Measuring Teacher Effectiveness: In a Time of Troubles, Can We Create a Teacher Evaluation System That Is Fair to Students and Teachers?

 
 

After weeks of trading barbs, TV commercials, op eds and increasing nastiness the NYS budget passed, on time, with dramatic cuts to services, a victory for the Governor and a defeat for Mayor Bloomberg.
 
The dailies, at one time unwavering and uncritical supporters of the Mayor, are beginning to trash his mayoralty and his future effectiveness (see NY Post, “Bloomy’s Bubble Bursts,” and NY Daily News, “Incredible Shrinking Mayor“).
 
The Mayor’s threat of 4,000 plus teacher layoffs and criticism of seniority-based layoffs are muted and the battle over the City budget, due by the end of June, is beginning.
 
Perhaps the most profound change is on a back burner. In May, 2010 the NYS legislature dramatically altered the way all teachers in New York State are evaluated. Since time immemorial teachers received an annual performance review, an “S” or a “U,” with the vast majority of teachers receiving as “S.” How the principal arrived at the evaluation was totally within the realm of the supervisor. The New Teacher Project’s “Widget Effect” Report tells us that 99% of teachers in the school districts studied received satisfactory evaluations and laments,
  
Effective teachers are the key to student success. Yet our school systems treat all teachers as interchangeable parts, not professionals. Excellence goes unrecognized and poor performance goes unaddressed. This indifference to performance disrespects teachers and gambles with students’ lives.
  
The legislation in New York State moved from the “S/U” system to a teacher evaluation system in which each teacher (and principal) will receive a numeric grade based upon a four separate metrics, 60% principal judgment based upon standards determined by the commissioner, 20% a locally negotiated metric and 20% utilizing standardized tests scores or their equivalent,
 
Section 3012-c of the law,

The annual professional performance reviews conducted … shall differentiate  teacher  and  principal effectiveness using the following quality rating categories: highly effective, effective,  developing  and ineffective,  with  explicit minimum and maximum scoring ranges for each
category
, as prescribed in the regulations  of  the  commissioner.  Such
annual  professional  performance  reviews  shall  result  in  a 
single
composite teacher or principal effectiveness score
,  which  incorporates
multiple  measures  of effectiveness related to the criteria included in
the regulations of the  commissioner ….
the  elements comprising the composite effectiveness score shall  be  locally  developed,  consistent  with the standards prescribed in the regulations
of the commissioner, through negotiations  conducted,  pursuant  to  the
requirements of article fourteen of the civil service law
(PERB)

 

  The Governor, rejected the Mayor’s opposition to seniority-based layoffs arguing that the Mayor’s plan is unfair, and, since the State was on the verge of instituting a new plan why not simply implement the new plan as soon as possible.

 The reason for not rushing to implement is the complexity of the plan. The law acknowledges the complexity by requiring,

 Prior  to  any  evaluation being conducted in accordance with this section, each individual who is responsible for conducting an evaluation  of a teacher or building principal shall receive appropriate training in
accordance with the regulations of the commissioner of education.

 Around the country school districts and cities and states are moving in the same direction.

 
In mid-nineties ASCD published Charlotte Danielson’s, “Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching.” It was well-received by self-reflective superintendents,  principals and schools of education. In 2007 the 2nd edition was published and sudden interest in “professional practice” thrust Ms. Danielson into the national limelight.
 
Danielson’s four domains with 22 components “offers educators a means of communicating about excellence … During conversations … teachers are able to learn from one another and to thereby enrich their own teaching.”
 
Chicago is in the third year of a 100-school pilot that is being tracked by the Chicago Consortium on School Reform. “The new teacher evaluation system provides a continuum of teacher practice using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, as well as structured conferences between principals and teachers.”  The Study is asking the right questions, has a truly collaborative design, and the about to be published year two assessment is extremely encouraging.
 
In our wonderful entrepreneurial world providers can simply choose to buy materials from ASCD.
 
 
For months a committee of the New York State Board of Regents has been ploughing through potential plans for the implementation of the new law, with only moderate success. (see proposed regulation here  and a dense power point here
  
One of the most important changes in professional practice, the system by which teachers, supervisors and evaluators view themselves and view colleagues is being caught up in the politics of budgets and the battle between the megaliths, the Governor and the Mayor. And, lets not forget, the implementation of the system, the nitty-gritty, must be negotiated with the collective bargaining agent, the union.
  
Chicago is in the third year of a large pilot, a well-documented research project that may very well change the face of teaching in the windy city.
  
Cuomo and Bloomberg, battling for the hearts and minds of the public, one watching eight years of high praise turning sour and the other glowing over high public confidence ratings in spite of editorial criticism of his policies.
  
Whether the Governor, the Mayor, the Board of Regents, the Commissioner of Education and the unions can come together to create a system that is fair to kids and teachers is open to question.
  
We are approaching a crossroads of great significance.
 

 

 

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