Education news. In context.
Are Children Learning
Future of Schools
Future of Teaching
Future of Work
In the Classroom
Movers and Shakers
Sorting the Students
The Other 60 Percent
Who Is in Charge
Find a Job
Republish Our Stories
Code of Ethics
Our News Partners
Work with Us
Future of Teaching
Examining the divisive push to rate, reward, improve, and remove teachers
March 14, 2012
Poll: Voters don't trust city's teacher ratings but do back release
New York City voters by and large do not trust the teacher ratings released late last month. But most wouldn't mind if future assessments of teachers' quality were also made public, according to a poll whose results were released this morning. The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University last week, asked 964 New Yorkers about teacher evaluations both in theory and in practice. It found that just 20 percent of voters said they trusted the city's "recently released teacher evaluations" known as Teacher Data Reports, and nearly half said the results were flawed. (The ratings, which had massive margins of error, were not actually used to evaluate teachers.) But 58 percent said they approved in theory of releasing the results of teacher evaluations to the public. The poll's findings suggest voters simply haven't made up their minds about the role that teacher evaluations should play even as battles over new evaluations have dominated the headlines in recent months. Just a third of poll respondents said they thought teachers who score low on evaluations should be fired, a use that advocates of new evaluations have championed. But 54 percent said they thought top-rated teachers should be rewarded with additional pay, something Mayor Bloomberg has suggested and the UFT has opposed. And 84 percent said they thought performance should trump seniority if the city needed to lay off teachers, a policy position that Bloomberg made his priority last spring, to no avail.
March 12, 2012
Principals ramp up evaluations protest with a lobbying effort
Signing on to a petition wasn't enough for some principals across the state who oppose the state's impending teacher evaluation requirements. The Long Island principals who launched a policy paper and signature drive against the teacher evaluation system last fall are ramping up their resistance with a lobbying effort. Bringing together colleagues from across the region, including from New York City, the principals plan to take out an ad in the Legislative Gazette, a small Albany publication, asking lawmakers to revise the framework that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed for new teacher and principal evaluations. The framework that Cuomo proposed was set with the support of the state's main teachers union, NYSUT, but it doesn't become law until legislators sign off on it when they set the new budget. That must happen by the end of this month, and until then, legislators could conceivably make revisions. The principals have broad concerns about the educational value of the evaluation requirements, but they are limiting their ask to three main changes. They want lawmakers to shield teachers' evaluations from being subject to transparency laws; revise the scoring ranges so teachers whose students do not make academic progress are not automatically rated ineffective; and institute a pilot period before the new system goes statewide.
March 6, 2012
Small funding losses point to big obstacles for new evaluations
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last month that the state's progress on teacher evaluations met his requirements to keep Race to the Top funds flowing. But city officials' handling of smaller pools of the federal funds suggests that they don't think the city is anywhere close to meeting the same standard. Last week, the Department of Education returned $7.5 million in federal funds that the state doled out for the city to design schools that make students college ready, the New York Post reported today. The city's explanation: That it has not yet adopted new teacher evaluations, a string attached to the funding. It's a situation that our reporting predicted last fall, when the state began opening up mission-specific pools of Race to the Top funds to districts. Nearly all of the funding pools came with a requirement that the districts adopt teacher evaluations that comply with the state's 2010 evaluation law. At the time, the state was requiring districts to commit to having new evaluations in place for this school year, so the city applied for funding only for 33 schools where it had reached a partial evaluations agreement with the teachers union. Now, even though the city and union have publicly announced a deal on the issue that derailed that agreement, the city is sitting out of funding streams that don't require new evaluations until next year.
March 1, 2012
City's value-added initiative early entrant to evolving landscape
New York City schools erupted in controversy last week when the school district released its “value-added” teacher scores to the public after a yearlong battle with the local teachers union. The city cautioned that the scores had large margins of error, and many education leaders around the country believe that publishing teachers’ names alongside their ratings is a bad idea. Still, a growing number of states are now using evaluation systems based on students’ standardized test-scores in decisions about teacher tenure, dismissal, and compensation. So how does the city’s formula stack up to methods used elsewhere? The Hechinger Report has spent the past 14 months reporting on teacher-effectiveness reforms around the country and has examined value-added models in several states. New York City’s formula, which was designed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has elements that make it more accurate than other models in some respects, but it also has elements that experts say might increase errors — a major concern for teachers whose job security is tied to their value-added ratings. “There’s a lot of debate about what the best model is,” said Douglas Harris, an expert on value-added modeling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved in the design of New York’s statistical formula. The city used the formula from 2007 to 2010 before discontinuing it, in part because New York State announced plans to incorporate a different formula into its teacher evaluation system.
February 21, 2012
As new evaluations firm up, more city principals oppose them
During the month that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was engineering revisions to the state's teacher evaluation law, more city principals signed onto a petition critiquing it. A pair of Long Island principals launched the petition against the state's 2010 evaluation law in November, arguing that its requirement that a portion of teachers’ ratings be based on students’ test scores is unsupported by research, prone to errors, and too expensive at a time of budget cuts. Two weeks after the petition started circulating, hundreds of principals across the state had signed on, but only a handful were from New York City. By early January, only about 100 city principals had signed on, up from 30 in early December. Now, there are more than 175 principals on board as of the version of the petition distributed Monday night. City principals still make up less than 15 percent of the 1,359 state principals who have signed on while comprising more than a third of principals statewide. But they have made up ground in recent weeks. They were less than 10 percent of signatories a month ago.
February 17, 2012
From Cuomo's office, a chart showing NY's evals are just right
A chart comparing states' evaluation systems produced by Gov. Cuomo's office. At least a dozen states that factor student test scores into teachers' evaluations count the scores more than New York's new teacher evaluation framework does. That's according to a chart compiled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office comparing New York's new teacher evaluation framework against those present in 21 other states with teacher rating systems that incorporate "student growth." The chart suggests that the state's framework — which dedicates 40 percent to two different measures of student growth, at least one based on state tests, and 60 percent to subjective measures such as observations — is in line with what other states are doing. Many of the other states also adopted new evaluation systems in order to secure funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The chart is below:
February 17, 2012
In New Haven's experience, validators don't lead to teacher firing
The city's new process for managing low-rated teachers might result in more of them leaving the system — but not because they have been fired, if New Haven's experience using a similar model is any indication. When city and union officials announced a deal on a key sticking point in teacher evaluations talks, the appeals process for teachers who get low ratings, both said they had been inspired by a system in place since 2009 in New Haven, Conn. A key component of that system is the use of third party "validators" to observe teachers considered ineffective and either corroborate or contradict the principal's assessment. In New York City, validators would work with teachers in the year after they receive a low rating according to a not-yet-finalized evaluation system. New York City officials said they expected the new process to result in more teachers being terminated. If the validator supports a principal’s assessment of a teacher, they note, the teacher would enter termination hearings under a presumption of incompetence — a major shift from the current system, in which the city must prove that the teacher is not up to par. But New Haven’s system has not produced many firings. Instead, officials there say it has encouraged teachers to leave on their own. Thirty-four New Haven teachers designated "in need of improvement" — less than half of whom had tenure — exited the system last year, but they had chosen either to retire or resign, according to the officials. “They came to an understanding once they saw that it wasn’t just one person saying that they weren’t performing, that the validator was also seeing the same thing,” said Michele Sherban-Kline, who oversees New Haven Public Schools Teacher Evaluation and Development. “Most of them came to the realization that it was better that they not fight it because all of the evidence was there.”
February 17, 2012
Reform groups are mostly mum on coming teacher rating dump
Contrasted against each other, this week's two pieces of teacher evaluation news put some education reform groups in a tough spot. As a deadline on a teacher evaluation deal neared, the groups anxiously supported Gov. Andrew Cuomo's work to add weight to test scores for assessing teachers. But in the middle of those negotiations, a court decision on the release of the city's teacher data reports reminded the public of the pitfalls of relying too heavily on data-driven metrics. Research into the reports had revealed a wide margin of error and instability from year to year. So, for the most part, groups were mum about the legal ruling, which paves the way for a data dump of two-year-old "value-added" ratings for 12,000 city teachers. The exception was Educators 4 Excellence, an upstart advocacy group that says it has support from thousands of city teachers. Although they are usually a thorn in the side of the United Federation of Teachers because of disagreement over senior-based layoffs and teacher evaluations, the two groups struck common ground on this issue. E4E co-founder and co-CEO Evan Stone sent over an email Wednesday saying he was "disappointed" with the court's decision to let the release go forward and said he thought making the ratings public would do little to boost the issue of improving teacher quality. "While we strongly support teachers receiving quality feedback about their performance, including how much they're helping their students progress on state tests, publicizing these results on the front page of newspapers will not help improve teacher effectiveness," Stone said in a statement. Stone's comments, while not as sharply worded, echo the sentiments of UFT President Michael Mulgrew. Principals union head Ernest Logan piled on criticism of the decision as well yesterday.
February 17, 2012
From Queens, strategies to halt redoubled "turnaround" plans
Councilman Ruben Wills present Richmond Hill Principal Frances DeSanctis with allocated discretionary funding. Parents at Richmond Hill High School hadn't heard that Mayor Michael Bloomberg was given a chance to reverse his bid to overhaul their school yesterday when they gathered to strategize against his plan. But it wouldn't have made a difference if they had: Bloomberg rejected the opportunity, created by a resolution in the city's teacher evaluation talks with the UFT, and vowed to proceed with plans to "turn around" 33 struggling schools, including Richmond Hill, anyway. When I told some of them the news that Bloomberg had reaffirmed his intentions to move forward with the turnaround, they said the news didn't change their agenda: to figure out how to halt the turnaround, which would cause the school to close and reopen with a new name and many new teachers. They pressed Principal Frances DeSanctis and City Councilman Ruben Wills, who both attended the parent association meeting, for suggestions about how to fight back against the city's plan. Carol Bouchard, the parent coordinator, said she left an "early engagement" meeting with Department of Education officials under the impression that the school could still go back to the restart model, which involved sharing the school management duties, and SIG funding, with and Educational Partnership Organization. She said Bloomberg's recommitment did not cause her to abandon hope. "I feel like it's still hanging," she said.
February 16, 2012
UFT wins third-party review for some 'ineffective' teacher ratings
Today's agreement on teacher evaluation appeals wasn’t a complete loss for the union – just 87 percent of one. When talks over an evaluation system broke down last year, the conflict centered on who should have the final say on teachers rated 'ineffective' under the new evaluation system. The city wanted all appeals to be decided by the chancellor, while the union wanted an independent third party to make the final call. The subsequent deal that was struck as part of today's statewide teacher evaluations on paper appears to favor the city. Eighty-seven percent of first-year ineffective rating appeals will still be heard by the chancellor. Second-year ineffective ratings will go straight to a 3020-a termination process that takes into account, but does not depend on, a third-party reviewer's assessment of a teacher's quality. The fact that the union managed to salvage a sliver of its demand – getting the city to agree to refer 13 percent of ratings to a third party – is a small win. Bloomberg and the Department of Education initially walked away from the negotiating table in late December and refused to return until the union gave in to all of their demands.
February 16, 2012
Arne Duncan: NY overcame "stumbling block" with evals deal
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the agreement between the State Education Department and NYSUT. Just hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a deal about the structure of a new teacher evaluation system, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he was no longer concerned about the state's eligibility for federal Race to the Top funds. New York won $700 million in Race to the Top funds in large part by agreeing to adopt a new teacher evaluation system. But after passing an evaluation law in the spring of 2010, implementation was slow, and relations between the state and its teachers union, NYSUT, had deteriorated over the implementation. Last month, charging that the state was "backtracking on reform commitments," Duncan warned that New York was at risk of losing its Race to the Top funds. Today, Duncan said he was no longer worried. He struck a tone of unreserved optimism this afternoon while speaking to reporters on a Midtown sidewalk as he dashed between a meeting with the New York Times editorial board and a taping of the Daily Show. "This was a major roadblock, a major stumbling block, and I think they are over that in a great way," he said. There's a whole body of work going forward that New York has to do, but this was a major issue, a major concern of ours and I think they've addressed it in an extraordinary way."
February 16, 2012
New state evaluation framework leaves much up to local districts
Teachers can expect unannounced observations to factor into their annual ratings under the terms of the evaluations agreement that Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today. The unannounced observations are one of several ways that the State Education Department and state teachers union, NYSUT, agreed to flesh out the state's 2010 evaluation law, seen as so open-ended as to stymie implementation. The agreement, which Cuomo is set to turn into law through the state budget amendment process, resolves some major points of contention while continuing to leave many elements of districts' evaluation system subject to local collective bargaining. Districts and their unions have until the end of 2012 to turn the framework into a local evaluation system, or risk losing state aid. The framework hews to the broad contours of the 2010 teacher evaluation law: 20 percent of ratings will be based on a calculation of student growth based on state test scores; 20 percent will be based on other assessments that are decided locally; and 60 percent will come from subjective measures such as observations, also decided upon locally. Teachers will still receive a score between 0 and 100 and a rating ranging from "ineffective" to "highly effective." But there are new constraints. In a major win for the state, teachers whose students show no academic growth will get an "ineffective" rating, even if the rest of their evaluation is strong. The evaluation law had not provided for such a circumstance.
February 16, 2012
Bloomberg: Evaluations progress won't stop "turnaround" plans
Today's evaluations announcement would appear to eliminate the main reason for the city's controversial plan to "turn around" 33 struggling schools. But Mayor Bloomberg said the city would move forward with the plans anyway. Bloomberg proposed turnaround, which would require the schools to close and reopen with new names and many new teachers, last month as a way to circumvent a requirement that the city negotiate an evaluation deal for teachers in those schools. Now, having resolved a sticking point in those negotiations resolved — the appeals process for teachers who receive low ratings — the city could conceivably appeal to the state to let it continue receiving federal funds to implement improvement strategies that had been underway there until the evaluations negotiations broke down in December. But Bloomberg — who did not join state and union officials announcing the evaluations deal in Albany today — said during a press conference at City Hall that he would not be backing down from the turnaround plans. "Nothing in the deal prevents us from moving forward with our plan to replace the lowest performing teachers in 33 of our most troubling schools," he said. Bloomberg said the aggressive overhaul strategy was necessary because no teachers would be removed from schools because of low scores on the new evaluations for at least a year and a half.
February 16, 2012
With state's evals deal said to be set, all eyes turn to city's talks
All eyes are on Albany today, the deadline Gov. Andrew Cuomo set last month for an agreement on new teacher evaluations. The deadline is for the state teachers union, NYSUT, to set aside its lawsuit over the evaluations and reach an agreement with the State Education Department over how new evaluations should be structured. The word on the street — and in the Capitol parking lot, which Cuomo exited early Wednesday — is that SED and NYSUT appear nearly assured of meeting that deadline. But the specifics of an agreement remain opaque. Last spring, NYSUT had sued over Cuomo's bid to increase the weight test scores play in the evaluations. Now, attention among the governor's staff has turned to the city's own evaluations impasse. Just a month ago, Cuomo gave the city a year to resolve its conflicts, which have focused on the appeals process for teachers who receive low ratings. But he seems eager to be able to announce a statewide sweep of teacher evaluation deals. Whether a sweep is in Cuomo's grasp remains unclear.
February 14, 2012
Month after turnaround news, official applications still not done
More than a month after Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would fulfill a state requirement by overhauling 33 struggling schools, the city still has not officially informed the state of its plans. The announcement, which came during Bloomberg’s State of the City address Jan. 12, was an attempt to circumvent a requirement that the city and teachers union agree on new teacher evaluations. New evaluations were a condition of the previous improvement processes the schools were undergoing with funding from federal School Improvement Grants. But turnaround, which requires schools to replace at least half of their teachers, does not call for new evaluations. The turnaround switch isn't up to the city alone. State Education Commissioner John King must sign off on the plans if they are to get the federal funds. King has said the turnaround model Bloomberg described is "approvable." But he still hasn't seen any details. That's because the city hasn't supplied them. For weeks, city officials — including Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott — had cited Feb. 10 as the deadline to complete applications detailing the turnaround plans, but the day came and went with no completed applications in sight. Department officials now say the deadline was only internal, and now the city is aiming to finish them up by the end of this week. That way, the officials said, the applications can be on the table next week when the city has its hearing about the SIG grants with state education officials.
In your inbox.
Chalkbeat New York
How I Teach
Rise & Shine Colorado
Rise & Shine Detroit
Rise & Shine Indiana
Rise & Shine Tennessee
The Starting Line