State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia began outlining a roadmap on Wednesday for how she plans to revamp teacher evaluations — and stressed that it’s going to take a long time.
The current evaluation system has been in limbo since 2015, when state policymakers put a four-year freeze on the use of student test scores in teacher ratings. Her pledge to move slowly is an attempt to avoid the battles that erupted between the state and teachers unions when test scores became a more significant part of teacher evaluations three years ago.
On Wednesday, Elia said officials are preparing a survey that will ask teachers across the state what they like in the current teacher evaluation system and what they would like to see changed. The state education department will also solicit input from focus groups that will include teacher representatives, superintendents, and school board members, Elia said during testimony before state lawmakers.
She did not provide a specific timeline for finishing the evaluation overhaul, but stressed that it will be a slow and deliberate process.
“This isn’t going to be a fast process,” Elia said. “Because if you do things too quickly, then you don’t give yourself time to listen.”
Elia’s commitment to take things slow may put her at odds with the state teachers union, whose leader appeared to push for a more aggressive timeline on Wednesday.
“Now is the time to make these changes to the New York State teacher evaluation system,” said New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta during the same legislative hearing. “Teacher evaluations should be returned to local control, with no state mandates.”
The teacher evaluation system that New York adopted in 2015 gave greater way to students’ test scores, upsetting many teachers and their union, which argues that the tests are not designed for that purpose. The state’s top education policymakers passed a moratorium on the use of grades 3-8 math and English tests in teacher evaluations until 2019. However, when the moratorium lapses, officials will have to tackle the issue again.
Elia said she hopes the next round of changes results in a rating system that teachers embrace.
“There’s no question teacher evaluation, principal evaluation was a hot spot in New York and we have to address that,” Elia said. “We need to have this be a collaboration with teachers, not having them be something that’s done to teachers.”