New York teachers may soon be able to challenge state growth scores

The state is considering offering teachers a new way to appeal evaluations they believe are inaccurate, according to Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch.

“We are moving to put in place a panel of people who can allow a teacher to appeal a rating, which I think is a very appropriate thing to do,” Tisch said on the Capitol Pressroom radio show Tuesday, likening the new process to the one available to high school students who wish to challenge a Regents exam score. “We’re hoping to do this almost immediately.”

Tisch’s comments come as the Board of Regents is set to meet in Albany and discuss a controversial new teacher evaluation system in which test scores would make up half of some teachers’ rating. A new state law requires school districts to have new evaluation plans in place by Nov. 15 to avoid losing state funding, but parent advocates and the state teachers union have been calling for the Regents to give districts more time.

Tisch said she plans to finalize the rules that districts need to meet the deadline or apply for a formal extension. But she said the new appeal process would give teachers more confidence in their ratings.

In the interview, Tisch said she sympathized with Long Island teacher Sheri Lederman, who is suing the State Education Department over her 2014 evaluation. Lederman’s students scored well on state tests and her superintendent gave her glowing reviews, earning her an “effective” overall rating. But the “ineffective” rating she received on the portion based on her students’ test scores prompted her to file a lawsuit, which is now making its way through the State Supreme Court.

“It disturbs me greatly,” Tisch said of Lederman’s case. “One of the reasons we’re putting in place this appeals process is to deal with those kinds of aberrations.”

The new process would offer the first opportunity for New York teachers to appeal their “growth scores,” the most controversial portion of the state’s teacher evaluation system. Those scores are calculated by the state using a complicated methodology to measure the progress that students make over the course of a school year based on state tests and how that compares to their expected progress. Those scores have counted for 20 percent of a teacher’s overall rating, though in some instances teachers are assessed based on students in grades or subjects they don’t teach.

New York City already has an appeal process in place for other parts of a teacher evaluation, as required by law. Teachers can appeal directly to the chancellor if they believe their principal was biased against them or didn’t follow rules for classroom observations. Certain teachers can also appeal, with union representation, to a panel of outside arbitrators if their case is deemed credible by their union.