Building a Better Teacher Evaluation System: From “Gotcha” to Collaborating, Learning and Growing.

How is it possible? 68.9% of grade 3-8 students across the State failed to meet the ELA proficiency standard on the new Common Core-based exams and 91.5% of teachers were rated “highly effective” or “effective” on the APPR, the teacher evaluation plan?

Two years ago the State Education Department, utilizing $2.7 million in Race to the Top funding selected the well regarded American Institutes for Research(AIR),

New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. today announced that American Institutes for Research (AIR) has been awarded a contract to develop methodologies and measures for the student growth component of the State’s new teacher and principal evaluation system. The goal, according to Commissioner King, is to ensure New York has a state-of-the-art approach to developing fair and reliable assessments of educators’ contributions to their students’ growth in learning.

Amy McIntosh, a Regents Fellow and former high ranking member of the Klein leadership lead the team that actually wrote the regulations; a committee with a wide range of members from the stakeholders and the participation of Jonah Rockoff, an expert in the field, advised the team.

Under the plan if a teacher receives ineffective scores in both of the 20% categories the teacher must be rated ineffective regardless of the score on the 60%. It appears that the “locally negotiated” 20% resulted in metrics that produced very few ineffective scores.

The 60%, the principal observation segment, is totally at local discretion. The school district and the union negotiated the number of observations, whether the observations were “announced” or “unannounced” and which of the six approved rubrics the school district would adopt.

The training of the supervisors is the role of the school district. We assume, always a mistake, that supervisors are competent to use the observational tool (Danielson Frameworks in NYC, Marshall or Marzano or NYSUT elsewhere). The approved state observation metrics differ significantly from the previous systems, from totally at the discretion of the supervisor-observer to a concrete list of competencies. We have no idea how well supervisors-observers applied the new tools.

I sat through two days of “Danielson Training” run by Teachscape, a vendor; the questions were far greater than the answers. How do you observe a lesson and rate 22 competencies? The Danielson Frameworks are an excellent professional development tool, as an observational rating tool, I have many doubts.

Two years ago, before Charlotte became the Queen of teacher observation, I sat with twenty-five principals and listened to Charlotte Danielson roll her PowerPoint slides and explain the frameworks. In the Q and A a principal declared, “In my school all teachers will be “highly effective.” Danielson shook her head, “You visit ‘highly effective’ occasionally.”

I was speaking with department employee who observed and evaluated seventy-five teachers across a wide range of schools. The teacher emailed a lesson plan, the supervisor responded with suggestions, the lesson was observed, a post observation conference and a written observation (using the former S/U system). Some teachers were observed a second time – he conducted about a hundred observations.

“How did they do?” I asked.

“A bell-shaped curve, there were a few stars, a few duds, the majority ranged from C- to C+.”

No surprise.

Teachers, in staggering numbers, self-select to leave, a recent Alliance for NYC Schools Report,

Among middle school teachers who entered their school during the last decade, more than half left that school within three years

We have spent millions of dollars establishing a system that tries to attach a numerical score next to each teacher’s name. In my judgment a fruitless effort.

We should do a much better job in hiring new teachers and supporting them in their first years; high needs, high poverty, low wealth schools and school districts have the newest teachers and have the highest teacher attrition rates.

New teachers bring youth and enthusiasm; senior teachers bring wisdom and experience. We should be spending our dollars to merge the youth and enthusiasm with the wisdom and experience.

The 1% “ineffective” may very well be accurate – teachers leave early in their careers, either recognizing their own inadequacies, frustrated over the lack of support, or are “pushed” out by the administration.

Building a better school system must change the culture of our current system. Teachers should not be isolates, teachers succeed, grow, learn and in collaborative settings.

Thomas Friedman visited classrooms in Shanghai, at the top of the list of school district achievement,

When you sit in on a class here and meet with the principal and teachers, what you find is a relentless focus on all the basics that we know make for high-performing schools but that are difficult to pull off consistently across an entire school system. These are: a deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers …. teachers spend about 70 percent of each week teaching and 30 percent developing teaching skills and lesson planning. That is far higher than in a typical American school.

Teng Jiao, 26, an English teacher here, said school begins at 8:35 a.m. and runs to 4:30 p.m., during which he typically teaches three 35-minute lessons. I sat in on one third-grade English class. The English lesson was meticulously planned, with no time wasted. The rest of his day, he said, is spent on lesson planning, training online or with his team, having other teachers watch his class and tell him how to improve and observing the classrooms of master teachers.

“You see so many teaching techniques that you can apply to your own classroom,” he remarks. Education experts will tell you that of all the things that go into improving a school, nothing — not class size, not technology, not length of the school day — pays off more than giving teachers the time for peer review and constructive feedback, exposure to the best teaching and time to deepen their knowledge of what they’re teaching.”

Hopefully when the NYC teacher union, the UFT, renegotiates the current teacher evaluation plan they will learn from our brothers and sisters in a sister city. Teacher evaluation should be construed as teacher effectiveness and growth, we must use the opportunity to construct a plan that embeds “peer review and constructive feedback,” we get better from expert coaching and interactions with colleagues – the current isolate system is stagnant and not in the best interests of children or teachers.

The current system is deeply flawed, the primary goal should not be to fire or monetarily reward teachers, the purpose must be to build a system in which teachers can learn and students can thrive.

3 responses to “Building a Better Teacher Evaluation System: From “Gotcha” to Collaborating, Learning and Growing.

  1. Deeply flawed is the completely non-pedagogically meaningful concept that you can gain something from testing students who have not been taught the material on which they are being tested. If all of the doctors, let alone teachers & legislatures were tested on nuclear physics they would do poorly regardless of how spectacularly their bio-chemistry courses were taught. Giving tests without implementing curriculum is a failure of administration; not teachers or students. Administration needs to stand up and take the responsibility for the poor scores.


    • For what it’s worth: sat through a meeting in Albany with a deputy commissioner – his explanation: the SED website ( has many curriculum modules the adoption of curriculum is at the local level – the new exams are not content based, as were the previous exams, they are standards based – the exams test the extent that students can use the standards to read, write and analyze data and text while the previous tests simply tested the acquisition of content.


      • Worthless explanation. Having teachers create curricula on the fly for totally new, untested, abstract standards while under high-stakes pressure for both old state exams and cc tasks and exams is compound failure. There should be ed laws against this level of incompetence and stupidity.


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