Tag Archives: observations

Teacher Evaluation: NYS Legislature Returns Teacher Evaluation to Local Districts within Collective Bargaining and Decouples from Student Testing

The New York State legislature voted to return the teacher evaluation process to school districts,

This bill would amend the annual teacher and principal evaluation system to eliminate the mandatory use of state assessments to determine a teacher or principal’s effectiveness. 

This bill seeks to maintain the rigorous standards set for teacher and principal evaluations, while simultaneously addressing some of the concerns from parents and educators. Allowing school districts and teachers, who know their students best, the ability to negotiate whether they would like to use the standardized tests in teacher or principal evaluations will ensure that a more fair and effective evaluation system will be established. Furthermore, in order to ensure that schools are not negatively impacted as a result of their choice between retaining their current evaluation system and choosing a new one, this bill provides that school districts will not lose their state aid increases while a district is in the process of negotiating/entering into a successor collective bargaining plan. 

The original law requiring school districts to use standardized test results to assess teacher performance was widely criticized by teachers and parents, and, in response to the criticism a four-year moratorium was placed on the use of standardized test scores, this is the last year of the moratorium. During the moratorium districts have been using a combination of supervisory observations and “student learning objectives,” aka, “measurements of student learning” determined at the district level, called the “matrix .”

With over 700 school districts in New York State the law returns the question of teacher evaluation to the local level and to the collective bargaining process. Districts will have flexibility within the frameworks set by the new law.

The larger question was whether teacher evaluation should be set by the Commissioner and the Board of Regents, set by the legislative process or driven, within guidelines set in statute, at the local level by elected school boards and teacher unions: that question has been determined.

The law has nothing to do with the administration of grades 3-8 tests, all fifty states must give annual tests.

The anti-testing factions within the state have vigorously opposed the new law  arguing that any changes should specifically reject the use of any testing in teacher evaluation, basically returning to supervisory evaluations only.

On the supervisory observation side New York State requires school districts to choose from among a range of instructional practice frameworks to assess teachers. New York City uses the Danielson Frameworks; other districts use Marzano, Marshall and a few others. These frameworks were originally designed to be used in teacher preparation programs, not to assess teacher performance. Experienced supervisors and teachers can generally agree on what constitutes a “highly effective” or “ineffective lesson,” less agreement on differentiating “effective” from “developing;” more troubling is the use of observations as a retributive act. As the relationship between the teacher union and the former mayor deteriorated in New York City the number of “unsatisfactory” observations increased dramatically. The number of unsatisfactory observations remained at about the same level for decades, tripled under Bloomberg, and returned to prior levels under the current mayor.

The current system places supervisory observations on one side of the matrix and locally developed tools, Student Learning Objectives (SLO) or Measurements of Student Learning (MOSL) on the other side of the matrix. The collective bargain agreement in New York City allows for an appeal if the observations and SLO/MOSL scores show a wide disparity.

There is a fear the smaller districts with fewer resources will choose an “off the shelf” standardized test in addition to the state standardized tests, an additional test for students. Parents have options: they can opt out, or, lobby their elected school board. The Bureau of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), regional student education centers, can coordinate the creation of SLO/MOSL in regions across the state.

Why does the federal law require annual tests? Current federal law requires standardized tests in English and Mathematics in grades 3-8 because a coalition of civil rights organizations lobbied vigorously to include testing in the law. In the run-up to the passage of the new iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) the Democratic co-sponsor of the law supported required testing,

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., stood on the Senate floor and called standardized testing a civil-rights issue. “We know that if we don’t have ways to measure students’ progress, and if we don’t hold our states accountable, the victims will invariably be the kids from poor neighborhoods, children of color, and students with disabilities,” she said. 

The NAACP and many other civil rights organizations support the annual student testing requirement,

Nineteen groups, including the NAACP and the Children’s Defense Fund, recently released a statement backing the law’s core testing requirement. “ESEA must continue to require high-quality, annual statewide assessments for students in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school,” Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said at a Senate hearing … 

The opt out parents, concentrated in New York State and Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education are vigorous opponents of annual student testing, and, in many cases, all student testing.

The NAACP president Derrick Johnson spoke at the Network for Public Education (NPE) conference in Indianapolis in October, the NAACP and NPE both oppose charter schools and the NAACP has called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools, a position taken a few years ago at their national convention; allies on one issue, opponents on another

New York State has a long history of testing. Regent examinations in New York State began in the late 19th century;  4th and 8th grade testing prior to the NCLB  annual testing. For decades the NY Times published the results of grades 4 and 8 tests, by district in descending school order.  The opposition to testing is partially due to the Obama/Duncan decisions to tests to assess the performance of individual teachers, to use tests to punish schools, the complexity of the algorithm coupled with disastrous roll-out of the Common Core: diverse constituencies melded.

A few days ago the state announced the latest round of schools requiring interventions, 

The State Education Department today announced district and school accountability determinations as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and New York’s ESSA plan. State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia identified 106 school districts as Target Districts, 245 schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement and 125 schools for Targeted Support and Improvement.

 I suspect some of these schools were identified due to scores in subgroups: Title 1 eligible, English language learners and students with disabilities, one of the prime goals of the law. I do not know the impact of opt outs on the computation to determine a school’s accountability status. The law requires a 95% participation rate in schools, and, if schools fall below the required participation rate states must develop plans to increase the rate; Optout is only an issue in New York, Colorado and Washington.

It is highly unlikely that we will see any changes in the federal requirements in the near future. New York State receives $1.6 billion annually in federal dollars; the state is not going to take any actions that might jeopardize federal dollars.

If you are interesting in pursuing the methods by which the state determines accountability status click on the link(s) below.

Elementary School Sample PowerPoint Template: Explaining the New Accountability System

High School Sample PowerPoint Template: Explaining the New Accountability System

Understanding the New York State Accountability System Under ESSA

This document provides answers to questions about the New York State Accountability System under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Answers to questions are based upon the 2018-19 accountability determinations, which were made using the 2017-18 school year results

Flawed Evaluation Systems: How Should We Assess School/Teacher Performance? Who Will Have the Cojones to Admit Their Errors and Choose a Valid/Reliable/Stable System?

What if the educators making important decisions about schools and colleges are acting too much on their guts and not enough based on actual evidence? (Review of Howard Wainer, Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies, 2011)

The list of scientists that have rejected Value-Added Modeling (VAM) is long and growing. Howard Wainer has been parsing numbers for decades, and getting angrier and angrier.

I don’t know whether it is the age we live in, or the age I have lived to, but whichever, I have lately found myself shouting at the TV screen disturbingly often. Part of the reason for this may be the unchecked growth of the crotchety side of my nature. But some of the blame for these untoward outbreaks can be traced directly to the unremarkable dopiness that substitutes for wisdom in modern society. Ideas whose worth diminishes with data and thought are too frequently offered as the only way to do things. Promulgators of these ideas either did not look for data to test their ideas, or worse, actively avoided considering evidence that might discredit them.

The science simply does not support the concept. The tragedy is that the feds decided to require VAM-based teacher evaluations before a “beta,” a testing phase, they not only jumped into the pool they required that every state that wanted big bucks also jump into the pool.

In New York State only 20% of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student test scores; 60% of the assessment is based on supervisory observations. The state required school districts to select from a list of observation models; Danielson, Marzano, Marshall and even a rubric developed by the state teacher union.

Just as the VAM student test score methodology is fatally flawed so are supervisory observation evaluations. The entire idea is based on a fallacy – that supervisors in school A would give the same score as supervisors in school B. As I wrote in a previous blog some principals are reticent to give lesser evaluations, it reflects poorly on the principal while others strictly apply the rubric.

A just-published study supports that higher achieving students with better language skills are more likely to exhibit behaviors rewarded on the Danielson and other scales.

School principals—when conducting classroom observations—appear to give some teachers an unfair boost based on the students they’re assigned to teach, rather than based on their own instructional savvy.

* Under current teacher evaluation systems, it is hard for a teacher who doesn’t have top students to get a top rating. Teachers with students with higher incoming achievement levels receive classroom observation scores that are higher on average than those received by teachers whose incoming students are at lower achievement levels, and districts do not have processes in place to address this bias

* Observations conducted by outside observers are more valid than observations conducted by school administrators.

* The inclusion of a school value-added component in teachers’ evaluation scores negatively impacts good teachers in bad schools and positively impacts bad teachers in good schools

We suspect that across New York State teachers in high poverty-low tax districts are receiving lower APPR scores than teachers in high achievement-high tax districts – the commissioner has failed to release this type of analysis.

These flawed scores are used to claim that teachers in high poverty schools are less capable than teachers in high wealth/high achievdment schools.

Teacher assessment is not a science – the skills and experience of school leaders varies. I have sat with groups of principals watching videos and assessing lessons. Not surprisingly we disagreed.

Other countries use inspectorate systems – “inspectors” who visit schools and assess both teacher and school effectiveness.

See English system here, Swedish system here and French system here.

A study by the well-respected Chicago Consortium on School Research conducted a detailed examination of an assessment system in which trained teams of supervisors and teachers observed teachers in selected schools.

… research-based evidence showing that new teacher observation tools, when accompanied by thoughtful evaluation systems and professional development, can effectively measure teacher effectiveness and provide teachers with feedback on the factors that matter for improving student learning.

Our problem is that Secretary Duncan is wedded to a system that is unsupported, a system that is deeply flawed, a system that is rejected by experts across the spectrum, it is unlikely that he will threw himself at the feet of Randi Weingarten pleading for forgiveness. State after state timidly saluted and implemented systems, each trying to outdo the next, some using as much as 50% student test scores to assess teacher performance.

Who will bravely step up to the plate?

Which governor will reject the current system?

Too many governors and commissioners, to quote Wainer, “actively avoided considering evidence that might discredit them.”

The de Blasio-Farina-Mulgrew triumvirate may have the spine to reject flawed systems and move to a saner system – there are models – and in the world of politics we need more heroes.