By the numbers

92 percent of city teachers earn high marks in newest round of evaluations

As state officials voted to change the way New York teachers are evaluated Monday, they released new data showing that more than 92 percent of city teachers earned an “effective” rating or higher last year.

In New York City, 10.8 percent of teachers earned a top rating of “highly effective” for the 2014-15 school year, up from about 9 percent last year. Most teachers, more than 81 percent, earned an “effective” rating, while 6.5 percent were rated “developing” and 1 percent earned the lowest rating, “ineffective.”

The results skewed higher outside the city, with more than 98 percent of teachers earning an effective or highly effective rating.

This marks the second year that New York City teachers were rated under the new, four-level evaluation system, and the third year for the rest of the state’s teachers. But the evaluations are likely to look different next year, after the Board of Regents approved a plan Monday to create a “transition” evaluation system that avoids using state test results until the 2019-20 school year.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia pointed to the results Monday, emphasizing that few teachers were being penalized by the evaluations. But she acknowledged that the evaluation process, and the repeated changes to it over the last few years, have been difficult for educators.

“We have an evaluation system that is in place that has caused this stress in our teacher force and our administrators and across the state,” Elia said.

Last year’s ratings included three components: classroom observations, which counted for 60 percent of a teacher’s rating; state test scores or other state-chosen learning metrics, which counted for 20 percent, and other student learning metrics chosen by the city, which counted for another 20 percent.

City officials touted the results, noting that teacher ratings were more evenly distributed than the ratings statewide. Education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye attributed that “to efforts made to develop a system that is accurate and rigorous, and which emphasizes the developmental aspects of measuring and improving teacher quality.”

Kaye could not say how many tenured city teachers earned a second ineffective rating this year, allowing the city to start proceedings to remove them from the classroom.

Though the number of teachers receiving the lowest overall ratings has been small, the role of test scores in those evaluations has been under fierce scrutiny for years.

A Long Island teacher sued the state in February over the portion of her evaluation determined by student test scores. That score had fluctuated wildly over three years, which she said illustrated deep flaws in the system. The city and state teachers unions have long derided the complexity of the formulas the state uses to determine those growth scores.

Across the state, anger about the role of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations helped fuel New York’s opt-out movement this spring, which saw 20 percent of eligible students sit out the exams in English and math.

On Monday, Elia said the new rules were necessary to allow teachers’ worries to subside.

“We need to move this agenda,” she said. “The constituent groups are very willing to understand that we need to move forward.”

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race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.

Half-priced homes

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is announcing an educator discount that will allow employees of all Detroit schools to buy houses from the Land Bank at 50 percent off.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is getting ready this morning to announce a major effort to lure teachers and other school employees to the city of Detroit: Offering them half-priced homes.

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

For city schools, the discounts give administrators another perk to offer prospective employees. District and charter schools in Detroit face severe teacher shortages that have created large class sizes and put many children in classrooms without fully qualified teachers.

Detroit’s new schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has said he’s determined to make sure the hundreds of teacher vacancies that affected city schools last year are addressed by the start of classes in September.

In the press release, he’s quoted praising the discount program. “There is an opportunity and need to provide innovative solutions to recruit and retain teachers to work with our children in Detroit.”

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Educator Discount Program will be announced at an event scheduled for 10:45 this morning in front of a Land Bank house in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood.

The Land Bank currently auctions three homes per day through its website, with bidding starting at $1,000.