One Year Later, New York Releases Teacher Evaluations

The New York State Education Department has released state-mandated teacher and principal evaluations a full year behind schedule.

The data, which was due to be released in the fall of 2013, will enable parents and administrators to see, for the first time, how effective local teachers and principals are.  The results were delayed due to concerns over protecting the privacy of individual teachers.

“We have not made these data public until we first finalized educator privacy protections, including the removal of small counts of educators in an evaluation category (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, Ineffective) and set ranges in certain circumstances where the use of filters could have resulted in the disclosure of personally identifiable information,” the state said.

According to New York State law, teachers must receive a rating between 1 and 100.  20% of that score comes from how well students perform on exams, either from the state or district, if students do not take state tests.  Another 20% is from local measures concerning district or state exams, and the final 60% stems from classroom observations and feedback.

“The goal of the evaluation process is to improve teaching and learning by targeting professional development where it is most needed in order to improve student outcomes. When teachers and principals receive the right tools to improve their practice, their students benefit — it’s really as straightforward as that,” according to a release from the state Education Department.

Overall, 51% of state educators received a rating of highly effective, 44% are effective, 5% are developing, and 1% ineffective.

The results have critics questioning how so many educators received such a high score while students in the state continue to do so poorly.  In the 2012-2013 school year, 31% of students received passing scores in English and math.  It is worth mentioning however that that was also the first year that statewide testing was aligned with the tougher Common Core standards.  The year before, 55% of students had passed an easier reading exam and 65% passed math.

Experts strongly caution looking at the two issues side-by-side; especially when so many outside factors contribute to each student’s daily struggle.

“These kids live a life where their best friend may have been murdered last week, or a horrible abusive incident may have happened at home the night before the test,” said Michael A. Rebell, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia University.  “You’ve got to look at class size; you’ve got to look at resources in a school,” Mr. Rebell said. “If you have 40 kids in a classroom with all kinds of problems and they have no services, then a great teacher can’t do much.”

Those wanting to view local results can click see them online.

The new evaluation system came as a result of states competing for Race to the Top funding.  The old pass-fail system was done away with to be replaced with a new more thorough system in an effort to more clearly see the best teachers, and those who most need help.  While the new system has not helped New York point out the most ineffective teachers, it has helped determine who is most effective.