Report: Low-rated teachers more often work with poor students

The poorer a school’s students are, the more likely they are to be taught by low-rated teachers.

That’s the conclusion of a new report by the education advocacy group StudentsFirstNY. The group, which is critical of the city’s current teacher evaluation system, looked at ratings given to 65,527 teachers during the 2011-2012 school year and found that the low-rated teachers disproportionately worked in schools with high concentrations of poor students.

At schools with relatively few poor students, 1.14 percent of teachers received low ratings last year, according to the report. But at schools where more than 85 percent of students are considered poor, 3.9 percent did.

The inequities were even more pronounced when comparing schools with different demographics. At schools where fewer than a quarter of students are black or Hispanic, just 1.06 percent of teachers got low ratings. At schools where almost all students are black or Hispanic, that figure was 4.13 percent.

The report says the findings support StudentsFirstNY’s position that new teacher evaluations are needed in New York State.

The group has panned the current evaluation system, in which teachers can score either “unsatisfactory” or “satisfactory,” though it used ratings issued under the system for the new report. It is among those pressing the teachers union to make concessions so the city can adopt new evaluations by Jan. 17 and avoid losing $250 million in state aid.

“This report highlights the utter failure of New York City schools to provide quality teachers to those students who need them most,” said Executive Director Micah Lasher, who left the Bloomberg administration last year to start StudentsFirstNY. “A successful deal to implement a meaningful teacher evaluation system is a necessary first step toward righting that wrong.”

The report makes 10 recommendations, mostly aimed at making it easier for schools to hire, fire, and reward teachers more easily.

According to a coalition formed to counter StudentsFirstNY’s influence in the city’s mayoral race, New Yorkers for Great Public Schools, blame for the skew in teacher ratings across schools lies elsewhere.

“The inequitable distribution of quality teachers is the result of Mayor Bloomberg’s refusal to provide adequate support and professional development to teachers,” said Zakiyah Ansari, a spokeswoman, in a statement. “Teacher evaluations and paying for test score performance will not solve the problem.”

Indeed, a new evaluation system that complies with the current state law would not allow the city to act on the report’s findings. It would not allow districts to remove low-scoring teachers any faster: Teachers will still have to have two straight low ratings to face termination. It also won’t redistribute teachers among schools — although a feature of the “value-added” algorithm that will be used to generate part of each rating might make it look like that has happened.

At a press conference outside City Hall this morning to unveil the report, Lasher said that while new evaluations are not a panacea, they are a necessary first step if the city wants to tackle inequities in the way teachers are distributed among schools.

“First we need to get a clear and robust picture [of teacher quality] in all schools,” he said. “New evaluations give more texture and feedback.”

The number of unsatisfactory ratings handed out each year has increased under Mayor Bloomberg, who has aggressively sought to replace the city’s lowest-performing educators. U-rated teachers were more than four times more likely to leave the school system after receiving their ratings last year than teachers rated satisfactory, according to city data.

StudentsFirstNY’s complete “Unsatisfactory” report is below:

SFNY Unsatisfactory Report by