planning ahead (updated)

State releases teacher rating data that most districts won't use

As of today, school districts across New York State have in hand the first piece of data they would need to calculate some teachers’ ratings: their “growth scores” for last year.

The State Education Department today distributed scores to districts for 36,685 educators who teach reading and math in grades 4-8 or supervise those teachers. The scores — which calculate students’ growth on state math and reading tests, adjusting for the students’ past performance, the performance of similar students, and the reliability of the exams — would count for 20 percent of educators’ ratings under the state’s evaluation law.

Two consecutive “ineffective” ratings could trigger termination proceedings under the law. But the data released today suggest that the state’s current formula for measuring student growth would be unlikely to place many teachers’ jobs at risk.

Nearly 85 percent of the 36,685 educators who received a score fell into the “highly effective” or “effective” ranges. Just 6 percent of them had scores in the “ineffective” range.

Few of the scores issued today will actually be used to evaluate teachers. Most of the state’s 715 school districts, including New York City, have not yet adopted evaluation systems that comply with the state’s evaluation law, and many that have adopted new evaluations won’t use them until next year.

“The evaluation law won’t be fully implemented until the coming school year, so most districts won’t be using the scores we’re releasing today for evaluations,” State Education Commissioner John King said in a statement. “But they can use the scores to help improve instruction.”

The state temporarily removed the scores from its internal data system this afternoon after districts alerted it to inaccuracies in some of the reports, according to an email from Jeff Baker, SED’s data chief, that GothamSchools obtained. Baker said the reports would be corrected and reposted on Friday.

The state’s scores are similar in theory but not in algorithm to the city’s defunct Teacher Data Reports, were produced from 2008 to 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8. The TDRs were “value-added” scores that adjusted students’ test score growth for many more factors than the growth scores used. The state’s evaluation law mandated a growth score measure for last year and a value-added measure for the future, possibly starting this year.

The state is working with the American Institute of Research to build its model; the city’s model was designed by a research center at the University of Wisconsin.

Both strategies aim to upend the way teachers traditionally has been judged. In the past, assessments of teacher quality tended to look only at students’ test scores: A teacher whose students scored higher was deemed stronger. But that design stacked the deck against teachers whose students started the school year with greater needs and lower scores.

The idea behind value-added and growth measurements is that they look instead at how much improvements students make in a year. Teachers are rewarded not when their students score highest, but when the students’ performance gains exceed the average gains made by similar students.

Several news organizations published the city’s TDR scores in February, leading to a public reckoning about the value of rating systems that emphasize progress on test scores. It also placed some low-rated teachers in the line of sharp criticism and caused some principals to receive requests for students to be moved to higher-rated teachers’ classes.

This fall, educators and district leaders will get access to the growth scores, but they will only be able to see their own scores and scores of teachers they supervise. In December, the public will get a window into the scores, but in accordance with a law passed in June, only aggregate data will be available and parents will have to ask their principal for access. The state is supposed to shield all information that could allow people to link ratings with individual teachers.

City Department of Education officials said they were reviewing the state’s growth scores for accuracy right now and would make them available to schools in the future. “We intend to prepare materials for schools to help principals share and discuss the results with individual teachers in the fall,” said Connie Pankratz, a department spokeswoman, in a statement.

But Pankratz said the city would not share the state’s scores with parents until a new evaluation system is in place in New York City, explaining that the department is “legally prohibited” from sharing the scores until then. “This is just one of the many reasons why it is imperative that we come to an agreement on teacher evaluations,” she said.

In addition to the 20 percent that the state calculates, evaluations under the state law require another 20 percent to come from locally approved growth measures and the final 60 percent to come from subjective measures, at least half based on principal observations.

The law mandates that districts make publicly available both the subcomponent scores and the overall ratings. But if the state’s growth score is not yet part of the city’s annual evaluations, it would not necessarily fall under the transparency law.

New York City was supposed to have evaluations online last year in 33 schools that had been receiving federal funds known as School Improvement Grants. But the city and its teachers union could not reach an agreement about particulars of the evaluation system, so neither new evaluations nor the federal funds are flowing to the schools. Nine other districts across the state did reach evaluation deals for their SIG-eligible schools, and they make up the majority of schools where the growth scores for last year will influence teachers’ ratings.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set a Jan. 16, 2013, deadline for all districts to comply with the teacher evaluation law or risk forgoing increases in their state school aid.

Detroit week in review

Week in review: The state’s year-round scramble to fill teaching jobs

Miss Michigan Heather Heather Kendrick spent the day with students at the Charles H. Wright Academy of Arts and Science in Detroit

While much of the media attention has been focused this year on the severe teacher shortage in the main Detroit district, our story this week looks at how district and charter schools throughout the region are now scrambling year-round to fill vacant teaching jobs — an instability driven by liberal school choice laws, a decentralized school system and a shrinking pool of available teachers.

The teacher shortage has also made it difficult for schools to find substitutes as many are filling in on long-term assignments while schools try to fill vacancies. Two bills proposed in a state senate committee would make it easier for schools to hire retirees and reduce the requirements for certifying subs.  

Also, don’t forget to reserve your seat for Wednesday’s State of the Schools address. The event will be one of the first times in recent years when the leader of the city’s main district — Nikolai Vitti — will appear on the same stage as the leaders of the city’s two largest charter school authorizers. For those who can’t make it, we will carry it live on Chalkbeat Detroit.

Have a good week!

– Julie Topping, Editor, Chalkbeat Detroit

STATE OF THE SCHOOLS: The State of the Schools address will pair Vitti with the leaders of the schools he’s publicly vowed to put out of business, even as schools advocates say city kids could benefit if the leaders of the city’s fractured school system worked together to solve common problems.

LOOKING FOR TEACHERS: The city’s teacher shortage mirrors similar challenges across the country but the problem in Detroit is exacerbated by liberal school choice policies that have forced schools to compete with each other for students and teachers.

Hiring efforts continue at Detroit’s main school district, which is planning another job fair. Head Start centers are also looking for teachers. Three new teachers talk about the challenges, rewards and obstacles of the classroom.

WHOSE MONEY IS IT? The state Senate sent a bill to the House that would allow charters to receive a portion of property tax hikes approved by voters. Those funds have historically gone only to traditional district schools.

UNITED THEY STAND: Teachers in this southwest Detroit charter school voted to join a union, but nationally, union membership for teachers has been falling for two decades.

COLLEGE AND CAREERS: A national foundation based in Michigan granted $450,000 to a major Detroit business coalition to help more students finish college.

High school seniors across the state will be encouraged to apply to at least one college this month. The main Detroit district meanwhile showed off a technical center that prepares youngsters and adults for careers in construction, plumbing and carpentry and other fields.  

STEPS TO IMPROVEMENT: A prominent news publisher explains why he told lawmakers he believes eliminating the state board of education is the right thing to do. An advocate urged Michigan to look to other states for K-12 solutions. And one local newspaper says the governor is on the right track to improving education in Michigan.

This think tank believes businesses should be more engaged in education debates.

LISTEN TO US: The newly elected president of a state teachers union says teachers just want to be heard when policy is being made. She wrote in a Detroit newspaper that it takes passion and determination to succeed in today’s classrooms.

A PIONEER: Funeral services for a trailblazing African American educator have been scheduled for Saturday.

Also, the mother-in-law of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, died in her west Michigan home.

FARM-TO-SCHOOL:  A state program that provides extra money to school districts for locally grown produce has expanded to include more schools.

BETTER THAN AN APPLE: Nominate your favorite educator for Michigan Teacher of the Year before the 11:59 deadline tonight.

An Ann Arbor schools leader has been named the 2018 Michigan Superintendent of the Year by a state group of school administrators.

MYSTERY SMELL: The odor from a failed light bulb forced a Detroit high school to dismiss students early this week.

EXTRA CREDIT: Miss Michigan encouraged students at one Detroit school to consider the arts as they follow their dreams. The city schools foundation honored two philanthropic leaders as champions for education.

And high school students were inspired by a former college football player. 

Struggling Detroit schools

The list of promises is long: Arts, music, robotics, gifted programs and more. Will Detroit schools be able to deliver?

PHOTO: Detroit Public Television
Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti answers questions at a community meeting in Detroit.

Arts. Music. Robotics. Programs for gifted kids. New computers. New textbooks. Dual enrollment programs that let high school students take college classes. International Baccalaureate. Advanced Placement.

They’re all on the list of things that Detroit schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told a group of community members assembled in a Brightmoor neighborhood church that he would introduce or expand as soon as next school year.

Vitti didn’t get into the specifics of how the main Detroit district would find the money or partnerships needed to deliver on all of those promises, but they’re part of the plan for the future, he said.

The comments came in a question and answer session last month with students, parents and community members following Vitti’s appearance on Detroit Public Television’s American Black Journal/One Detroit Roadshow. The discussion was recorded at City Covenant Church. DPTV is one of Chalkbeat’s partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Vitti has been appearing at community events since taking over the Detroit schools last spring. He is scheduled next week to join officials from two of the city’s major charter school authorizers, Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, at a State of the Schools address on October 25.


Watch the full Q&A with Vitti below.