Ratings Rise

97 percent of New York City teachers earn high marks on latest evaluations, union president says

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
UFT President Michael Mulgrew (standing) met with teachers during a school visit in 2014.

Nearly 97 percent of New York City teachers were rated “effective” or “highly effective” last school year, compared to 93 percent the previous year, the city teachers union president said at a recent meeting.

About 26 percent of teachers earned “highly effective” ratings during the 2016-17 school year, a 4 percentage point bump from the previous year, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told union members, according to people who attended the meeting. Just over 71 percent of teachers received “effective” ratings — the same share as the previous year, Mulgrew said.

Just 3 percent of teachers received the lowest ratings — “developing” or “ineffective” — down from 7 percent in 2015-16, Mulgrew said at the Sept. 27 meeting.

The figures he presented were shared with Chalkbeat by a meeting attendee. The blog NYC Educator first reported the numbers, which the city education department and the teachers union would not confirm.

Any city evaluation figures are still preliminary. The city education department has not yet sent the state those numbers, which are due Oct. 27, officials said.

If the city’s preliminary numbers do not change, they show that more New York City teachers are earning positive ratings under the current evaluation system — which may be partly related to changes in how the city rates teachers.

In an effort to hold educators to a higher standard, Governor Andrew Cuomo led the charge two years ago to create a tougher evaluation system that relied heavily on test scores. But the measure sparked outrage across the state, causing policymakers to temporarily remove grade 3-8 math and English test scores from evaluations.

In the first year of the test-score moratorium, the percentage of New York City teachers rated “highly effective” roughly doubled. (Still, even after that spike, a much larger share of teachers statewide earns that rating.)

New York City and the teachers union struck a deal last December that would allow teacher ratings to incorporate more “authentic” measures of student learning, including tests in additional subjects and compilations of student work. The new measures have not yet been factored into evaluations, city officials said.

State policymakers currently are reassessing the evaluation system. The most recent ratings — which show that virtually all teachers receive positive ratings when evaluations do not include state test scores — may help frame the discussion, which will likely focus in part on how much weight to give test scores in the evaluations.

In the past, the evaluations were derided as meaningless since nearly all teachers were labeled “satisfactory.” Test scores were introduced in part to limit the number of teachers earning top ratings.

Patrick Wall contributed reporting.

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.

Another error

Missing student data means 900 Tennessee teachers could see their growth scores change


Tennessee’s testing problems continue. This time the issue is missing students.

Students’ test scores are used to evaluate teachers, and the failure of a data processing vendor to include scores for thousands of students may have skewed results for some teachers, officials said.

The scores, known as TVAAS, are based on how students improved under a teacher’s watch. The scores affect a teacher’s overall evaluation and in some districts, like Shelby County Schools, determine if a teacher gets a raise.

The error affects 1,700 teachers statewide, or about 9 percent of the 19,000 Tennessee teachers who receive scores. About 900 of those teachers had five or more students missing from their score, which could change their result.

The latest glitch follows a series of mishaps, including test scanning errors, which also affect teacher evaluations. A delay earlier this summer from the Tennessee Department of Education’s testing vendor, Questar, set off a chain of events that resulted in the missing student scores.

To calculate a teacher’s growth score, students and their test scores are assigned to a teacher. About 3 percent of the 1.5 million student-teacher assignments statewide had to be manually submitted in Excel files after Questar experienced software issues and fell behind on releasing raw scores to districts.

RANDA Solutions, a data processing vendor for the state, failed to input all of those Excel files, leading to the teachers’ scores being calculated without their full roster of students, said Sara Gast, a state spokeswoman. The error will not affect school or district TVAAS scores. (District-level TVAAS scores were released in September.)

Gast did not immediately confirm when the state will finalize those teachers’ scores with corrected student rosters. The state sent letters to districts last week informing them of the error and at least one Memphis teacher was told she had more than 80 of her 120 students missing from her score.

In the past, the process for matching students to the right teachers began at the end of the year, “which does not leave much room for adjustments in the case of unexpected delays,” Gast said in an email. The state had already planned to open the process earlier this year. Teachers can begin to verify their rosters next week, she said.