New York

Assembly approves new teacher evaluation system

Another day has gone by without the State Assembly voting on a charter cap bill, but that doesn’t mean the members are twiddling their thumbs. They voted today to approve the new teacher evaluation system that came out of a deal between the state and teachers union earlier this month.

The system would make students’ test scores a factor in teacher evaluations, a change that state officials believe will improve New York’s bid for Race to the Top funds. It would also give principals the choice of labeling teachers one of four options — highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective — rather than the current choices of satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

City education officials have criticized the new system for being vague and forcing districts to work out some elements of the system with their local teachers union. While the agreement calls for 20 percent of a teacher’s evaluation score to come from her students’ test scores, it requires another 20 percent to come from local assessments, which districts and unions would have to negotiate.


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Education Committee Chair Catherine Nolan today announced that the Assembly passed legislation creating a comprehensive statewide evaluation system for teachers and principals (A.11171/Nolan).

Under the legislation, 40 percent of the evaluation would be based upon student achievement. The remaining 60 percent would be comprised of locally-developed measures, including classroom observations. These annual professional performance reviews would be a factor in promotion, retention, tenure determination, termination and supplemental compensation.

The reviews would rate the effectiveness of teachers and principals as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. The legislation would require that improvement plans be developed for any educator who receives a rating of developing or ineffective, and that a pattern of ineffective teaching or performance – two consecutive annual ratings of ineffective – would constitute significant evidence of incompetence and could form the basis for just cause removal through a newly established expedited hearing process.

“We have an obligation to New York State’s children to provide them with the best education possible,” said Silver (D-Manhattan). “This overhaul of the way we evaluate educators will provide for a more objective, student-centered rating system and help to ensure that under-performing schools, teachers and principals are given the assistance they need to improve.”

“This legislation enhances the current system of teacher evaluations, which only categorizes educators as satisfactory or unsatisfactory,” said Nolan (D-Queens). “It’s crucial that a number of factors are taken into consideration when reviewing a teacher or principal’s performance, including student achievement. By instituting more rigorous guidelines, we will make New York State an even stronger competitor in the next round of federal Race to the Top funding.”

The new evaluation system would be phased in at the start of the 2011-2012 school year for teachers in grades 4 to 8, and their respective principals. In 2012-2013, the new evaluation standards would become applicable to all teachers and principals.

This legislation would also authorize the board of education of a school district or the Chancellor of the New York City school district to contract with an educational partnership organization for up to five years to manage schools identified as persistently lowest-achieving or under registration review. The contract would be required to outline expectations for academic outcomes and district expectations, and stipulate that failure to meet those expectations may be grounds for termination of the contract.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.