evaluation evaluation

City says teachers improved during pilot observation process

Distribution, by effectiveness rating, of 300 teachers who were part of a two-year observation pilot.

City teachers got better when they participated in a two-year teacher evaluation pilot program, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced today.

Of 300 teachers who were observed and given systematic feedback multiple times for consecutive years, the number with the lowest rating on a four-tiered evaluation system fell by half and the number with the highest rating more than doubled. Officials said the trends were evidence that when used correctly, a citywide evaluation system would help teachers improve.

The teachers were among 5,000 who participated last year in the city’s Teacher Effectiveness Pilot, in which some schools practiced using a style of teacher observations called the Danielson Framework. The model is a way of advising and assessing teachers based on multiple observations throughout the year and is seen as likely to count for a significant component of teachers’ annual ratings in the future.

Walcott announced the numbers during an address at the Schools for Tomorrow conference hosted by the New York Times. His speech centered on the city’s efforts to boost teacher quality and took a gentler tone about the purpose of teacher evaluations at a time when city and union officials are expressing optimism about reaching a deal on instituting a new evaluation system. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he will withhold some state aid from districts that have not adopted new teacher evaluations by January 2013.

“Across all categories, from the weakest to the strongest, we saw teacher improvement,” Walcott said during his address. “It’s time to bring these results to every student in every school through a citywide evaluation deal.”

For the year that the city and United Federation of Teachers have been sparring over evaluations, city officials have typically argued that a tougher system is needed both to give teachers meaningful feedback and also to usher more weak teachers out of the classroom.

But Walcott’s speech did not mention the low ratings, which the Department of Education made available later. Instead, he focused on the teachers in the pilot with “effective” or “highly effective” ratings and on the improvement of individual teachers over time.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said he was pleasantly surprised by the change in tone.

“I’m very happy that the chancellor is saying he can have an evaluation system that supports teachers,” he said. “Maybe they are taking us more seriously about how any evaluation has to be focused on how to help teachers get better.”

Chancellor Dennis Walcott at today's Schools For Tomorrow Conference.

The Danielson Framework is not part of the way teachers are currently rated. But the city has enlisted hundreds of schools to practice using it in the hopes that it will become part of whatever evaluation system the city and union ultimately negotiate. State law requires new evaluation systems to sort teachers into four categories from “highly effective” to “ineffective” and to use subjective measures such as observations for 60 percent of final scores. The other 40 percent must be based on student performance, including test scores.

In the Teacher Effectiveness Pilot’s first year, when only 20 schools and 600 teachers were included, 6 percent of teachers were rated “highly effective” and 10 percent were “ineffective,” according to data provided to GothamSchools by the department. Last year, with 108 schools and 5,000 teachers in the pilot, the number of “ineffective” teachers fell to 5 percent — and the proportion of highly effective teachers more than doubled, to 11 percent. This year year, 9,000 teachers at 215 schools are participating in the pilot.

But the 300 teachers who participated in the pilot for both years fared even better. In 2011, 7 percent of the teachers were “ineffective” and 5 percent were rated “highly effective,” according to city data. This year, after multiple rounds of feedback, just 3 percent of the teachers still had the lowest score — and the proportion with the highest rating had more than doubled, to 11 percent.

The findings have led department officials to conclude that consistent feedback really can lead to better teachers.

“I think biggest thing the data showed us is that the system is not a system of gotcha or a system to get rid of lots and lots of low performing teachers,”  said David Weiner, the deputy chancellor in charge of teacher quality, after Walcott’s speech. “It’s really a system to help teachers develop and, when implemented correctly, it really seems to actually help them get better and that really is the point of the new evaluation system.”

A year ago, when a teacher evaluation deal for some schools seemed near, emphasis on the Danielson Framework was at a fever pitch and concerns were widespread. Some school leaders said they worried about having the time to conduct observations in more depth and more frequently. And some teachers and the teachers union raised the alarm about some principals using the rubric inappropriately, a charge that the architect of the rubric herself supported.

Walcott said today that surveys of participants in the Teacher Effectiveness Pilot showed that most were satisfied with their experiences. Three quarters of the principals reported that giving feedback had boosted student achievement at their school. And three quarters of teachers said their students’ growth reflected their effectiveness, Walcott said. Weiner said the satisfaction numbers increased over the course of the pilot.

For the 300 teachers who participated in both years of the pilot, the city has also used the state’s new “growth scores” to figure out what they would have gotten on evaluations that adhere to the state’s requirements, Weiner said. He declined to share the overall ratings but said they correlated strongly with the teachers’ Danielson ratings.

Officials said they were particularly heartened to see that effectiveness ratings correlated to some of the ways that the city assesses school performance. For instance, there was a correlation between schools with high scores on their quality reviews and the number of effective teachers working in those schools. The same statistical relationship existed for schools that received positive feedback on surveys from teachers, parents and students.

There is also a significant correlation between a school’s overall progress report grade and the number of effective teachers who work there. There is no correlation to the progress component of the report card, however.

Weiner said that the city did not yet plug the state’s new “growth scores”, compiled from standardized test results, into the pilot evaluations. Those test scores are being used by other districts and nearly 85 percent of 36,000 teachers statewide who received a score rated highly effective or effective.

But teachers dropped out of higher rating categories once data analysts added in measures of learning that pilot schools used internally — such as interim assessments. For instance, the number of teachers rated effective and highly effective dipped by 15 percentage points once the assessment data was added. The rate of ineffective teachers climbed by 5 percentage points, from 10 to 15 percent.

But Weiner said it was promising that the majority of teachers stayed in the same rating category.

“So it wasn’t like we were seeing massive changes,” Weiner said, “which we consider, by the way, very good. It means the new observation process is basically aligned to what we’re seeing with metrics of student learning.”


Remarks of Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott
As delivered on September 13, 2012

Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this conversation.

As a former New York City public school student, now a grandfather of a New York City public school student, I wake up every morning blessed with the fantastic opportunity to lead the country’s largest school system and charged with shaping the destiny of 1.1 million students.

And, I taught kindergarten, so I know firsthand that teaching is the toughest job in the world.

Our teachers’ commitment has been a critical part of the progress our public schools have seen in the last 10 years: Graduation rates, test scores, college readiness – across any metric, our schools and students are improving. And we are proud of that success.

We are also far from done.

The Mayor and I believe, and the research shows, that the most important factor in a student’s success is a highly effective teacher in every classroom.

That’s why in New York City we have made teacher quality and support our priority.

First, we must recruit, reward and retain the best teachers. That’s why we’ve raised base salaries and continue to propose ways to attract the best and brightest.

Today, I would like to share – for the first time – results from our collaboration with the UFT on a teacher effectiveness pilot.

This pilot ran alongside our existing rating system, and aligns with the new state law requiring a rating system with four performance levels: highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective.

· When we started our pilot with 600 teachers in 2010, 5% of the teachers were rated highly effective, 45% were found to be effective.

· Now, 11% are highly effective and 49% effective.

· And across all categories, from the weakest to the strongest – we saw teacher improvement.

It’s time to bring these results to every student in every school through a citywide evaluation deal.

Let’s guarantee that quality in Tribeca is the same as quality in Tremont.

Teacher effectiveness will no longer be a matter of opinion.

We have established evaluation standards for high quality teaching that has proven to increase student achievement.

We are giving teachers objective assessments they can use to improve. Everyone can raise their game – from rookie teachers to 30 year veterans of the classroom.

We’ve invested over $25 million dollars, leveraging federal funds from Race to the Top, to get our teachers to the top.

We’ve learned from this pilot that standards work. Teachers can improve and they do.

Today, the pilot is in 215 schools citywide.

Giving 9,000 teachers real time, practical feedback and support so they can excel in the classroom.

Reaching 100,000 students every day.

And here’s what it looks like:

· Teachers get clear and rigorous expectations aligned with student achievement.

· Teachers are consistently observed and get meaningful and concrete feedback.

· Teachers get targeted professional development that’s just right for them.

Three out of four pilot teachers say their student’s academic growth and performance are a reflection of their effectiveness as teachers.

And our principals are on board too. Three out of four of them agree that providing feedback has improved student achievement.

When I visited Principal Danika Lacroix at Young Scholars’ Academy for Discovery and Exploration in Brooklyn, she told me that the pilot has transformed her school.

She and her dedicated teachers focus more on creating a culture of intellectual curiosity for teachers and students.

At the same school, Joyce Knight’s fourth graders were engaged in a lesson on London tied to the summer Olympics.

Just like those athletes, they were diving into exercises, vigorously challenging themselves and each other to answer increasingly complex questions about London’s history and culture.

Just as we believe in the unlimited potential of our students, we also believe in the unlimited potential of our teachers.

We’re identifying and uncovering talent within our teaching corps and creating pathways for leadership opportunities.

We’re encouraging hundreds of teachers across the city to become the next generation of school leaders.

Our rigorous principal training programs prepare standout teachers to take on the challenge to lead a New York City public school.

Some have taken their innovative ideas and energy and created exciting new schools. Kate Burch, a former teacher at Humanities Preparatory Academy is one such leader. As graduate student, her master’s thesis and her passion ultimately became Harvest Collegiate High School. She and a team of exceptional teachers developed the school’s mission, curriculum and instructional model. Harvest opened last week with a 9th grade class of about 130 students.

Groups of teachers like these will position our students to assume their roles as the next generation of leaders for our city and beyond.

The teacher effectiveness pilot has already improved education for 100,000 students.

A robust body of research tells us that this will strengthen their futures.

And, I am proud of this strong beginning, but we have 1 million more promises to keep.

Let’s work together to make high quality teaching and learning a reality for every teacher and every student.

Thank you. I look forward to hearing from the panel and audience.



fight another day

In union defeat, lawmakers end session without revamping teacher evaluation law

After a hard-fought battle by the state teachers union, New York lawmakers went home for the summer without overhauling a controversial teacher evaluation law that ties state test scores to educator ratings.

The bill pushed by the unions would have left decisions about whether to use state test scores in teacher evaluations up to local union negotiations. While the bill cleared the Assembly, it was bottled up by the Senate’s leadership, which demanded charter school concessions in return that Assembly Democrats wouldn’t agree to.

The effort to decouple test scores from teacher evaluations was one of several that fizzled out at the end of a lackluster session characterized by lawmaker gridlock.

“Sen. Flanagan, his caucus and five Democrats chose to betray the state’s teachers,”  said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta in a statement. “Make no mistake, New York teachers, parents and public school students will remember which senators voted against their public schools when we head to the polls this September and again in November.”

There is some possibility that lawmakers could return to finish a few unresolved issues this summer, but Pallotta told Chalkbeat he is not holding out hope for that outcome.

The lack of action is a defeat for the state teachers union, which fought hard for the bill since the beginning of the session. Union officials have staged musical rallies, bought balloons, rented a truck with a message urging lawmakers to pass the bill, and capped off the last day of session handing out ice cream for the cause.

However, the legislative loss gives the union something to rally around during this fall’s elections. Also, other education advocacy organizations are content to engage in a longer process to revamp evaluations.

“Inaction isn’t always the worst outcome,” said Julie Marlette, Director of Governmental Relations for the New York State School Boards Association.“Now we can continue to work with both legislative and regulatory figures to hopefully craft an update to evaluations that is thoughtful and comprehensive and includes all the stakeholders.”  

The news also means that New York’s teacher evaluation saga which has been raging for eight years will spill over into at least next year. Policymakers have been battling about state teacher evaluations since 2010, when New York adopted a system that started using state test scores to rate teachers in order to win federal “Race to the Top” money.

Teacher evaluations were altered again in 2015 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a more stringent evaluation system, saying evaluations as they existed were “baloney.” The new system was met with resistance from the teachers unions and parents across the state. Nearly one in five families boycotted state tests in response to evaluation changes and a handful of other education policies.

The state’s Board of Regents acted quickly, passing a moratorium on the use of grades three to eight math and English tests in teacher evaluations. But the original 2015 law remains on the books. It was a central plank in that law which could require as much as half of an educator’s evaluation to be based on test scores that the unions targeted during this session.

With the moratorium set to expire in 2019, the fight over teacher evaluations will likely become more pressing next year. It may also allow the state education department to play a greater role in shaping the final product. State education department officials had begun to lay out a longer roadmap for redesigning teacher evaluations that involved surveys and workgroups, but the legislative battle threatened to short-circuit their process.

Now officials at the state education department say they will restart their work and pointed out that they could extend the moratorium to provide extra time if needed.

“We will resume the work we started earlier this year to engage teachers, principals and others as we seek input in moving toward developing a new educator evaluation system,” said state education department spokeswoman Emily DeSantis.

For some education advocates, slowing down the process sounds like a good idea.

“Our reaction on the NYSUT Assembly teacher evaluation bill is that you could do worse but that you could also do better and that we should take time to try,” said Bob Lowry, deputy director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

What seems to be a setback for the union now may be a galvanizing force during elections this fall. Republican lawmakers will likely struggle to keep control of the state Senate, and NYSUT is promising to use this inaction against them. That could be particularly consequential in Long Island, which is a hotbed of the testing opt-out movement.

It’s unclear whether the failure to act will also prove problematic for Cuomo, who is also seeking re-election. Cuomo, who pushed for the 2015 law the unions despise, is facing competition from the left in gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon.

But at least so far, it seems like the union is reserving the blame for Senate Republicans and not for the governor.

Cuomo is “making it clear that he has heard the outcry,” said Pallotta. “I blame Senator Flanagan, I blame his conference and I blame 5 [Senate] Democrats.”


What you should know about the White House’s proposal to merge the education department into a new agency

PHOTO: Gabriel Scarlett/The Denver Post

The White House is proposing the federal education department merge with the labor department to form the Department of Education and the Workforce, officials announced Thursday.

It’s an eye-catching plan, given how relatively rare changes to the Cabinet are and the current prominence of Betsy DeVos, the current head of the education department who has proven deeply unpopular with educators since her confirmation hearings last year. Education Week first reported the proposed merger on Wednesday.

Here’s what we know so far about what’s going on and why it matters.

The news

The Trump administration announced a big-picture government reorganization Thursday, and the education-labor merger is one part of that.

The new department will have four main sub-agencies: K-12; higher education and workforce development; enforcement; and research, evaluation and administration.

It comes after DeVos proposed acquiring programs from the labor department that have to do with educational programs for unemployed adult workers, reintegrating ex-prisoners, and “out-of-school” youth, according to the New York Times.

The two departments already work together on some adult education and vocational training programs, according to the the Wall Street Journal. In an interview with the Associated Press, director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney said that there are currently 40 different job training programs spread over 16 agencies. This merger would be one attempt to change that.

DeVos said she supports the plan.

“This proposal will make the federal government more responsive to the full range of needs faced by American students, workers, and schools. I urge Congress to work with the Administration to make this proposal a reality,” DeVos said in a statement.

The implications for K-12 education

Today, the department distributes K-12 education money and enforces civil rights laws. It’s small for a federal agency, at 3,900 employees. On a symbolic level, a merged department would be de-emphasizing education.

The existing set of offices overseeing K-12 education would move into the new agency, according to the document, which says those offices will be “improved” but not how.

The education department’s Office of Civil Rights will become a part of the new department’s “enforcement” sub-agency.

The plan doesn’t mention any cuts to the agency or its offices, though Secretary DeVos has proposed cuts in the past.

Why this might not happen

The proposal would require congressional approval, which will likely be a difficult battle. Past attempts to eliminate the Department of Education in the 1980s and 1990s didn’t gain any traction, and both lawmakers and unions have expressed skepticism toward the new plan.

Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate labor and education committee, quickly put out a statement criticizing the plan.

“Democrats and Republicans in Congress have rejected President Trump’s proposals to drastically gut investments in education, health care, and workers — and he should expect the same result for this latest attempt to make government work worse for the people it serves,” she said