Nearly all N.Y. teachers rated ‘effective,’ yet two-thirds of students flunk reading and math tests

October 23, 2013

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Steve Gunn Steve Gunn

Steve, Editor-in-chief of EAGnews, joined in 2009. Previously, he was a newspaper journalist.
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ALBANY, N.Y. – Updated teacher evaluations systems are supposed to help school districts identify the teachers who are getting the job done and those who are missing the mark.

Gold StarBut that’s not going to happen as long as teachers unions are allowed to help devise the evaluation systems, and as long as classroom observation remains a major component of the process, which it is in the state of New York.

The state has released the results of last year’s evaluations, which were the first under a new system that was designed as a compromise between the state and teachers unions.

The results are preposterous.

A full 49.7 percent of all teachers were rated “highly effective. Another 41 percent were rated “effective.” Only 4.4 percent were rated “developing” and only one percent were rated “ineffective.”

As the New York Daily News summed it up in an editorial, “In a state where two-thirds of students flunked new reading and math tests, the super-duper ratings are proof that district superintendents and teachers unions conspired to subvert accountability in favor of a gold-star stamping system.”

There certainly seems to be ample evidence to suspect such a thing.

Only 40 percent of the compromise evaluation system is based on student test scores. The other 60 percent is based on the traditional “classroom observations” which are done by building principals who have a natural incentive to make their teachers – and therefore themselves – look good.

And even if principals really believe, based on observation, that a teacher is using the proper methods, does that really matter if the children are not learning? Teacher effectiveness is supposed to mean just that – the ability to instruct in a manner that kids respond to, not in a manner that kids should respond to, if they were the right kind of students.

Did they learn or not? That should be the sole criteria.

As the Daily News wrote, “What’s happening points to a fundamental flaw in the program enacted by Gov. Cuomo and the legislature. Rather than allow the city and districts around the state to impose evaluation standards on teachers, they required union ratification. That made it all too easy to game things.

“They must find a way to force districts to abide by real standards – ones that begin to grade teachers with an integrity at least remotely similar to those we use to assess the achievement of New York’s students.”

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