A Primer on Teacher Ratings: Misunderstandings, Threats, Ego, Hubris Ignore the Problems of Real Kids and Their Families.

Teachers serve a three year probationary period with a rating at the end of each year. The teacher is rated satisfactory or unsatisfactory in about twenty areas, the principal may write comments, with an overall rating of satisfactory or unsatisfactory (or doubtful in year one). If the overall rating is unsatisfactory the principal can recommend continuation or discontinuation of probationary status.

Discontinuation means termination. The teacher is essentially fired, and, may appeal the rating.

If the teacher appeals a hearing is held in the fall/winter following the end of school year before a tripartite panel. The panel reviews the evidence submitted: lesson observations, letters in the file, etc., listens to the teacher’s testimony, the principal can chose to testify over the phone and can choice to “stand on the record.”

In the pre-Bloomberg era principals had to appear to were subject to cross examination.

The panel makes a non-binding recommendation to the chancellor. Under the current administration the rating is never overturned, regardless of the recommendation of the panel.

In the pre-Bloomberg days occasionally a rating was overturned and from time to time a deal was struck, a teacher would agree to extend their probation. The vast majority of adverse ratings were sustained by the panel.

In every civil service job probationary employees are “at will” employees – they can be terminated without cause by their employer. On the surface teachers appear to have greater protections – in reality – they are also “at will” employees while on probation.

In June 2011 38% of teachers who were completing their probationary period had their tenure extended. The reason for the extension in virtually every case was a low value-added score.

Commonly they received satisfactory, in some cases glowing observation reports, to no avail. Low, meaning in the lower half, value-added (i.e., teacher data reports) scores resulted in extended probations. The number of teachers terminated remained about the same.

Tenured teachers receive an Annual Performance Review – an “S” or “U” rating at the end of the school year. The only impact of a “U” rating is the teacher is frozen on their salary step until they receive a satisfactory rating. The number of “U” ratings has doubled under the Bloomberg years from about 1% to 2%.

The “U” rated teacher continues to teach in the same school, and, may choose to appeal the rating. In the fall/winter following the rating the teacher receives a review before a department hearing officer and is represented by a teacher trained by the union. The principal may attend, testify by phone, or “stand on the record.”

In the pre-Bloomberg days the union lost the vast majority of the cases. Sometimes a “deal” was struck – perhaps the rating would be reversed if the teacher received an “S” rating in the subsequent year.

Currently the union wins none of the cases – nada.

In a few cases the actions of the principal were so outrageous that the union took the cases to court and were sustained – the court granted the appeal and overturned the “U” rating.

The new teacher-principal evaluation law raises the ante. The law states,

For purposes of disciplinary proceedings pursuant to sections three
thousand twenty and three thousand twenty-a of this article, a pattern
of ineffective teaching or performance shall be defined to mean two
consecutive annual ineffective ratings received by a classroom teacher
or building principal pursuant to annual professional performance
reviews conducted in accordance with the provisions of this section.

Under the yet to be negotiated implementation regulations we will move from the satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating to a four-tiered rating system.

The law describes the system as follows,

The annual professional performance reviews conducted pursuant
to this section for classroom teachers and building principals shall
differentiate teacher and principal effectiveness using the following
quality rating categories: highly effective, effective, developing and
, 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

“Ineffective” becomes the new unsatisfactory.

So, we get down to the core issue: if a teacher receives an “ineffective” rating to whom does s/he appeal? The same sham system in which the teacher never wins; or, as the union avers, an impartial arbiter?

Fernanda Santos over at Schoolbook writes,

At issue is the process by which teachers would be able to appeal a poor rating. The city proposed forming a three-person committee consisting of one representative from the city, one from the union and one who would be jointly selected by both to issue an advisory decision to the schools chancellor, who would then make the final call.

If Santos is right we’re down to the cases in which the chancellor chooses not to accept the decision of the three-person panel.

There are weighty unresolved conundrums:

*Can State Ed develop a “valid and reliable” value-added teacher assessment score that will be stable from year to year?

* How do you use “data” for the 70% of teachers who teach classes that do not take the state assessments? The band teacher, the physical education teacher, all high school teachers? Will these yet to be designed assessments also pass the “validity/reliability” test?

* Will the union-State Ed/Governor agree on 20% or 40% use of student data within the assessment? Is 40% of unstable data better than 20%?

* How will 3020 arbitrators be able to determine the validity/reliability of “teacher or principal effectiveness scores, which incorporate multiple measures of effectiveness”?

It is altogether likely that a few years down the road arbitrators and judges will determine the actual implementation of the law, or, maybe, sanity will prevail.

And, BTW, the President in his State of the Union message trashed a “teaching to the test” education, Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. King, Ms Tisch … were you listening?

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One response to “A Primer on Teacher Ratings: Misunderstandings, Threats, Ego, Hubris Ignore the Problems of Real Kids and Their Families.

  1. Retired- no longer Public Enemy Number One

    Many in the new crop of “wonder” Principals, Assistant Principals, and the like have little or no seasoned classroom experience, are not masters of any subject matter, management excepted, and to justify their own statistical “effectiveness” must engage in relentless fault-finding. 

    If they could curry favor and praise from higher up by arranging for the public flogging of senior teachers and immolation of union leaders, they would do so eagerly with no consideration at all for any of the real needs of the children, for the country, or for any ethical principles whatsoever.  

    So who will still want to keep the children uppermost in mind when all the teachers have finally been converted to robots or else otherwise “disposed of?”


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