May 20, 2010

NYSUT supports new teacher evaluation system

Source: New York Teacher
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NYSUT supports new teacher evaluation system

New York Teacher - May 20, 2010

NYSUT and the State Education Department have agreed on a legislative proposal that would change the way teachers are evaluated, laying the groundwork for a meaningful, transparent and more objective process designed to foster professional growth.

The agreement was announced at a May 11 news conference by State Education Department leaders, NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.

"We believe this new process is a major step in the right direction, and will be good for students and fair to teachers," said Iannuzzi, noting that the Regents proposal now must go to the Legislature for approval.

"Most importantly, it can help advance effective teaching by requiring evaluations to focus on professional growth for all teachers, and require support and professional development for those who need to improve," Iannuzzi said.

The agreement underscores why it is essential for teachers to define excellence in their profession, he said. NYSUT's position has always been that student test scores can play a role in teacher evaluations - but they should never be the sole factor. It clearly establishes that test scores are not the sole determinant of teacher effectiveness, Iannuzzi said.

Mulgrew, who leads NYSUT's largest local, in New York City, said: "The current teacher evaluation system doesn't work for teachers - it's too subjective, lacks specific criteria, and is too dependent on the whims and prejudices of principals."

The proposal would establish a comprehensive evaluation system for teachers and principals based on multiple measures, starting with the 2011-12 school year. Teachers and principals would receive one of four ratings: "highly effective," "effective," "developing" or "ineffective."

 Student standardized test scores would be limited to 20 percent of the teacher evaluation. Other local measures of student growth that are "rigorous and comparable across classrooms" would count for an additional 20 percent of the rating.

The remaining 60 percent of the evaluation would include other measures to be collectively bargained, such as classroom observations by trained evaluators and the conditions for teaching.

The total percentage of an evaluation that can be based on multiple measures of student achievement is capped at 40 percent. If, in the future, the Regents develop and approve a value-added model of student assessments, those tests could then comprise 25 percent of a teacher's evaluation, with other local measures of student progress accounting for 15 percent - still for a total of 40 percent maximum derived from multiple measures of student progress.

In subjects where no state test is given, such as art and music, locally developed assessments of student progress would be used.

The new evaluations would play a significant role in employment decisions, including professional development, tenure determinations, selection for leadership opportunities, supplemental compensation based on a career ladder, and termination - all subject to collective bargaining.

Under the proposed system, those rated "developing" or "ineffective" would receive additional support through a customized Teacher Improvement Plan (TIP).

Before a teacher could be charged with incompetence, employers would be required to document that they had provided TIPs and the necessary supports and professional development.

Teachers and principals who receive two consecutive "ineffective" ratings could be charged with incompetence and considered for termination through an expedited hearing.

(Currently, teachers can be charged with pedagogical incompetence based upon a single Annual Professional Performance Review.)

 An expedited hearing process would have to be completed within 60 days, compared with the current state average of 274 days.

NYSUT attorneys noted that this new process maintains teacher due process rights and the essential role of collective bargaining in shaping teacher evaluations at the local level.

In the 2011-12 year, evaluations would be conducted for teachers in grades 4-8; in following years, evaluations would apply for all teachers.

NYSUT will continue to amplify the practitioner's voice on a new state advisory committee that will help shape the specifics of this plan.

NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira noted that a teacher evaluation process, no matter how well done, does not in itself increase student achievement and is only part of what's needed to advance student learning.

"In concert with parents and community members, we must continue to advocate for small class sizes, fair funding, quality professional development and the support services our students need," she said.

This change in evaluations, if legislatively adopted, will strengthen the state's application for up to $700 million in Round 2 of federal Race to the Top funds. The application is due June 1.