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‘Fairer’ evaluation system based on multiple measures, personalized support

FAQ on Teacher Evaluation and Improvement Plan

How will the new system evaluate teachers who do not teach classes that culminate with students taking standardized state tests?
For those teachers, 40 percent of the individual’s evaluation will be based on locally developed multiple measures of student achievement and the other 60 percent would be based on traditional measures such as content knowledge and instructional delivery. Both components need to be negotiated with the union.

Won’t teachers be reluctant to teach high-needs students if student test scores become one component of their evaluation?
On the contrary, the new system no longer penalizes a teacher who chooses to work with high-needs students. The student achievement component of the evaluation system would be based on a growth model — getting a student from one place to the next; it would not be based on whether all students reached a certain proficiency level. As a teacher, if you have helped your student to progress academically, no matter where they started from, your achievement would be recognized.

Does the new agreement make it easier for schools to fire teachers deemed ineffective?
Absolutely not. The new agreement safeguards the due process rights of our members and requires the school system to provide support to struggling teachers tailored to their needs. The new evaluation system will allow the rest of the state to follow the faster, fairer process for those facing incompetence charges that was part of the rubber room agreement that the union recently reached with the mayor and the DOE.

How will the new evaluation system affect the granting of tenure?
The new agreement does not change the tenure law. The linkage between this agreement and tenure determination must be decided through collective bargaining. In New York City, teacher tenure decisions have been subjective up to now. With this new agreement, the tenure process has the potential to become more thoughtful and objective.

The UFT Delegate Assembly on May 12 overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution to support an agreement between the UFT, NYSUT and the State Education Department to create a new teacher evaluation system that is based on multiple measures and provides customized professional support for those in need of help.

“We all know the current evaluation system is too subjective and too dependent on the whims of principals,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “This new system will make the evaluation process much fairer, more transparent and more objective. It will more accurately identify teachers’ strengths and weaknesses and provide struggling teachers with the opportunities and supports to improve their skills.”

The new system, which must be approved by the state Legislature, will take effect starting in the 2011-2012 school year. The union will be at the table during the next year working out the details of the agreement and determining the criteria to be used.

“At a time when other states have agreed to base 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation on student test scores, this agreement caps the use of state test scores at 25 percent so teachers can rein in test prep and give students the well-rounded education they deserve,” said Mulgrew.

nyt20100520_2a.jpgWith a show of cards, delegates vote to endorse a resolution to support the agreement reached by the UFT, NYSUT and the state to create a teacher evaluation system based on multiple measures of effectiveness.

Given the tsunami push from Washington and so-called “education reformers” across the country for accountability based primarily on test scores in determining teacher effectiveness, Mulgrew stressed the importance of the union’s move to get out in front on the issue and use its leverage to limit the emphasis on test scores and to shape an evaluation system that shifts the balance to more meaningful and objective criteria.

In its vision for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Obama administration proposes mandating that states link teacher evaluations to test scores in order to be eligible to receive federal funds.

“We can’t survive without funding and the blueprint is that you can’t get federal funds without tying teacher evaluations to tests,” Mulgrew noted at the Delegate Assembly.

The $3 billion in federal Race to the Top grants also rewards states that make that linkage.

Under the new evaluation system, teachers would be measured on a 100-point scale of which 60 points will be based on the eight categories that teachers are currently rated on — content knowledge, pedagogical practices, instructional delivery, classroom management, knowledge of student development, use of assessment techniques/data, effective collaborative relationships, and reflection of teaching practices — but now the DOE will have to negotiate with the union a rubric and a weighting for each category, removing a great deal of administrative subjectivity from the process.

The remaining 40 points will be based on multiple measures of student achievement such as test scores, classroom work, presentations and projects. Initially, half of those points would be based on student growth as measured by state standardized tests; that figure will rise to 25 points when the state adopts a value-added growth model (the UFT will be part of the group that will select the model). The mix of locally established measures of student growth must be negotiated between the UFT and the DOE.

The multifaceted evaluation would result in a composite score that would place each teacher in one of four categories — highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

The new system will shift the focus from discipline to improvement by providing teachers rated as developing or ineffective with the support of a mandated Teacher Improvement Plan customized to the teacher’s needs that is mutually agreed upon by the teacher and the principal. The plan, which must be received by the teacher no later than 10 days after he or she reports to school in September, may include identification of needed areas of improvement, a timeline for achieving improvement, the manner in which improvement will be assessed and, where appropriate, differentiated activities to support a teacher’s improvement in those areas.

“The new evaluation system, by embedding professional development, moves us forward as a profession,” said Mulgrew. “Teacher evaluation was never meant to be a gotcha system. It was supposed to allow teachers to grow and develop professionally throughout their careers.”

The DOE will be required to document that such a plan was implemented — an unprecedented requirement in an evaluation system — before initiating disciplinary action against a teacher. That disciplinary process — 60 days to complete the hearing process and 30 days for the arbitrator to make a decision — would follow the faster, more fair procedure laid out in the rubber room agreement that the union and the city negotiated in April.

Teachers who have been rated ineffective will also have the opportunity to appeal that rating.

During the discussion of the resolution on the new evaluation plan at the Delegate Assembly, Mulgrew argued that the city newspapers had misconstrued the agreement.

nyt20100520_2b.jpgUFT Grievance Director Howard Solomon tells delegates at their May 12 meeting that the current teacher evaluation system is “archaic and based solely on supervisory judgment.”

The new plan does not validate high-stakes tests, but rather reins in their influence on the classroom, Mulgrew said. By seeking to measure student growth — that a student progressed from point A to point B, regardless of the child’s starting point — the new system would recognize the progress that teachers make with English language learners and other high-needs students, he added.

A few delegates were skeptical. GED Plus delegate Margery Stamberg argued that the UFT, by agreeing to the new evaluation system, was “adopting the agenda of the privatizers,” while Bronx HS of Science Chapter Leader Peter Lamphere, challenging Mulgrew’s assertion that the new system was more objective, said that “I’ve never seen a rubric that our principals can’t challenge.”

UFT Grievance Director Howard Solomon responded that the current rating system is broken.

“The reality is that principals today rate informally,” he said. “The current system is archaic and based solely on supervisory judgment."

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