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Future of Teaching
Examining the divisive push to rate, reward, improve, and remove teachers
June 3, 2011
A teacher evaluation panel dissolves early after dissent
A panel discussion that featured officials on each side of the teacher evaluation stand-off was halted abruptly last night after a disagreement escalated. The disruption did not stem from the teachers union and Department of Education official on the panel, but from a small group of audience members protesting the event itself. “Okay, I’m going to cut it off,” said moderator Evan Stone, following a crescendo of interruptions that built up for nearly five minutes. Stone is a founder of Educators 4 Excellence, which hosted the event. “Clearly, we’ve broken a lot of norms of respectability.” The interruptions came from at least three people in an audience of more than 100, most of them teachers. They began in response to Stone's handling of the panel and then escalated into an airing of grievances that targeted Educators 4 Excellence and its teacher evaluation recommendations, released yesterday, which the protesters said did not reflect their views. “I am a teacher and I have never been asked what I thought,” yelled out Stuart Kramer Kaplan, one of the protesters. (Click here for video of the exchange.)
June 2, 2011
Teachers with E4E outline how they would like to be evaluated
In advance of an event tonight about the future of teacher evaluations, an organization of young teachers has outlined how its members would ideally be measured. The proposal from Educators 4 Excellence signals a departure for the group, which formed last year to lobby against seniority-based layoffs that would put many of its 2,500 members at risk of losing their jobs. E4E enters the teacher evaluation debate as the city and teachers union are locked in negotiations to hammer out evaluation rules. Their standoff could cost the city millions of dollars in funds for low-performing schools. E4E's proposal builds off the state's new teacher evaluation law, which requires districts to evaluate teachers using 20 percent state test scores, 20 percent local assessment results, and 60 percent subjective measures such as observations and surveys. The proposal recommends that administrators, colleagues, and "outside master observers" all assess teachers, using formal rubrics that E4E sketches out, and that results of student surveys and "support of the school community" be factored in to teacher evaluations.
May 16, 2011
As Regents near teacher eval vote, researchers express concern
If the Board of Regents approves a proposal today to double the weight of student test scores in teacher evaluations, they'll be spurning the advice of 10 leading education researchers. The researchers — who include Linda Darling-Hammond and New Yorkers Aaron Pallas and Henry Levin — sent a letter to the Regents yesterday that summarizes studies that they say point to problems with basing teacher evaluations on student scores. Those problems include teaching to the test and disincentives to help students with special needs. "We urge you to reject proposals that would place significant emphasis on this untested strategy that could have serious negative consequences for teacher[s] and for the most vulnerable students in the State’s schools," the researchers say. Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week told the Regents that he thought test scores should play a larger role in teacher evaluations. The state's year-old teacher evaluation law bases 20 percent of teachers' evaluations on student test scores and another 20 percent on local measures of student achievement. The proposal being considered today would allow districts, with the approval of their local teachers unions, to use the same measures for both parts of teachers' evaluations. The Regents meeting is being broadcast online beginning at 4:45 p.m.
May 16, 2011
Regents appoint John King the new state ed commissioner
The last appointment of a state education commissioner came in 2011, when the Regents chose John King, a former managing director at Uncommon Schools.
May 13, 2011
Cuomo: Test scores should play a bigger part in teacher evals
If Governor Andrew Cuomo angered Mayor Bloomberg by batting off his calls to end seniority-based layoffs, perhaps the governor redeemed himself in the mayor's eyes today. Cuomo sent the chancellor of New York's Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, a letter saying he believes that student test scores should count for a larger portion of teachers' annual evaluations. His comments are a critique of a set of regulations put out by the Board of Regents that they will vote on next week. The regulations are to be used by New York City and other districts as a guide to implementing the state's new teacher evaluation system. In a statement today, Tisch vowed to support Cuomo's recommendations at the meeting next week, saying that they "will lead to an even stronger teacher and principal evaluation system for New York." It's not clear if the other members of the board will agree with Tisch. A recent appointee to the board, the former city school official Kathleen Cashin, is a quiet critic of Bloomberg's. Another hurdle involves getting the teacher evaluations implemented in school districts. The new state law revising the evaluation system granted final power to local collective bargaining talks between districts and unions. That means that no evaluation system will become final without local unions' approval. United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew responded to Cuomo's letter obliquely, saying only: "We look forward to discussing the Governor's recommendations with the Regents." Bloomberg's reaction was more effusive: “The thoughtful recommendations made today by Governor Cuomo will greatly improve the rigor of these new evaluations, and I am heartened that the Regents agreed to adopt them. But it will take the sustained commitment of all invested parties – and perhaps most importantly, the cooperation of the teachers union – if we are to make this evaluation system a reality.” Here's Cuomo's complete letter:
May 13, 2011
In three years, Bloomberg changes tune on teacher salaries
A subway ad that appeared in 2009. (Photo courtesy of gguillaumee/Flickr) Lamenting his ability to trim the city’s budget, Mayor Bloomberg this week assailed…
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:
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