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Future of Teaching
Examining the divisive push to rate, reward, improve, and remove teachers
August 24, 2011
Partial win for state union on evaluations, but appeal is likely
A State Supreme Court Judge partially sided with the state teachers union today over how big of a role standardized state test scores should play for teacher evaluations. Overturning a key state regulation that was approved by the Board of Regents in May, Judge Michael Lynch ruled that local districts could only double the weight of test scores in evaluations – from 20 percent to 40 percent – if the local union signs off on the arrangement. The judge upheld a different regulation, which will allow districts the option to increase testing emphasis, so long as it is through collective bargaining. The New York State Education Department criticized the judge's reversal and pledged to appeal it, further complicating the future of an evaluation system that was originally slated to take effect this year. The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by New York State United Teachers in June. In the suit, NYSUT lawyers argued that the Regents were circumventing a carefully negotiated state law that set the weight of test scores at 20 percent.
August 2, 2011
More U-ratings given out as evaluation overhaul looms ahead
For at least the sixth straight year, principals rated more teachers as unsatisfactory. Last year, 2,118 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings, setting them along a path that could lead to termination. That number, making up 2.7 percent of all teachers, was 16 percent higher than in 2010 and more than twice the number of U-ratings handed out five years ago. In the 2005-2006 school year, just 981 teachers received unsatisfactory ratings. About 80 percent of the teachers who received unsatisfactory ratings were tenured, according to Department of Education data. And about a quarter — 511 — received the scarlet rating last year as well. The numbers suggest that principals are responding to the city's sustained push to usher more weak teachers out of the system, and the city says 86 of the U-rated teachers have already resigned, including 41 who were denied tenure. But they hardly reflect a sea change in the way that principals rate teachers. For that, the city is counting on a new teacher evaluation system that will do away with the binary satisfactory/unsatisfactory rating choice altogether. State law now requires districts to enact evaluation systems that use student test scores as a component and sort teachers into four categories from "highly effective" down to "ineffective."
July 29, 2011
Mulgrew: Mayor's tenure tone not conducive to evaluation talks
Far from living up to its promise, the city's tenure reform in fact amounts to a quota system for teacher evaluations, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said today. Mulgrew was responding to comments made by Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott during Bloomberg's weekly radio address this morning. They said they expect the number of tenure denials to rise next year. Mulgrew questioned how they could predict more denials when evaluations for teachers up for tenure next year have not yet happened. He said that Bloomberg's comments signal that the city has set up a quota system for teacher evaluations rather than using them as a tool to help educators improve. "If it's more about setting up a set of numbers for political reasons ... then what they’re doing is wrong," Mulgrew said. "If they're already predetermining they’re setting this up with quotas, that’s absurd." The number of teachers who receive poor ratings could change when an evaluation system mandated under state law goes into effect. That is supposed to happen in September, but first the union and the city must agree on the system's terms. Mulgrew said they are nowhere near an agreement, even after reaching a deal for 33 low-performing schools two weeks ago.
July 27, 2011
Bloomberg to tout results of toughened tenure procedures today
All indications suggest that the city is pleased with the results of its concerted effort to make tenure more difficult to receive. Mayor Bloomberg is announcing details about how many teachers received — or didn't receive — tenure this year during a midday press conference today at Tweed Courthouse, the Department of Education's headquarters. In the past, the city has released tenure details by email. The fanfare comes on top of reports from teachers and principals that tenure was awarded far less readily last year after Bloomberg vowed to make the protection tougher to receive. For many years, receiving tenure has been an almost automatic step that happens at the end of a teacher's third year in the system. But as part of a sweeping bid to toughen teacher evaluations, the city unveiled a new tenure evaluation rubric last year. The rubric separates teachers into four categories and the city told principals to recommend tenure only for those falling into the top two. At the end of the year, principals said the new evaluations had made it difficult for them to recommend tenure for some teachers they felt deserved it, particularly if a teacher's value-added Teacher Data Report, based on student test scores, said he was below average.
July 20, 2011
Special ed teachers need 'tweaked' evaluations, advocates say
Advocates are worried that the city's new evaluation system could penalize teachers of students with special needs. The nonprofit organization Advocates for Children of New York recently released a fact sheet calling on parents to ask how the new system, which will be piloted in more schools next year, will affect those teachers. Sixty percent of the new evaluations is based on subjective measures like principal observations, and the other 40 percent is based on student test scores. AFC's concern is that teachers who work with high-needs students will be at a disadvantage because they likely won't see the gains in test scores that other teachers will. That will make it more difficult to earn a high evaluation score, lowering the incentive for teachers to take on students with disabilities and English Language Learners. "Teachers are basically going to be looking at lower test scores, and lower evaluations because they're so heavily reliant on test scores," said Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator for AFC. "We're worried that they will be teaching more to the test in those classes."
July 15, 2011
Mulgrew says he wants time before striking full evaluations deal
Today's partial teacher evaluation deal shows that the city and teachers union can reach an understanding on one of the thorniest issues they face right now. That's good, because they have more negotiating to do. Today's agreement applies only to the 33 schools that are set to receive federal funding to help them improve, not to the nearly 1,500 other schools operated by the city Department of Education. The city and union haven't even started discussing how evaluations should be done in those schools, according to UFT President Michael Mulgrew. Federal authorities didn't require any teacher evaluation commitments, but the State Education Department told the city in May it wouldn't forward the city's application for improvement funds without a teacher evaluation plan. At the time, city officials accused the state of trying to "change the ground rules" by using the $65 million in federal funds as a carrot to get them talking about evaluations. But ultimately the worry of missing out on the windfall in a tight budget year propelled the city and union to follow the state's instructions. In the course of hammering out a limited agreement, the city and union established that teachers have the right to a meeting with their principal to discuss the observations. That had been a sticking point in negotiations this spring. "We have all come to an understanding that it is important to have a verbal discussion, especially if it will help them help children," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.
July 13, 2011
One firsthand account of how teachers could soon be observed
The fight over the state's new teacher evaluations has focused on the 40 percent to be based on student test scores. But the other 60 percent, based on subjective measures like principal observations, could be just as tough. That's according to one teacher reporting from a school piloting the city's stricter guidelines for classroom observations. Commenting in our Community section yesterday, a reader posting as HS Biology Teacher said that system "seems to be designed to make it extremely easy to rate any teacher ineffective if the principal wants to." The DOE has drafted a rubric for rating classroom observations, but it is very tough. To be rated effective (3), you need to really hit every competency on the rubric during each full-period observation... and that is extremely difficult given the language of the rubric.
June 8, 2011
Multiple measures in multiple venues
Several recent intersecting conversations lead me to this post: The North “credit recovery” issue, increasing discussions about using performance funding for Colorado higher ed and/or K12, evaluations of ProComp and other teacher incentive pay programs and Alex Oom’s valuable recent post. If we want to incentivize or reward educational performance in some form (and we do), we need to pay careful attention to how we do that. Nearly any output or outcome measure can potentially be “gamed” or cheated. We see this with No Child Left Behind, where state tests are the key to school evaluation. As a result, states have produced considerable improvement on those tests, while not showing much improvement on NAEP, the national test that was not “dumbed down” to show greater proficiency of students. It is also true that no single measure comes near being perfect. In addition to cheating or gaming, reliance upon a single measure (and test scores are the one that most of us would lean towards), makes the assumption that this measure is capturing appropriately what we want to capture. Currently, for state tests like CSAP, this is not the case, and we clearly need to find more, better tests. In some ways, this is an obvious point – who can oppose multiple measures of evaluation?
June 6, 2011
A school administrator suggests that E4E revise its tactics
A new challenge to the Educators 4 Excellence group comes from an unlikely source: a school administrator who says he agrees with many of the group's positions. In a new post in our Community section, John Galvin, the assistant principal at I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, targets the group's requirement that people who attend certain E4E events sign the group's "Declaration of Principles and Beliefs." Galvin writes: If you want to sponsor events that are closed to the public and only open to your members, that is your right. However, if you want to engage the public in debate and to test your ideas to the widest audience possible, then it makes no sense. It raises questions about the motives of your group and the commitment of your group to engage in honest debate with those that agree and disagree with you. Galvin describes attempting to sign up to attend the group's panel last week on teacher evaluation, and then being disappointed to find out that, in order to RSVP, he had to click a button indicating that he signed on to the declaration. (Many of our commenters logged similar complaints.) In an e-mail, Educators 4 Excellence founder Sydney Morris explained that teachers become members of the group by signing the statement. She defended the group's right to hold private members-only meetings. Her full statement:
June 3, 2011
A teacher evaluation panel dissolves early after dissent
A panel discussion that featured officials on each side of the teacher evaluation stand-off was halted abruptly last night after a disagreement escalated. The disruption did not stem from the teachers union and Department of Education official on the panel, but from a small group of audience members protesting the event itself. “Okay, I’m going to cut it off,” said moderator Evan Stone, following a crescendo of interruptions that built up for nearly five minutes. Stone is a founder of Educators 4 Excellence, which hosted the event. “Clearly, we’ve broken a lot of norms of respectability.” The interruptions came from at least three people in an audience of more than 100, most of them teachers. They began in response to Stone's handling of the panel and then escalated into an airing of grievances that targeted Educators 4 Excellence and its teacher evaluation recommendations, released yesterday, which the protesters said did not reflect their views. “I am a teacher and I have never been asked what I thought,” yelled out Stuart Kramer Kaplan, one of the protesters. (Click here for video of the exchange.)
June 2, 2011
Teachers with E4E outline how they would like to be evaluated
In advance of an event tonight about the future of teacher evaluations, an organization of young teachers has outlined how its members would ideally be measured. The proposal from Educators 4 Excellence signals a departure for the group, which formed last year to lobby against seniority-based layoffs that would put many of its 2,500 members at risk of losing their jobs. E4E enters the teacher evaluation debate as the city and teachers union are locked in negotiations to hammer out evaluation rules. Their standoff could cost the city millions of dollars in funds for low-performing schools. E4E's proposal builds off the state's new teacher evaluation law, which requires districts to evaluate teachers using 20 percent state test scores, 20 percent local assessment results, and 60 percent subjective measures such as observations and surveys. The proposal recommends that administrators, colleagues, and "outside master observers" all assess teachers, using formal rubrics that E4E sketches out, and that results of student surveys and "support of the school community" be factored in to teacher evaluations.
May 16, 2011
As Regents near teacher eval vote, researchers express concern
If the Board of Regents approves a proposal today to double the weight of student test scores in teacher evaluations, they'll be spurning the advice of 10 leading education researchers. The researchers — who include Linda Darling-Hammond and New Yorkers Aaron Pallas and Henry Levin — sent a letter to the Regents yesterday that summarizes studies that they say point to problems with basing teacher evaluations on student scores. Those problems include teaching to the test and disincentives to help students with special needs. "We urge you to reject proposals that would place significant emphasis on this untested strategy that could have serious negative consequences for teacher[s] and for the most vulnerable students in the State’s schools," the researchers say. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week told the Regents that he thought test scores should play a larger role in teacher evaluations. The state's year-old teacher evaluation law bases 20 percent of teachers' evaluations on student test scores and another 20 percent on local measures of student achievement. The proposal being considered today would allow districts, with the approval of their local teachers unions, to use the same measures for both parts of teachers' evaluations. The Regents meeting is being broadcast online beginning at 4:45 p.m.
May 16, 2011
Regents appoint John King the new state ed commissioner
The last appointment of a state education commissioner came in 2011, when the Regents chose John King, a former managing director at Uncommon Schools.
May 13, 2011
Cuomo: Test scores should play a bigger part in teacher evals
If Governor Andrew Cuomo angered Mayor Bloomberg by batting off his calls to end seniority-based layoffs, perhaps the governor redeemed himself in the mayor's eyes today. Cuomo sent the chancellor of New York's Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, a letter saying he believes that student test scores should count for a larger portion of teachers' annual evaluations. His comments are a critique of a set of regulations put out by the Board of Regents that they will vote on next week. The regulations are to be used by New York City and other districts as a guide to implementing the state's new teacher evaluation system. In a statement today, Tisch vowed to support Cuomo's recommendations at the meeting next week, saying that they "will lead to an even stronger teacher and principal evaluation system for New York." It's not clear if the other members of the board will agree with Tisch. A recent appointee to the board, the former city school official Kathleen Cashin, is a quiet critic of Bloomberg's. Another hurdle involves getting the teacher evaluations implemented in school districts. The new state law revising the evaluation system granted final power to local collective bargaining talks between districts and unions. That means that no evaluation system will become final without local unions' approval. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew responded to Cuomo's letter obliquely, saying only: "We look forward to discussing the Governor's recommendations with the Regents." Bloomberg's reaction was more effusive: “The thoughtful recommendations made today by Governor Cuomo will greatly improve the rigor of these new evaluations, and I am heartened that the Regents agreed to adopt them. But it will take the sustained commitment of all invested parties – and perhaps most importantly, the cooperation of the teachers union – if we are to make this evaluation system a reality.” Here's Cuomo's complete letter:
May 13, 2011
In three years, Bloomberg changes tune on teacher salaries
A subway ad that appeared in 2009. (Photo courtesy of gguillaumee/Flickr) Lamenting his ability to trim the city’s budget, Mayor Bloomberg this week assailed…
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