New York City Grows Into New Teacher Evaluation System

In New York City, teachers and principals are doing some extra work as a result of a new teacher evaluation process that began in the city this fall. The new evaluation system, which is a prime achievement of Michael Bloomberg’s education reform movement, is similar to what has been adopted in most states, including New York. The system is designed to improve the way teachers are measured.

In order to rate their teachers, students are required to take more tests. The new program has been opposed by parents and some schools rolled back some of the testing, particularly in the early grades. The New York City education officials send “talent coaches” to principals with the assessments. Also, city’s officials are looking for money to hire retired supervisors to pitch in at schools where the workload is heavy. According to Al Baker of The New York Times, the evaluation system has had a bumpy start.

In order to address principals’ concerns, city officials said that they would make the observation requirements more flexible. The new evaluation system is coinciding with more rigorous Common Core academic standards, which require whole new curricula in some cases.

The new evaluations, in most districts, replace a system that involved minimal observation, did not account for test scores and graded teachers simply as satisfactory or unsatisfactory.

City education officials acknowledged how hard the transition to a new system had been, but said they hoped over time it would sink in. “It’s not like flicking on a light switch,” Devon Puglia, a spokesman for the city’s Education Department, said. “Schools have been speaking ‘pass/fail’ for 80 years, and this is a much more complicated system and you’re not going to be fluent with it on Day 1.”

In states where new evaluation systems have been in place for more than a year, the early results are not much different from the old results. Nearly all teachers have scored in the top tiers.

According to proponents, the reforms were designed not just to refine the grades, but also to improve teaching through more detailed and regular feedback.

Some teachers said the process felt like a game of “gotcha.” A kindergarten teacher at Public School/Intermediate School 178 in Queens, Laura F. Bromberg, 36, said one morning in October four adults walked into her classroom: two talent coaches, the principal and the assistant principal. One took photographs. One spoke to children. Another sat in her chair, which she said took away her symbol of authority and seemed to disrupt the class.

According to some teachers, they were being partially graded on subjects they had no control over. Geoffrey E. Tulloch, a chef instructor at Food and Finance High School in Manhattan, said the school’s English Regents results calculated in his evaluation.

The Education Department’s Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky recently said that over time the city would develop assessments for subjects like culinary arts and music. Also, he said the city would offer teachers the option of having a principal’s observations of both teaching and student work count for 100% of a rating.