Archives for category: Teacher Evaluation

At the annual meeting of Pennsylvania AFT, the leaders of the union called on the legislature to eliminate the test-based teacher evaluation system. Because of the inducements offered by Race to the Top, almost every state spent many millions to design a new teacher evaluation process, based on Arne Duncan’s insistence that such a system would weed out “bad” teachers. Behind that assumption is the wacky belief that bad teachers cause low test scores.

Last year, the first year of the new system, 98.2% of teachers were rated satisfactory or higher.

This year, 97% of Pittsburgh’s teachers were rated proficient or distinguished. The statewide figures for this year are not yet available.

“AFT Pennsylvania president Ted Kirsch said, “The law was based on a false narrative that low-performing schools exist primarily because of ineffective teachers, which is not the case. There are many factors involved in student success that are not given the proper weight under Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system. The result is a system that gives high marks to educators working in well-funded schools with few disadvantaged students and penalizes teachers who take the tough assignments in under-funded schools with large concentrations of students from low-income families or with special needs or English language learners.”

“The release stated the delegates want a system that is “transparent and understandable by teachers and the community“ and is “primarily a professional growth system that supports teachers in their development and differentiates evaluation for new and experienced teachers to ensure that new teachers who are in need of support are not driven away.”

This story is behind a paywall, although some readers found a way around the paywall. It was written by staff writer Fred LeBrun. It accurately describes the revulsion that parents and educators feel toward Governor Cuomo’s mean-spirited plan to tie everyone to a stake made of standardized test scores. LeBrun also points out that the State Assembly, which appoints new Regents, might well flip the majority next spring by appointing two new Regents to join the board. Chancellor Merryl Tisch has been a steadfast ally of Governor Cuomo and his plan (which is based on a letter she wrote one of his aides last December, outlining the changes she supported, without consulting the other members of the board of Regents.) If the opt out movement continues to grow–and there is every reason to believe that it will–the Assembly may not re-appoint Tisch to the board, where she has been a member since 1996.



In the linked article, LeBrun writes that it could have been much worse. Cuomo’s “education tax credits” to cut the taxes of billionaires while creating back-door vouchers did not pass.



What the Legislature and governor did agree to during the Legislative session’s final days was to direct the State Education Department to assure that the deeply controversial standardized growth tests and individual questions in Cuomo’s plan are at least age and grade appropriate and more useful as teaching tools. Also, that teachers are no longer gagged from discussing the test questions once they’re made public, and that a teacher’s student growth score, critical to whether that teacher stays employed according to the Cuomo plan, must also consider a number of student characteristics such as special needs, English as a second language, and most importantly, poverty.


Common sense tweaks, but far too few to make much of a difference. The core remains rotten. The Cuomo plan needs to be scrapped for something that actually works and that’s fair to all.


That is not so farfetched as it might seem.


As the Cuomo plan reveals itself as unworkable, unuseful and publicly about as popular as a dead whale in the living room, increasingly the Legislature and governor are shunting off the overly complicated implementation — and blame — on the state Education Department and the state Board of Regents, the body that by law is supposed to set and govern state public education policy. Unequivocally, Regent Roger Tilles of Long Island last week told reporter Susan Arbetter that the Legislature and the governor have all along been stepping on the Regents’ toes over formulating teacher evaluations, and not a single one of the 17 Regents is in favor of the present student and plan so favored by the governor.


After recent personnel changes, the Regents are very quickly becoming radicalized over the evaluation plan, and the so-called ”reform” agenda that embraces it.


The balance of those stridently opposed to the governor’s plan is at present a strong minority, and by March, when the terms of Chancellor Tisch and another Regent are up, that could well become a majority.


Already the Board of Regents is beginning to show new energy. Last week, while reluctantly accepting the education department’s draft teacher evaluation regulations as mandated by the Cuomo plan, the Regents found wiggle room that clearly signals they want to turn this garbage scow around.


The Regents voted for granting four-month hardship waivers without aid penalties to school districts that feel they will not be ready with a teacher evaluation plan by the required Nov. 15 of this year. That takes it to March of next year, which realistically means not before the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. They also decided that yet-to-be created and approved alternative local tests will be acceptable instead of the state standardized tests to meet the Cuomo student growth requirement, and they voted to create their own study group to evaluate and assess the entirety of the current evaluation plan with an eye to changes.


What that study group comes up with will make a dandy justification for an Assembly package of bills to give us a reasonable evaluation plan.


Meanwhile, other major factors speak to dramatic change. Next week, MaryEllen Elias becomes our new state education commissioner. She fills the vacancy left by the largely useless John King. He and Tisch were the main architects and promoters of Cuomo’s draconian version of a Common Core based plan. Elias is a veteran educator who is certainly familiar with the issues facing New York. Let’s see what she can do….



Cuomo can thumb his nose at the Legislature and the education establishment with seemingly little consequence.


It’s another matter when he tries to jam his malarkey down the throats of livid parents and their anxious youngsters, also known as the electorate. Last year, 60,000 Opted Out. This year 200,000. On Long Island alone, 40 percent of the students who could take those tests didn’t. Opt Out is a political force with quickly developing muscle, reflecting deep public dissatisfaction.


No single issue has contributed more to the rapid and still sinking decline of Cuomo’s popularity than his boneheaded war with students, teachers and public schools generally, and there’s no end in sight. Legislature take note.

Joanne Yatvin has been a teacher, principal, superintendent, and literacy expert. In this post, she gives her views on teacher evaluation.


She writes:


“New York Times columnist Joe Nocera recently wrote about a new teacher evaluation system proposed by the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The system had two central pieces: trained classroom observers who would visit often and give helpful feedback to teachers and student achievement measured by a student’s yearly growth rather than grade level expectations. Unfortunately, the Michigan legislature rejected the proposal, but Nocera hopes that something like it may be picked up by other states or school districts.


“I agree that the proposed system would be an improvement over the systems now used in most states. But it also looks complicated, time consuming and expensive. I believe there is a simpler, more meaningful way to determine teacher effectiveness that could be used everywhere: Ask the students. After all they’ve been with their teachers every day for a whole year and directly felt the effects of their teaching.


“Here’s how this system would work. At the end of the school year, outside their classrooms, students would be given a printed form for rating their teachers. Young children would have questions with three or four answers to choose from. Older students would be expected to write in their own answers. The completed forms would go to principal, who would supplement them with her own classroom observations in order to produce a teacher rating. Later, teachers could read what their students said about them, but with no names attached.


“Below I suggest some questions that I think should be asked, though with different wording for different age levels.


What were the best things you learned at school this year?


How easy was it to understand your teacher’s explanations and questions?


How often did your teacher give you personal attention?


How often did you feel bored or frustrated in class?


Was the amount and type of homework reasonable?


Was the discipline reasonable?


Do you feel prepared for the next grade?


“I think there should probably be a few more questions for older students, but not so many that they stop caring about their responses.”

Surprise: Most of the teachers in Ohio are effective or highly effective.


However, there are more ineffective teachers in districts with high levels of poverty.


Chicken-and-egg? Correlation?


Lesson: if you want to be a highly-rated teacher, avoid high-poverty schools and districts.


Second lesson: This is a ridiculous way to evaluate teachers, and the results were predictable and flawed. Also meaningless.


How many millions were spent to learn this?



At a heated meeting yesterday, the Néw York Board of Regents voted to approve changes to the teacher evaluation rules. The source of the contention was a harsh plan created by Governor Cuomo and jammed hastily into the state budget bill. Cuomo wants 50% of teachers’ evaluation to be based on state tests. It is payback for the failure of teachers to support his re-election last fall.

Recently a group of seven dissident Regents issued their own statement, proposing a year-long delay in implementation and increased focus on performance assessments.

At the meeting yesterday, the dissidents won some compromises–the main one being a four-month delay , which effectively pushes implementation off for a year.

But the seven dissidents who heroically defended students, teachers, and education, dropped to six as Regent Josephine Finn, a noneducator, joined the majority.

As I understand the details better, I will post them. From what I hear, the six dissident Regents are trying to craft a wise policy that will improve education, and they won significant compromises in the formula.

The majority clings to the vain hope that more testing equals better education. Call them the NCLB majority. Time is running out for their failed ideas.

Some 200,000 students–nearly 400,000 parents–refused the tests this past spring. Expect that number to grow as the Regents majority ignores the popular rejection of their failed policies.

Carol Burris writes of the terrible consequences that will follow implementation of Governor Cuomo’s teacher evaluation plan.

She urges support for the plan created by seven (of 17) dissident members of the Néw York Board of Regents. Almost all are experienced educators who have carefully reviewed research. Cuomo is not an educator and obviously paid no attention to research.

Two more Regents and the dissidents are a majority.

Lester Young of Brooklyn? Roger Tilles of Long Island?

Superintendent Roy Montesano wrote a powerful letter describing the dangers of Governor Cuomo’s education plan.

He warned that the plan would create a permanent culture of high-stakes over testing; good teachers will be fired, and the judgments of their principals will be disregarded; local control will be eroded (he adds that no one could possibly believe that more control by Albany will improve the performance of the schools of Hastings-on-Hudson); the loss of local control will drag down high-performing districts like his own.

He invites everyone who agrees to sign the petition calling for the repeal of the Cuomo law. The link is included in his letter.

Download the full letter here.

Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t understand why students should opt out of state testing, because the tests won’t count against students. Instead, they will be used to rank and evaluate teachers. So, he wonders, why should students opt out?


But the governor is not recognizing the consequences of his statement. As one blogger asked, why should students take the tests if they are meaningless?


That is a good reason to opt out. Why should students waste their time on tests that are meaningless?


But more important, if the students are not motivated to do their best, if they know the tests don’t count, why should teachers be evaluated by their students’ lack of effort? Taking a test is not like stepping on a scale. The scores vary depending on many factors, not least of which is motivation. If students go into the tests knowing they don’t matter, why should they try?


How will Governor Cuomo feel if his plan fails most teachers? Maybe happy. But will he be responsible for harming the state’s entire public education system? He should be.

The editorial board of the “Journal-News” in the Lower Hudson Valley calls out the absurdity of Goveror Cuomo’s teacher evaluation plan. The deadline for a new plan is June 30, which is impossible.

They understand why parents are angry at the testing system and the governor:

“Declining morale in neighborhood schools is one big reason that many parents boycotted the state tests. How can Cuomo not see the connection?

“Now our leaders are racing to fix the system, but are likely to make it worse. Cuomo and legislative leaders, as part of their budget agreement, gave the state Board of Regents until June 30 to re-create the evaluation system, setting strict rules that tie the Regents’ hands.
Stop it. It’s time for the Board of Regents to take a stand – and stand up to Cuomo. The board should declare that it can’t slap together a viable evaluation system. New York should keep its current system in place and use at least the rest of 2015 to design a system that would promote classroom instruction and hold teachers accoutable.

“Judith Johnson, the Lower Hudson Valley’s new representative on the Board of Regents, has the right idea. “What the governor has put in place makes no sense,” she said. “If you want a scholarly system, you can’t throw it together in 30 to 60 days. If we ignore the science behind teacher evaluations, it’s just a political decision.”

Does the Board of Regents have the backbone to tell the governor and the legislature that they are wrong? Will they stick to science and turn their backs on Cuomo’s vindictive agenda?

Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the Néw York Board of Regents, has delayed implementation of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s draconian and misguided plan to evaluate teachers by test scores.

When Néw York sought Race to the Top money, it promised that test scores would count for 20%. Under pressure from Governor Cuomo, the proportion rose to 40%. Cuomo was angry when almost every teacher was rated effective or highly effective. He wanted to fire teachers. Tisch wrote a letter to Chomo agreeing with his demand to raise the testing proportion to 50%.

The legislature caved during budget negotiations and passed a “matrix” that implies 50% but left the final determination to the Regents. Tisch decided more time was necessary and extended the deadline.

The sad part of this drama is that no one ever refers to research. Numerous studies and reports have refuted the validity of test scores for measuring teacher quality. Start with the American Statistical Association’s statement on VAM. There are too many variables that the teacher does not control that influence test scores.

The current dispute seems to be about whether to misjudge teacher quality sooner or later.


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