Welcome to the Matrix: The New York State Board of Regents Begins to Create Yet Another New Teacher Evaluation Plan – By June 30th.

On Monday, April 13th the members of the Board of Regents and a packed audience listened to a lengthy description of the “enacted budget,” the education provisions of the fiscal year 15-16 state budget.

The 18-slide Power Point, “A Review of Education Policy in the Enacted 2015-16 State Budget” lays out the Commissioner’s view of the new law. The key question was asked by a new member, Regent Johnson, how much authority do we have under the law in designing a teacher evaluation plan?

The answer is unclear.

APPR Field Guidance, all 100-plus pages, spells out the intricate details of the current plan (Read here)

The growth formula on pages 10-11 was used in NYC in 2010 and has been “refined” for the NYS 2011. (Read here)

The members of the legislature told the Regents, you’re in charge.

Over the next month or so the actual authority of the Regents to craft the new regulations will emerge

The purpose of required grades 3-8 testing under No Child Left Behind is to assess student progress based on standardized tests and identify low performing schools, called “focus,” “priority” and “persistently lowest achieving,” aka “out of time” schools, and, under Race to the Top, create a teacher performance metric based on multiple measures including student test scores.

Over 700 schools in New York State are either “focus” or “priority” and in New York City 94 low achieving schools are in a Renewal category; show progress or face redesign or closure.

The adoption of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) changed the playing field. As I have written before I did not read the standards more dramatically different than previous standards, the dramatic difference is that the standards are no longer aspirational goals. State tests were curriculum-based within the framework of standards, the CCSS tests are now standard-based tests, and curriculum is superfluous.

Some school districts, school districts with resources, purchased new materials and began to intensively train staffs, other school districts, school districts that stumble to meet day-to-day costs lagged. The enormous difference in district to district funding once again determines testing outcomes, the rich get richer at the expense of the poor.

For reasons that still elude me Commissioner King followed the “push off the end of the diving board” approach to phasing in the new, far more complex and difficult tests – the state moved from two-thirds passing to two-thirds failing. Teachers suddenly forgot how to teach and students forgot how to learn.

The Race to the Top application required a teacher evaluation plan: negotiations took months and the final plan required a numerical rating for each teacher on a 0 – 100% scale. The scale is divided in three sections, 20% based on student test scores, 20% based on a locally negotiated metric and 60% based on supervisory observations; however,the law requires that if a teacher received an ineffective grade on either student test scores or locally negotiated metric the teacher must be rated ineffective regardless of their composite score.

When the dust settled, in year one 51% of teachers were rated highly effective and 40% effective, only 1% received an ineffective rating. The numerical grades were confusing. The scores are “unstable,” wide swings from year one to year two, and, neither teachers nor principals have any idea how the scores were determined.

The student performance score section is a growth score: the incredibly dense formula matches teachers teaching similar students. If a teacher of very low achieving students moves students from level 1.8 to 2.2 they will have a higher growth score than a teacher of high achieving students whose grades decline from 3.5 to 3.3.

The new law, the “enacted budget,” totally changes the system.

Welcome to the Matrix.

The new system does away with numerical scores.

Teachers will receive a HEDI score based on student performance and a HEDI score based on observations.

Under the old plan if you received an ineffective on student performance you were ineffective … the observation score, no matter how high was irrelevant, you were ineffective.

Under the matrix plan if student performance is ineffective and your observation score is either highly effective or effective you receive a developing score.

I believe a significant improvement.

We no long have to be concerned with percentages or composite scores; simply slide across and down the matrix and you have your score.

Although the matrix looks simple there are complexities: how do you set the bands, in essence the cut scores that determine the HEDI ranges? These are complex statistical determinations. How do you work out the administrative morass of outside evaluators for the observation section? Will there be multiple observation models? Will schools select an observation model? Will there be special training for the outside evaluators? Will schools choose teachers as peer evaluators? What will be the cost to the school district? There are 700 school districts in New York State, many with 100 or fewer teachers, schools are many miles apart, needless to say an administrative nightmare.

As the state moved into the new teacher evaluation system a few years ago the dialogue was fierce, growth scores were “junk science,” hundreds or thousands of teachers would be unfairly fired, the entire purpose was to discharge senior high priced teachers, and on and on.

The reality: one percent of teachers received an ineffective grade and I suspect few, very, very few teachers received consecutive ineffective grades.

The system; however, is seriously flawed, it produced too many “anomalies,” teachers who received an ineffective on student performance and highly effective on observations – was the observer totally wrong, or, is the system flawed? Larger numbers of teachers teaching low SES students, English language learners and students with disabilities received lower scores, to me, the “formula” is biased to favor teachers teaching higher SES students.

The New York City union, the UFT, negotiated an appeal procedure, in one school sixteen teachers were rated ineffective although they received highly effective and effective on student performance, one would suspect retribution on the part of the principal.

Questions are numerous, and will continue to emerge and time is short, don’t be shy:

Regents/State Education has already set up a comment site – feel free to ask questions and send comments and advice.



5 responses to “Welcome to the Matrix: The New York State Board of Regents Begins to Create Yet Another New Teacher Evaluation Plan – By June 30th.

  1. rachel de aragon

    I do not quite understand the issue. In other constructs– professionals in the non-profit sector for example- there are annual supervisory evaluations, and then reviews at the higher level if needed. The process includes a self-evaluation and goals , expectations etc.. Why is not this used in schools? Why are teachers different than social workers, nurses, drug-counselors, job coaches, psychologists etc. These professionals work in both unionized and non-unionized settings- in large and small communities and are supervised and evaluated based upon their work within the context of their employment. Why do teachers differ from these others??? Why NYS is bent upon this cookie- cutter one test mission for evaluation? If local management entities need better guidelines for the evaluation process– then the board of Regents should be providing these guide-lines not contracting to test everyone


  2. thank you for the link. Here is one area where I disagree with your analysis, however. Even though ineffective on the student performance component resulted in ineffective overall, districts had total control over the local measure and most were smart enough to design one that would prevent teachers from falling into ineffective or developing. Now, we know from the growth score history, that 7% of all teachers and principals will be at best developing. While I do applaud the move away from the silly points, that is the only improvement that I see. Looks like de Guatamala a Guatapeor to me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Here the Red pill and the Blue pill don’t look that much different.


  4. “As the state moved into the new teacher evaluation system a few years ago the dialogue was fierce, growth scores were “junk science,” hundreds or thousands of teachers would be unfairly fired, the entire purpose was to discharge senior high priced teachers, and on and on.”

    It is still Junk Science and the Cuomo is still out to get teachers fired.


  5. I think you are mistaken on a couple of points. “Ineffective” growth scores/student performance will trump observations under the new guidelines, see the asterisk on the PowerPoint chart. On the point about the new system correcting the problem of teachers of high achievers getting low growth scores, there is no solution on the table for that problem. The NY City growth formula doesn’t solve that issue. I don’t see how you can call any of this an improvement.


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