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Future of Teaching
Examining the divisive push to rate, reward, improve, and remove teachers
March 1, 2011
NY State Senate passes bill to end seniority teacher layoffs
A bill that would end the "last in, first out" layoff policy for New York City teachers passed in the State Senate today, but faces an uphill battle in the Assembly. Introduced late last week by State Senator John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, the bill rules out seniority as the sole factor in determining who gets laid off. Instead, the bill offers eight pages of an extraordinarily complicated, prioritized list of which teachers and school supervisors would be first in line to be laid off. The bill passed the Senate 33-27, with support from Republicans and two Democratic Senators — Jeff Klein and David Valesky. Following the vote, Governor Andrew Cuomo put out a statement saying he plans to introduce a bill that would "expedite and expand ongoing plans to implement a statewide, objective teacher evaluation system." Rather than replacing "last in, first out" with other measures, which Flanagan's bill does, Cuomo's bill would put New York's new teacher evaluation system in place sooner than was previously planned. The original law had it covering math and English teachers who teach grades 4-8 next year and expanding to all teachers and all subjects by 2012-13. Under Cuomo's bill, the evaluation would cover all teachers beginning next year.
February 7, 2011
Teachers carry their views on evaluations from online to Albany
PS 58 special education teacher Mark Anderson (right) talks to State Deputy Education Commissioner John King and Regents Research Fellow Amy McIntosh about teacher evaluations. Teachers often complain that politicians and bureaucrats rarely craft education policy with an eye towards their experiences inside the classroom. Hoping to help fix that problem, a new project has vaulted the conversations and insights of one group of New York teachers from online message boards onto the desks of the state's top education officials. Last October, a group of about 60 teachers began logging onto a website called the VIVA Project. On the site, they began discussing a question: What measures should considered as part of the state's new system for evaluating teachers? In January, four of those teachers delivered lessons from that conversation to State Deputy Education Commissioner John King, one of the officials charged with creating the regulations that the new evaluations will follow.
December 10, 2010
New evaluation for untenured teachers calls for greater detail
City officials are planning to unveil a new evaluation system for un-tenured teachers and have enlisted the help of a prominent educator. The Danielson Group — run by Charlotte Danielson, the creator of a widely-used taxonomy of teaching called the Framework for Teaching — is consulting with the Department of Education to create measures of good teaching tailored for the city. Sources said the new evaluation system will be used for probationary teachers — those who typically have fewer than three years experience — and will guide principals in making tenure decisions. The new evaluation system has yet to be unveiled to teachers and principals, but DOE officials have shown it to network leaders, who will be charged with training principals in its use. Meant to be in place by the time tenure decisions are made this spring, the new framework is part of Mayor Bloomberg's push to make tenure more difficult to attain. In a speech delivered on NBC in September, the mayor said that tenure should not be a "formality" for teachers and vowed that this year, principals would use a new evaluation system.
October 22, 2010
City: releasing scores will honor the good, improve the bad
City education officials are saying they want to release teachers' ratings publicly as a way of helping bad teachers improve and reward those who are excelling. In an interview with John Gambling on WOR-AM (710) this morning, Deputy Chancellor John White said the union's concerns about how parents and the public would use the data were legitimate. But, he said, those concerns should not be an obstacle to improving how teachers are evaluated. He told Gambling: And these data show that, actually, there are plenty of teachers who every year, year after year after year, are performing at the top of their game. We need to honor those teachers. This is not just about failing teachers. But there are cases where we see every year, teachers in the bottom. And you can sit there and say, "Oh there's this exception, this teacher's is not a perfect score, it doesn't reflect this," but at the end of the day when you have teachers who are performing way at the top year after year after year, way at the bottom year after year after year, you have to say: are we doing the right thing for kids? We've got to keep that teacher at the top, we've got to pay that teacher right, at the top, and that teacher at the bottom, they've got to get better or we've got to get a better teacher. It's unclear how making teachers' ratings public would improve their performance, as principals and teachers already have access to the ratings. This year, principals are supposed to use the ratings as a factor in tenure decisions and by 2012 they will be a significant part of all teachers' evaluations.
September 27, 2010
Bloomberg vows last-in first-out crackdown, new tenure policy
Mayor Bloomberg on NBC today, announcing a crackdown on seniority-based layoffs and a new tenure policy. In his first major education policy announcement for the new school year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning vowed a renewed attack on seniority laws that protect veteran teachers and a change in how teachers are awarded tenure. He made the remarks on NBC, which is dedicating this week to school reporting in a project called "Education Nation." The attack on seniority laws came as city officials made a dire budget prediction for next year, saying that they will likely have to lay off public school teachers as federal stimulus funding runs out. Under the current state law, teachers with the least seniority would be the first to lose their jobs — a policy known as "last in, first out." The mayor and Chancellor Joel Klein oppose this policy, but their effort to change the law, which the teachers union does support, went nowhere last year. Today, the mayor said he would try dismantling the policy again before the city confronts an expected $700 million budget hole and possible layoffs next year. "It's time for us to end the 'last-in, first out' layoff policy that puts children at risk here in New York — and across our wonderful country," Bloomberg said on NBC. "How could anyone argue that this is good for children? The law is nothing more than special interest politics, and we're going to get rid of it before it hurts our kids," he added. Teachers union officials immediately squashed any possibility that they might partner with the mayor.
September 22, 2010
City plans to hire "talent coaches" for some struggling schools
City officials are planning to hire "talent coaches" for principals of a handful of struggling schools that received federal grants to improve student performance. Department of Education officials said they want to hire three or four coaches to observe the city's 11 "transformation" schools as they begin to pilot a new teacher evaluation system this year. The job title "talent coach" is something of a misnomer. The coaches will hold principals and administrators' hands as they try to judge which teachers are effective, but they will not be responsible for actually judging the teachers or helping them get better."They'll be silent observers," said DOE spokesman Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld. "They'll be providing feedback to the evaluators as opposed to feedback to the teachers." The new position is meant in part to lighten principals' workload at a time when federal grant requirements are forcing them to overhaul how their schools operate.
July 29, 2010
Number of teachers rated unsatisfactory rose again last year
More teachers than ever received unsatisfactory ratings last year, suggesting that the city's push to rid the school system of more struggling teachers is working. Principals gave unsatisfactory ratings to 1,813 teachers, 17 percent more than in 2009, according to data the city released today. They also denied tenure to 234 teachers this year, 80 percent more than last year. And principals nearly doubled the number of teachers given an extra year before their final tenure decision is made. In total, 11 percent of the 6,386 teachers up for tenure this year were denied or delayed, compared to 6.6 percent last year. It's an even more dramatic jump from 2006, when tenure was denied or delayed less than 1 percent of the time. By far, the leading cause principals cited for giving a U-rating was quality of instruction and student care. Attendance problems were the second-leading cause of low ratings, followed closely by the nebulous "personal and professional qualities." Still, the vast majority of teachers were rated satisfactory and received tenure after three years in the classroom.
June 3, 2010
Most teacher performers beat the Apollo test: Not getting booed
Yesterday’s Teachers’ Night at the Apollo Theater got off to a nerve-wracking start when four of the first five acts were booed off the stage.
May 13, 2010
Union president pitches evaluation deal to his membership
The day after the state and union announced a deal to use student test scores in teacher evaluations, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew faced his members last night at a meeting of the union's ruling body. A UFT chapter leader sent us this report from the monthly delegate assembly, comprised of representatives of the teachers at each school. The account offers a glimpse of how Mulgrew is pitching the deal to teachers, many of whom are skeptical of the plan: The scene was surreal to start. The room was packed but the tone was hushed. It felt like the crowd had come to listen to Mulgrew explain himself and the recent overhaul of the evaluation system. Mulgrew disputed press accounts that test scores will make up 40 percent of a teacher's evaluation, the chapter leader said. State test results will account for 20 percent, Mulgrew explained. Another 20 percent of the evaluations will come from students' progress on local measures of student learning. The local assessments, which could be tests but don't have to be, must be negotiated locally between the city and the union. Chancellor Joel Klein has already expressed displeasure over how much of the plan is left to negotiation. Colorado and Louisiana, by contrast, are both pursuing evaluation overhauls that would base 50 percent or more of a teacher's rating on student test score progress. Here's our rundown of the evaluation deal, and the chapter leader's full account of the meeting is below the jump:
May 11, 2010
What to expect from today's teacher evaluation agreement
A new teacher evaluation system that's likely to become state law could mean that, for the first time, school districts will fire teachers if they repeatedly fail to boost their students' test scores. But to do that, the state and school districts will have to track student work in more detail than they ever have before. And state and city teachers union officials sold the idea as a way to create better professional development for teachers and principals. The agreement struck between the state education department and the teachers union today means that, in three years, all New York teachers will be evaluated according to a new 100-point scale, with 40 of those points determined by student achievement data. The agreement was ushered out just in time for the June 1 second round deadline for the Obama administration's Race to the Top grant competition. So far, the new teacher evaluation system exists only in concept. To flesh it out, school districts will have to create a new battery of customized tests or other ways to measure student learning.
September 1, 2009
UFT helping city recruit for Gates-funded teacher quality study
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein wants teachers to sign up to be guinea pigs in a national study on teacher evaluations--and the UFT is backing him up. In an email sent tonight, Klein and UFT president Michael Mulgrew asked city teachers to volunteer for a new Gates Foundation study that will test methods of evaluating teachers. The study comes at a time when policymakers are calling for changes in the way teachers are evaluated. The Obama administration is pushing states to judge teachers based on student test scores. But the city teachers' union last year lobbied the state to ban that practice, at least in teacher tenure decisions. This study, however, has the union's wholehearted support because it will begin with measures rooted in classroom practices. Mulgrew told GothamSchools he thought the project was a "fantastic endeavor" that could convince teachers to accept new forms of evaluations. "It takes the politics out of what's being measured," UFT president Michael Mulgrew said. "Teachers are very frustrated with the political debate. They are always saying, 'why don't you just come into the classroom?' That's what this is doing."
July 20, 2009
More than 500 extra teachers rated "unsatisfactory" this year
City principals rated more teachers unsatisfactory this year than they have since at least 2005, suggesting that the Bloomberg administration's efforts to escort more struggling teachers out of the system may be bearing some fruit. Principals gave the scarlet-letter rating to 1,554 teachers this year, up from 981 in the 2005-2006 school year, data provided by the city Department of Education show. Both the number and percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory rose during that period, and the rise occurred for both tenured and non-tenured teachers, city figures show. Even with the rise, the percentage of teachers rated unsatisfactory remains low. About 2% of teachers, both tenured and without tenure, received what teachers call "U" ratings this year. Ann Forte, a schools spokeswoman, sent us the figures this afternoon. The rise follows a concerted effort by school officials to make it easier for principals to terminate poorly performing teachers, including a new group of lawyers assigned to targeting struggling teachers, called the Teacher Performance Unit. Rating a teacher unsatisfactory is often the first step toward removing him from the school system.
July 17, 2009
Arne Duncan's push to change teacher laws posts Hoosier victory
Will Obama officials succeed in their mission to use the Race to the Top fund to re-write state education laws? The state of Indiana, where a recent down-to-the-wire budget session featured a teacher-evaluation mini drama, offers some clues. The drama began with pressure from the Obama administration to repeal a law banning the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Alarmed, state education officials lobbied the state legislature, and lawmakers acted, inserting a repeal of the law into the state's budget. But mere hours before the new budget passed, lawmakers at the state House removed the repeal at the request of the teachers' union. The final budget includes a roundabout compromise allowing districts to use student data to assess teachers — but only in cases where federal grant money requires it. "We had a clear message from the secretary [Arne Duncan] that we were putting our ability to compete for the Race to the Top Funds at risk," a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education, Cam Savage, said. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has communicated frequently with the federal education department about Indiana's strengths in the competition for grant funds, Savage said. Bans on using student test scores to assess teachers seem to be the next group of laws on the Department of Education's watch list. States and districts already took note after Obama administration officials used the threat of denying Race to the Top funds to push against state laws limiting the spread of charter schools. Lawmakers in at least eight states have passed or introduced legislation since the end of May to lift their charter caps.
July 10, 2009
A group of 28 sets out to make a fair teacher evaluation system
A group of 28 teachers, administrators, and policymakers have taken on a lofty summer assignment: They plan to come up with an ideal teacher evaluation system, or at least a report explaining the "essential elements" of one, and to do it by the fall. The effort is the latest in a string of reports and announcements focusing on the way teachers are evaluated, a process that has been called broken by everyone from teachers union officials to The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit created by Michelle Rhee. A report by The New Teacher Project called evaluation systems "largely meaningless," and the American Federation of Teachers union has launched an internal working group to build its own recommendations for what comprises a fair evaluation system. A novel nonprofit called Hope Street Group is behind the effort to involve educators in the debate. Created in 2003 as a volunteer-only experiment, Hope Street Group now has a full-time staff that works to build "coalitions of the reasonable" around domestic policy questions by gathering diverse groups of people to solve them together.
June 1, 2009
‘Widget Effect’ report: ‘Meaningless’ teacher evaluations need improvement
A new report is urging school districts across the country to beef up their methods of evaluating teachers, which the report describes as so slipshod as to be "largely meaningless." The report, by a nonprofit group that has clashed with teachers unions in the past, describes the poor evaluations as "just one symptom of a larger, more fundamental crisis—the inability of our schools to assess instructional performance accurately or to act on this information in meaningful ways." The report is called "The Widget Effect" because accuses districts of treating all teachers alike, regardless of how much they help students learn. It goes on: This inability not only keeps schools from dismissing consistently poor performers, but also prevents them from recognizing excellence among top-performers or supporting growth among the broad plurality of hardworking teachers who operate in the middle of the performance spectrum. Instead, school districts default to treating all teachers as essentially the same, both in terms of effectiveness and need for development. The report, conducted by The New Teacher Project, a nonprofit founded by the lightning-rod D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, calls on districts to develop more robust teacher evaluation systems that reward successful teachers and easily identify less successful teachers. The report comes amid a growing push to improve teaching quality across the country. President Obama has said that teachers who are not helping students learn should be removed from classrooms, and even the national American Federation of Teachers union is working internally to build a new method of evaluating teacher quality. The report bases its findings on surveys of thousands of teachers and administrators across four states and 12 school districts, plus a scouring of the districts' evaluation records. New York City was not one of the districts studied.
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