State Education Department Should Act with Urgency
On Thursday, with the New York State Board of Regents hearing testimony regarding the newly approved teacher evaluation system, leading education reform organization StudentsFirstNY and public school parents offered recommendations and sent letters calling for a system that ensures all public school students have access to high-quality teachers.
“The State Education Department should act with urgency and within the timeline prescribed by the legislature to create a fair and rigorous teacher evaluation system,” said StudentsFirstNY Executive Director Jenny Sedlis. “Parents have a right to know whether their children have equitable access to quality teachers, which is only possible with an evaluation system that properly incorporates student test results.”
The group called for an evaluation system that will:
- Set clear, rigorous performance expectations for teachers;
- Use objective testing data to fairly and reliably measure teacher performance;
- Provide teachers with valuable feedback that helps them improve their practice; and
- Provide districts the information needed to retain their best teachers, exit persistently poor performers and address the talent gap in schools that results in our neediest students getting less effective teachers.
Specifically, StudentsFirstNY is recommending:
- There are no delays to the implementation of the system;
- Student test scores play an appropriate role in a system with multiple measures including the use of independent, trained observers; and
- All cut scores should be set by the state.
Data shows that New York's teacher evaluation system currently falls short of meeting these goals. It routinely fails to accurately reflect teacher performance or provide a level of differentiation commensurate with student growth. In 2013 alone, 95% of teachers were rated "Effective" or "Highly Effective" despite statewide student proficiency rates of 35.8% in math and 31.4% in ELA. This deviation between evaluation ratings and student learning prevents teachers from getting the feedback they need to improve their practice and fails to provide principals the information they need to recruit and retain effective teachers and exit persistently poor performers.
Letters sent by public school parents to the State Education Department echoed the need for better teacher evaluations.
“Because of teacher evaluations, I know 39% of Scarsdale teachers are highly effective, compared to just 4% in Brownsville,” said Lisa Davila, a parent of three public school students in Brownsville, Brooklyn. “Teacher evaluations must include student test data so I know whether there’s inequality that needs to be addressed. For me, teacher evaluations are about equity for my children.”
“Testing is vital to helping parents like me,” said Monique Thomas, a parent of a public school student on Staten Island. “These tests help them grow as teachers. These tests tell us what curriculum is best. These tests tell us a lot.”
“During the years my children have attended NYC schools, I've observed so many teachers who are ineffective,” said parent Keisha Knight from Bedford-Stuyvesant. “We can’t sweep these facts under the rug – parents need to know what’s going on in schools so we can hold everyone accountable.”