Evaluating Evaluations

Partial win for state union on evaluations, but appeal is likely

A State Supreme Court Judge partially sided with the state teachers union today over how big of a role standardized state test scores should play for teacher evaluations.

Overturning a key state regulation that was approved by the Board of Regents in May, Judge Michael Lynch ruled that local districts could only double the weight of test scores in evaluations – from 20 percent to 40 percent – if the local union signs off on the arrangement. The judge upheld a different regulation, which will allow districts the option to increase testing emphasis, so long as it is through collective bargaining.

The New York State Education Department criticized the judge’s reversal and pledged to appeal it, further complicating the future of an evaluation system that was originally slated to take effect this year.

The decision came in response to a lawsuit filed by New York State United Teachers in June. In the suit, NYSUT lawyers argued that the Regents were circumventing a carefully negotiated state law that set the weight of test scores at 20 percent.

The law, which NYSUT backed, mandates that student growth count for 40 percent of a teacher’s rating. It set 20 percent as based on student test scores and the other 20 percent on “local assessments” chosen by districts and their unions. This spring, the Regents said districts could fill the second 20 percent in with test scores, even without union consent. NYSUT sued over that rule, and not the law itself.

Today, the judge agreed with NYSUT that state tests should not be allowed to count for the local assessment as well. In his decision, Lynch wrote that the state law clearly notes that the student growth should include “multiple measures of effectiveness.”

In an interview, NYSUT President Richart Iannuzzi called the ruling a “victory for the value of collective bargaining.”

“There’s no question that the state education department imposed regulations that the law explicitly left to local collective bargaining and the judge in no uncertain terms said they were wrong,” Iannuzzi said.

But in a press release announcing his plan to appeal the ruling State Education Commissioner John King said the ruling means that teachers whose students didn’t advance could still get positive evaluations.

“If we’re serious about supporting excellence in teaching, we can’t have an evaluation system that permits a teacher who scores a zero on student achievement to receive a positive rating,” SED Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said.

The decision could effect the partial teacher evaluation agreement reached by New York city education and union officials last month, a Department of Education spokesman said today. Most of the 33 “transformation” schools chosen to pilot new evaluation models this year are based entirely on classroom observations, but eight will evaluate teacher using test scores.

Getting there

With new contract, first-year teachers in Detroit could soon make more than peers in Grosse Pointe and other suburbs

PHOTO: Detroit Public Schools Community District
First-year teachers in Detroit could soon earn more than their peers in neighboring districts. The gray bar in this chart shows where starting salaries were in Detroit last year. The green one shows how the contract could change that.

For years, Detroit’s main school district has paid some of the lowest starting teacher salaries in the region but Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says that’s about to change.

The teachers contract approved by the Detroit school board Tuesday night doesn’t include enough of a pay increase to bring city teachers back to where they were in 2011 when a state-appointed emergency manager ordered a 10 percent pay cut.

But data compiled by the Detroit district show that the new agreement, which will boost teacher wages by more than 7 percent, would pay enough that starting teachers could soon earn more than their peers in Dearborn, Grosse Pointe and other nearby districts.

“It doesn’t begin to address the injustice [of pay cuts and frozen wages] but this is a first step,” Vitti told the board as it met at Osborn High School Tuesday.

The new contract was approved last month by members of the Detroit Federation of Teachers union. Now that the school board has signed off, the contract will go to a state financial review board for final approval.

Vitti, who hopes the higher salaries will make it easier for the district to fill more than 400 vacant teaching positions, showed the board a series of charts and graphs that illustrated some effects of the new contract.

Among the charts he flashed on a screen was one that compared starting teacher salaries in Detroit to other districts, before and after the new contract. Another slide showed how salaries would change for teachers at every level of the pay scale. A third warned that the city’s main district could be careening toward a “cliff” if it doesn’t recruit enough young teachers to replace the district’s predominantly senior educators as they begin to retire.

See the charts — and additional details about the contract — below. The last page spells out other steps Vitti says he plans to take to address the teacher shortage.


The nominees are

One of these seven teachers will be Colorado’s 2018 Teacher of the Year

Call it the Academy Awards for Colorado teachers. And the nominations are in.

The state education department Tuesday announced seven finalists for the 2018 Colorado Teacher of the Year competition.

The seven emerged from 47 teachers who applied, the department said in a statement.

“Colorado values the dedicated teachers from around the state who inspire and motivate our children every day,” Katy Anthes, Colorado’s education commissioner said in a statement. “The Colorado Teacher of the Year award is just one of many ways we can honor our state’s educators. We look forward to hearing from the seven finalists in the search for the individual who will represent our state’s teaching profession.”

Here are the finalists:

  • Kathleen Anderson, STRIVE Prep-Kepner, Denver Public Schools
  • David Lunn, Liberty Common High School, Poudre School District
  • Renee Motter Air Academy High School, Academy School District 20
  • Wendy Murphy, Woodmen Hills Elementary School, Falcon School District 49
  • Christina Randle, Soaring Eagles Elementary School, Harrison School District 2
  • Amy Rehberg, Horizon High School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools
  • Wendi Sussman, STRIVE Prep-Federal, Denver Public Schools

The teacher of the year will be announced by Nov. 1. The winner is chosen by a committee of individuals from within the education community. The process includes a written application, letters of recommendation, site visits, endorsements from the teacher’s district and personal interviews.

The Colorado Teacher of the Year will represent the state in National Teacher of the Year competition. The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers in partnership with Voya Financial and People to People Ambassador Programs.