Teaching Profession

NYC Teacher Evaluations to Emphasize Classwork Over Standardized Tests

By Brenda Iasevoli — December 22, 2016 2 min read

New York City teachers may soon be judged more on the work their students do in class than on their students’ scores on standardized tests, a proposed teacher-evaluation plan unveiled on Wednesday by the city’s department of education reveals.

“The best evaluation tool is the work that students do day to day in the classroom,” New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña said at a press conference.

The proposal would replace student test scores as a measure of a teacher’s effectiveness with student portfolios, hands-on projects, and city-created tests. This part of the evaluation would also carry less weight. Teachers’ effectiveness will be rated based on a matrix including four categories: Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective. (See below.) According to the matrix, teachers who are rated Effective in Measures of Student Learning and Developing in Measures of Teacher Practice will be rated Effective overall.

New York City’s education department devised the new evaluation system in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers, which represents 200,000 public school teachers. Echoing Fariña’s statement, UFT president Michael Mulgrew stressed the importance of highlighting classwork over tests. “We want to send a clear signal to everyone that that is what we are valuing in education,” he said. He went on to say that teachers have told him that they want to be valued and judged by their impact in the classroom over the course of a school year and not on what happens on one test.

Critics view the teacher evaluation plan as watered-down accountability. It has been pointed out that nearly all city teachers receive passing grades on evaluations, even though that passing rate is not reflected in student test scores. Last year, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, dissatisfied with the high teacher pass rate on evaluations, attempted to make standardized test scores account for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, but that move met with many protests, and parents opted their kids out of the tests.

Jenny Sedlis, the executive director of the education-advocacy group StudentsFirstNY, called for “raising teacher standards, not lowering them.” She accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of using the revamped evaluation to court UFT’s endorsement for his reelection bid. “Mayor de Blasio’s scheme to rate every teacher effective may seal the union’s endorsement but it won’t help the kids who need better schools now,” Sedlis says in a statement. “Mayor de Blasio should be fighting for kids, not the special interests who write him big checks.”

The teacher-evaluation plan can take effect this school year if the state education department gives the proposal its stamp of approval. The state has until January 3 to make a decision.

Chart Courtesy of United Federation of Teachers

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.