadline Good ideas count for little if they never come to fruition. That is why Governor Cuomo has given school districts a deadline and a compelling reason to adopt stronger evaluations. If they fail to do so by January 2013, they risk losing a four percent increase of state aid. Earlier this year, state officials used a similar approach to solve the initial impasse over teacher evaluations. Until a deal was reached, Education Commissioner John King suspended School Improvement Grants to New York’s 10 neediest districts.
Raising the Bar for New York Teachers THE EMPIRE STATE STRIKES BACK, 2012