New York and other states continue to be saddled with the toxic gift bestowed (i.e., imposed) as part of Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top. When New York applied for Race to the Top funding, it agreed to pass a law making test scores a “significant” part of teacher evaluations. It did. The law has been a source of ongoing controversy. It is completely ineffectual–every year, 95-97% of teachers are rated either Highly Effective or Ineffective. Parents rebelled because their children were put into the awkward position of determining their teachers’ ratings, and many objected to the pressure. The result was the Opt Out Movement. Andrew Cuomo was gung-ho for evaluating teachers by test scores, assuming that it would identify the “bad teachers” who should be terminated, and he insisted that test scores should be 50%, no less, in rating teachers. When the Opt Out movement claimed 20% of all eligible students in 3-8, Cuomo appointed a commission to study the issues and asked for a four-year moratorium on use of the scores to evaluate teachers. The moratorium ends next year.

This is an excellent analysis of the mess in New York by Gary Stern, a first-rate reporter for Lohud (Lower Hudson Valley) News.

He writes:

New York state’s teacher evaluation system is a lot like Frankenstein’s monster.

It was a high-minded experiment that turned out ghastly in 2011, scaring the heck out of teachers and their bosses. The monster was repeatedly cut up and sewed back together in search of something better, but just got nastier. Many parents, fearing for the well-being of teachers, rebelled with the educational equivalent of pitchforks and torches: Opting their kids out from state tests.

As a result, a moratorium was put in place in 2015, through the 2019-20 school year, on the most controversial part of the system — the attempted use of standardized test scores to measure the impact of individual teachers on student progress.

The monster was tranquilized, and things quieted down.

Now a bill in Albany, which looks likely to pass, is being hailed by NYSUT and legislators as the answer to putting Frankenstein out of his misery. The bill (A.10475/S.08301) would eliminate the mandatory use of state test scores in teacher (and principal) evaluations, referring to math and ELA tests for grades 3-8 and high school Regents exams. School districts that choose alternative student assessments for use in evaluating teachers would have to do so through collective bargaining with unions.

But the evaluation monster would still live, perhaps in a semi-vegetative state, seemingly hooked up to wires in the basement of the state Education Department.

NYSUT, which represents 600,000 teachers and others, likes this deal. But groups representing school boards and superintendents are antsy. They don’t want teachers unions involved in choosing student assessments. And they say that the bill could lead to more testing, since students will still have to take the 3-8 tests and Regents exams.

Untangling this mess is not for the faint of heart. Even Dr. Frankenstein might look away…

The evaluation system was devised at the height of the “reform” era, when federal and state officials wanted to show that public schools were failing. Gov. Andrew Cuomo prized the evaluation system as a way to drive out crummy teachers. But the whole thing fell flat. As one principal told me, “If I don’t like a teacher, should I root for their students to do poorly on the state tests?”…

As the system is currently stitched together, about half a teacher’s evaluation is based on how students do on various assessments. Most teachers don’t have students who take state tests, so their evaluations are based on a hodgepodge of student measurements. A recent study of 656 district plans across New York, by Joseph Dragone of Capital Region BOCES, found more than 500 different combinations of student assessments in use.

To game the system, more and more districts are applying common measurements of student progress to teachers across grades or schools or even districtwide. Get this: Dragone found that 28 percent of districts use high school Regents exams, in part, to evaluate K-2 teachers.

What’s the value of all this? Primarily, to comply with state requirements for a failed system.

He concludes that no one knows how to fix this mess. It is not enough to stitch up Frankenstein one more time.

But there is an answer.

Repeal the entire system created in response to Race to the Top demands. It failed. Race to the Top failed. Why prop up or revise a failed system?

Let districts decide how to evaluate their teachers. Why does the state need to prescribe teacher evaluation? What does the Legislature know about teacher evaluation? Nothing. Districts don’t want “bad” teachers. Let Arne’s Frankenstein go to its deserved grave.