Tough new teacher evaluations serving as wakeup calls for New York schools

Oct 5, 2013 by

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – New Yorkers are getting their first look at how the state’s newly revamped teacher evaluation system works, and many will find the results to be stunning.

teacher-evaluation-feature2In Syracuse schools – the first district to go public with its evaluation results – 40 percent of teachers rated below “effective” and will have to develop personal improvement plans, reports Paul Riede of Syracuse.com.

Seven percent of that group of underperforming teachers was rated “ineffective.” If those 7 percent receive another “ineffective” rating next year, they could be subjected to an expedited dismissal process, Riede reports.


Here’s where the “stunning” part comes in: If Syracuse teachers’ evaluations were still based solely on the observations of the school principal, 97 percent of educators would have received a favorable job rating.

That would have resulted in district leaders taking few, if any, steps to improve their teaching corps.

Thankfully, those “bad old days” are gone.

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, New York teachers’ job reviews have been partly based on how well their students do on state assessments.

Riede reports that 20 percent of a New York teacher’s rating is based on how well students perform on state standardized tests, while “another 20 percent … is drawn from locally developed measures based on local or state testing.”

The bulk of the teachers’ job review – 60 percent – is still based on a principal’s observations of him or her at work in the classroom.

Teacher union leaders have grumbled that it’s unfair to use student testing data to judge a teacher’s performance while the state transitions to the new Common Core math and English learning standards. They argue that educators are being forced to make adjustments on the fly, and that students are struggling with the new expectations.

Syracuse Teachers Association President Kevin Ahern went so far as to call the testing data used to rate educators “meaningless.”

Ahern’s concern may be valid, but students’ Common Core test scores aren’t the cause of problems for most Syracuse teachers.


Riede reports that while Syracuse teachers “did not fare well on the 20 points based on state test scores,” it was the 20 percent dedicated to the district’s locally developed testing measures that really tripped them up.

In Syracuse, the 20 percent “locally developed” portion of the  evaluations are based on how well the entire school does on the state’s math and English assessments.

“In any given school, every teacher was given the same (20 percent score), whether they taught students who took the state tests or not,” Riede reports. “Even physical education, music and art teachers were rated on that measure.”

And “since most students did poorly” on those exams last spring, the scores of every teacher were negatively affected, he adds.

Roughly 80 percent of Syracuse teachers received “developing” or “ineffective” ratings on the “second” 20 percent, as a result of the all-for-one approach. In other words, it was the “socialist” portion of the Syracuse teacher evaluation that caused the most problems.

Syracuse Teachers Association leaders plan to renegotiate the teacher evaluation process, though the basic outlines of the evaluation process are determined by state law.

Whether or not Syracuse’s teacher evaluation results are typical remains to be seen. Results for other New York school districts will begin trickling out throughout the fall and into early winter, Riede reports.

Tough new teacher evaluations serving as wakeup calls for New York schools – EAGnews.org powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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