Recently, the results of two new studies prompted me to delve deeper into the complex world of how effectively our teachers are being evaluated in New York. Collectively, the studies show that despite states’ efforts to make evaluations tougher, principals continue to rate nearly all teachers as “effective,” and when principals are asked their opinions of teachers in confidence, with no stakes attached, they are much more likely to give harsh ratings.
This concerns me because, ever since Governor Andrew Cuomo adopted a moratorium on test-based teacher evaluations through the 2019-20 school year, teacher ratings are primarily based on principals’ evaluations.
The New York teachers union, an arm of the American Federation of Teachers, strongly opposed Cuomo’s initial proposal to increase the weight of standardized test scores to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, stating that assuming a direct correlation among test scores, the effort of teachers, and success of children ignores all of the other factors that go into learning. Fifty percent may place too much weight on test scores that are aligned with course content, but isn’t zero percent — the result of Cuomo’s moratorium — too little?
Our educators still get annual “growth” scores from Albany based on results of state tests given during the moratorium, but the scores will not be used to decide which teachers and principals will be assigned improvement plans or fired. This means that roughly 60 percent of teachers’ evaluations are based on observations and 40 percent on local tests, depending on what is negotiated with local unions. Student learning objectives — locally-negotiated plans that outline how much students should learn over an academic year and how to measure growth — also factor into the equation.