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Q&A on the Issues

Teachers and the observation process

New York Teacher

The UFT seized the opportunity presented by the 2018 contract negotiations with the city Department of Education to revise the teacher evaluation system to focus on quality of observations rather than quantity and to incorporate meaningful professional development as part of the process. Here’s what you can expect for the 2019–20 school year.

How many times will I be observed this school year?

The required minimum number of evaluations will be fewer for the vast majority of teachers.

If you are a tenured teacher, the number of observations your principal or other evaluator will conduct depends on your overall rating from previous school years.

Highly Effective for the prior year: minimum of two informal observations.

Effective in the prior year and Highly Effective, Effective or Satisfactory in the year before that: minimum of two informal observations.

Effective in the prior year and Developing, Ineffective or Unsatisfactory in the year before that: minimum of three informal observations.

Effective in the prior year and no rating in the year before that: minimum of one informal and one formal observation.

Developing in the prior year: minimum of one formal and three informal observations.

Ineffective in the prior year: minimum of one formal and four informal observations.

No rating in the prior year: minimum of one formal and three informal observations.

If you are a probationary teacher, you will receive a minimum of one formal and three informal observations. If you are a probationary teacher who was rated Ineffective in the previous school year, you’ll receive a minimum of one formal and four informal observations.

As in previous years, there is no maximum number of observations.

When will my observations be conducted?

In a change from previous years, the 2019–20 school year will have two “observation windows.” The fall window begins with the initial planning conference, which must take place no later than the last Friday in October, and ends on the last day of the fall term. The spring window begins on the first day of the spring term and ends on the first Friday in June. Half of the required minimum number of observations must take place during the fall window; the other half must be done in the spring. You should not be observed during the spring window until you receive the final required evaluator form for all required observations during the fall window.

What kind of professional development and training about the evaluation system will I receive?

The UFT and the DOE have collaborated to develop new joint training sessions regarding the evaluation system. All employees — teachers, administrators and other evaluators — will receive the same training so everyone is on the same page regarding evaluation. This training will take place at your school during the workday no later than the last Friday in October.

In addition, the joint DOE-UFT professional learning team is working to provide guidance on the use of evaluation tools for specific teaching settings such as special education, English as a new language and physical education classrooms.

What is the difference between a formal and an informal observation?

A formal observation lasts a full period, is scheduled ahead of time by mutual agreement between you and your evaluator and must involve individual pre- and post-observation conferences with your evaluator. An informal observation lasts a minimum of 15 minutes, may be unannounced and does not require pre- and post-observation conferences, although your evaluator may conduct them.

What aspects of my teaching will be evaluated during an observation?

As in previous years, evaluators will base their ratings on eight components of the Danielson Rubric:

1a: Demonstrating knowledge of content and pedagogy;

1e: Designing coherent instruction;

2a: Creating an environment of respect and rapport;

2d: Managing student behavior;

3b: Using questioning and discussion techniques;

3c: Engaging students in learning;

3d: Using assessment in instruction;

4e: Growing and developing professionally.

When and how will I receive feedback on my observations?

The UFT believes timely feedback is critical for professional growth. Your principal or other evaluator must provide feedback within 10 school days after your observation. Feedback can be provided through an in-person conversation, in writing, via email or through any other form of communication. At your Initial Planning Conference, you may indicate a preference regarding the feedback format.

In this feedback, your evaluator must tell you whether the observation will be used for evaluative purposes. Your evaluator must provide you with an evaluator form no later than 30 school days after your observation.

From the time an observation is conducted until the time you receive the evaluator form for it, your evaluator may conduct only one additional evaluative observation (formal or informal).

When should I expect to meet with my evaluator?

Your evaluator must conduct an Initial Planning Conference with you no later than the last Friday in October. This in-person conversation between you and your evaluator should take place at a mutually agreed upon time. This conference is an opportunity for you to discuss previous evaluations, current classes and plans for the upcoming school year.

Your evaluator must also conduct a summative conference with you between the last Friday in April and the last Friday in June. This in-person conversation gives you a chance to talk about the year’s observations and to answer any questions your evaluator has.