Teacher Evaluations: Join the ConversationPosted by Nick Gray on May 10, 2012
On Saturday, May 12, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Bank Street College Graduate School of Education hosted a forum titled “Misconceptions and Realities About New York State Teacher and Leader Evaluation: Where Do We Go From Here?”
The event was designed to help parents, educators, and leaders to better understand New York State’s teacher and leader evaluation law, and to constructively advocate for reasonable solutions that truly put students’ learning first.
In March of this year, New York State passed a new teacher and leader evaluation law that will use students’ standardized test scores as part of the professional evaluation process for teachers and school principals.
Andrew Cuomo has endorsed the law as “a new national model for teacher evaluations that will put our students first and put New York State at the front of the class when it comes to school accountability.”
While most agree with the Governor’s emphasis on improving education for the benefit of the state and the welfare of children, many researchers and educators are concerned about the consequences of relying primarily on test scores to measure student achievement and teacher performance.
Talk to Experts, Get the Whole Story
There is no simple solution to the complex issue of teacher and leader assessment. Bank Street’s goal in hosting Saturday’s discussion was to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the conversation, including parents, teacher educators, special and general educators, and school and community leaders.
The event’s panelists came from a variety of backgrounds in the education arena. Together, they explored ways that New York State and New York City might reexamine the desired outcomes of teacher evaluation laws.
Dr. Terry Orr, who moderated the panel, directs Bank Street’s Future School Leaders Academy in Westchester. Dr. Orr has been actively involved in providing feedback on developing approaches to leader evaluations to the New York State Education Department.
Parent activist Leonie Haimson, of the advocacy organization Class Size Matters, provided guidance for parents and others who are concerned about the negative consequences of this evaluation model.
Elizabeth Phillips, principal at P.S. 321 in Brooklyn, described the early consequences for teachers and students of NYC’s version of teacher/ leader evaluation, particularly in releasing teacher scores. She talked about what she and other principals are doing to inform the city and state about the new policy, and provided recommendations of what principals and teachers can do in the meantime to effectively work within the state’s requirements.
Maggie Moroff, an attorney with Advocates for Children, presented the potential impact of the new evaluation model for teachers of children with special needs and English language learners. She also shared advice for parents and others who are concerned about the negative consequences of this evaluation model.
Dr. Bruce Baker, who teaches at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education, described how value-added or growth models purport to measure teacher and leader effectiveness. In addition, he discussed the problems and possible consequences of this approach to teacher and leader evaluation.
Cora Sangree, 5th Grade Teacher at Brooklyn New School, P.S. 146, provided the classroom teachers’ perspective about the new evaluation model and described the early consequences for teachers and students in releasing teacher scores. She also talked about what teachers are doing to inform the city and state about the impact of the new policy.
Dr. Michael McGill, the Scarsdale Public Schools superintendent, discussed the impact that the evaluation policies have on the supervision and professional development of teachers and leaders. He also discussed the concerns raised by communities and school superintendents around the state as well as the proposed actions.
Be Part of the Solution
Attendees at Saturday morning’s discussion networked with other concerned parents, educators, and advocates, and came away with a deeper understanding of how new legislation impacts the classroom. Panelists encouraged all concerned stakeholders to become powerful advocates in a broad conversation about meaningful assessments of teacher and leader performance.
Publishing students’ standardized test scores and associating these scores with individual teachers and school leaders as if they are valid and reliable data create confusion among the public and demoralize teachers and leaders. The explanations provided to the public about what these scores actually mean are neither clear nor accurate. They give the appearance of a precision and accuracy that do not exist.
This article was written with contributions from Peggy McNamara, Chair of General Teacher Education, and freelance writer Dana Rossi.