In a dramatic reversal, New York’s Board of Regents voted Monday to suspend the use of state standardized test scores in teacher evaluations for four years.
According to the proposal state officials presented Monday, teachers will receive two annual evaluation ratings beginning next year and lasting through 2019. One rating will include state test results but be used only for advisory purposes. The other, which state officials called a transition rating, will not use state test results and will be the one used for personnel decisions. The same arrangement would also apply to principals during that period.
The plan takes up a recommendation made last week by a panel appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and represents a fundamental change to New York’s teacher evaluation system.
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State policymakers, local school districts, and teachers unions have spent much of the last three years refining evaluation systems meant to categorize teachers more effectively than the longstanding system that rated teachers as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The rating systems weigh multiple classroom observations as well as state test scores and local measures of student learning.
But the use of complicated formulas to determine student academic growth and repeated changes to New York’s state tests eroded trust in those scores. So did the fact that many teachers were rated based on state test scores of students they didn’t teach, or in subjects unrelated to their own.
Now, those observations and locally selected tests will remain, but state test scores won’t count in decisions about whether teachers get tenure or extra support.
The change follows mounting criticism of the teacher evaluation system, which grew in tandem with the state’s testing opt-out movement. One in five eligible students didn’t take the state’s math or English exams last year.
The number of Regents skeptical of using test scores to rate teachers has swelled recently, as support for the policies eroded in Albany and nationally. On Monday, the changes earned nearly unanimous support from Regents and from State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who served on the governor’s task force.
“I’m glad that something happened in the atmosphere to get us to a better place because we certainly didn’t have this last year,” said Regent Betty Rosa. The state teachers union also hailed the vote.
Only outgoing Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, who has long supported test-based teacher evaluations, voted against the new regulation.
“I want to say that on the issue of this regulation I am of a different opinion,” Tisch said. “I do not believe that we can do away from an objective measure.”
The transition evaluations will remove the growth scores that the state has calculated based on its standardized math and English exams in grades 3 through 8 or on Regents exam scores for high school students. Locally selected measures of student learning will take their place.
The Regents also said they were considering changes to the growth model itself to take longer-term trends into account. During the four-year transition period, Elia said officials will focus on revamping the Common Core standards and considering alternative ways to evaluate teachers.
Last year’s law requiring half of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on state test scores remains on the books, with the Regents adopting the changes Monday as an emergency provision. (New York City, along with most districts, is still negotiating the details of those changes with its teachers union, and it’s unclear how the Regents’ actions will alter that process.)
The Regents will take another vote on the proposal on Tuesday. That will finalize the plan, though a public comment period will also follow.