Evaluating Teaching Performance: Can Unions, Teachers and Principals Co-Exist and Prosper in the New Climate of Multiple Teacher Evaluation Tools?

How do we measure the teaching aspect of teaching and learning?
  When students succeed/fail to what extent are teachers responsible for their success/failure? 

 How do we assess teacher performance apart from student outcomes?

Teachers are extremely sensitive about this issue, supervisory observations are discomforting.

Charlotte Danielson and Kim Marshall, among others, have developed rubrics to measure a wide range of teaching performance based not on pupil performance but the observations of skilled evaluators. New York State and New York City are adopting an iteration of these teacher performance evaluation tools and they will replace the current, decades old rating sheets.

Tenured teachers are currently observed once or twice a year and rated “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.” Probationary teachers are observed more frequently and rated in twenty areas, it is a summative evaluation, an “S” or a “U” with a recommendation for “discontinuance” or “tenure.” The ratings are based solely on principal judgment. Classroom observations may be the traditional narratives or lengthy checklists, there is no comparability from principal to principal, school to school.

Beginning with teachers up for tenure later this school year and all teachers the following year the system will face a dramatic change.

You may want to take a look at a power point from another state discussing the Danielson Frameworks, here or the Kim Marshall Teacher Evaluation Rubrics here New York City will be adopting a form of these teacher evaluation systems.

An irony is that almost all the ink has focused on the use of student achievement data for 20% of  teacher evaluation. (For teachers teaching non ELA/Math tested subjects the student achievement metric is yet to be announced).  A second 20%, just speculation, perhaps a portfolio of student work, that must be negotiated with the union, and, 60% principal judgment based upon the Danielson Frameworks, the Marshall Teacher Evaluation Rubrics or some similar tool.

Teachers will receive a numerical score based upon the three sections: student achievement data, the locally negotiated tool and principal judgment based upon the rubrics, and the score will place them in one of four categories: “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing,” or “ineffective.” (see NYSED memo here)

The UFT, the teacher union has endorsed the new procedures,

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said, “The current teacher evaluation system doesn’t work for teachers – it’s too subjective, lacks specific criteria, and is too dependent on the whims and prejudices of principals. We worked with the State Education Department to create a more objective system that would apply across the state, with strict limits on the role of standardized tests.”

While the new teacher evaluation system will initially be used to rate/evaluate teachers it may impact a wide range of other key determinations,

The evaluations would play a significant role in a wide array of employment decisions, including professional development, tenure determinations, selection for leadership opportunities, supplemental compensation based on a career ladder, and termination.

For fifty years urban school systems faced a teacher shortage, teachers were poorly paid, teaching was a low status job and the turnover rate was staggering. Teacher quality was not a high priority in an environment where finding a teacher for every classroom was a challenge.

For the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930s we have numerous applicants for every teaching position. Urban school systems as well as suburban systems have choices. Pruning out low performers, preferably during the probationary period, is increasingly commonplace. We are entering an era in which scrutiny of all teachers, regardless of experience will become the norm.

The number of teachers denied tenure or who have had their tenure extended has increased from a couple of hundred a year to over a thousand a year. A new law, supported by the teacher union has expedited the discipline procedure for tenured teachers.

Teachers and principals with a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance – defined as two consecutive “ineffective” ratings – could be charged with incompetence and considered for termination through an expedited hearing: 

 A pattern of ineffective teaching would constitute very significant evidence of incompetence and could provide the basis for removal;

  • The hearing would have to be completed within 60 days – compared with the current state average of 274 days, as reported in the New York State School Boards Association’s most recent survey.

It is altogether likely that the number of tenured teachers who exhibit “evidence of incompetence” will increase significantly.

  This sea change in teacher evaluation procedures raises significant issues:

* How will the Department train “raters” (i.e., principals, etc.) and how will the effectiveness of the training be evaluated, and, importantly, will be teacher ratings be congruent school to school?

* Do raters have the skills to develop and implement programs/procedures to work with teachers to upgrade their skills? Are the raters, the principals, up to the task?

Teacher unions face a conundrum: they support multiple measures for teacher evaluation coupled with assistance for struggling teachers, which may result in dismissing more teachers, and, at the same time, must defend teachers who face discharge for incompetence.

While teachers wholeheartedly agree they don’t want to work with “incompetent” colleagues, they also want a union that will vigorously defend it’s members.

Is working with management on teacher quality issues antithetical to the traditional role of a union?

Next blog: Peer Review


4 responses to “Evaluating Teaching Performance: Can Unions, Teachers and Principals Co-Exist and Prosper in the New Climate of Multiple Teacher Evaluation Tools?

  1. “A new law, supported by the teacher union has expedited the discipline procedure for tenured teachers.”
    It would be more accurate to refer to the NEW AGREEMENT supported by MICHAEL MULGREW rather than a new law supported by the union. The point: teachers had no input in Mulgrew’s secret negotiations with the DOE. None of us in the rubber room was consulted. Mulgrew failed miserably in gaining needed protection from the rogue DOE investigators who frame teachers by substantiating phony charges.


  2. I think the kids should have a say as well. There’s no room in these evaluations for the studends to voice their opinions – which in my opinion should carry the most weight! The kids know better than anyone who is teaching them well, is caring, involved and inspiring them to learn. A teacher with the kids on their “side” can acheive amazing results. As in all the talk about education, the main players – the ones with the most to lose or gain – are always left out – namely, the students. Until they are included in the debate nothing will be accomplished. That includes the little ones. As any parent knows, young children speak “truth to power.” Student evaluations can be very helpful in improving teaching skills.


  3. In the early 90’s IBM nearly collapsed, and the Bronx High Schools had almost 200 newly hired predominantly math teachers.

    Sounds great, huh? How many stayed? Almost none! They said that this was the toughest job they had ever had, and for the lowest compensation! At the first opportunity most took other jobs.

    Want great instructors? Reorganize the way instruction is delivered, and pay what it takes to attract what the kids need! If there is no shortage of teachers, why are the schools in poor neighborhoods still scrambling for qualified people?

    All these evaluation methods are meaningless without a deep pool of replacements.

    If you ask educative why some of the kids don’t do well, you’ll find concrete reasons. Most have to do with high student absence, no authority to compel study and completion of homework, and a high rate of disruption of the education process by a small number of kids which goes unchecked by any authority.

    See the most recent bullying story from a small California town currently in the news, which illustrates how the school authorities sweep stuff under the rug instead of dealing with the issue. (Oakhurst Elementary School), where the teacher is punished for proactively protecting the educational environment she sought to create.


  4. Thanks for passing this link along on GS. I think this post does a really good job giving an overview of the challenges in creating a fair evaluation system. As a part of E4E’s teacher evaluation team we’re working on putting together the 60% not represented by data. We’re actually meeting with UFT Prez Michael Mulgrew next week for a Q & A and to discuss our work so far. Our goal isn’t to fight the UFT, but I think your last question raises an interesting point: “Is working with management on teacher quality issues antithetical to the traditional role of a union?” Can the union work for stricter assessments of “satisfactory” teaching and protect those labeled “unsatisfactory” at the same time?


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