Teaching Profession

Syracuse Union Head Vows to Appeal Evaluation Results

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 08, 2013 1 min read
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Earlier this year, Education Week brought to you the news that results from revamped teacher-evaluation systems generally look pretty similar to the results from the old systems. But it was probably only a matter of time before a jurisdiction upended the pattern, and now we have exhibit A: the Syracuse, N.Y., district.

Syracuse last week released first-year results from its new system. While a majority of teachers, 60 percent, were rated “highly effective” or “effective,” more a third were “developing”, the second-lowest category, and 7 percent “ineffective"—and the city teachers’ union president isn’t happy about it, reports the Post-Standard.

Syracuse Teachers Association President Kevin Ahern said in a message to members that the union “will seek every legal remedy available to ensure that no member is harmed as a result of this botched implementation,” the newspaper reports. Among other things, he’s critical of the fact that the results were based in part on tests that reflect the Common Core State Standards, widely considered to be more difficult than their predecessors.

In Syracuse, two successive poor evaluations can lead to dismissal. The district released the scores at a board meeting before teachers had a chance to get their own individual performance ratings.

One of the really challenging aspects of the push for new teacher evaluation is that there is no empirical figure in the research literature about just how many teachers, on average, should be dismissed for incompetence or put on improvement plans. Tellingly, the president of the New York State Union of Teachers, of which the STA is a member, said anecdotal reports from other New York districts show the proportion of “developing” and “ineffective” teachers at less than 10 percent.

If 99 percent of teachers rated effective is too many, as most officials agree, and if 60 percent is too few, where does that leave us? Evidently where it’s leaving Syracuse: Up to its ears in ajudication by appeals panels, and possibly other legal bodies.

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