Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, August 16, 2015

How Andrew Cuomo's "Reformy" Teacher Evaluation System Keeps "Great Teachers" Away From Schools That Serve The Most Vulnerable

Back in 2013, education reform organization StudentsFirstNY called for a strengthened teacher evaluation system to help ensure that every child has access to the best teachers in the school system.

They claimed to have done an analysis that showed "that New York City’s most vulnerable students have a disproportionate share of the city’s unsatisfactory-rated teachers" (this was under the old rating system when teachers were still given either "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory" ratings.)

Their solution to this so-called inequitable distribution of excellent teachers across the system?

Why, a data-driven teacher evaluation system that incorporated student performance measures into the ratings, along with some other reforms like the following:
  • Require parental consent for a student to be taught by an ineffective teacher
  • Provide significant salary increases to highly effective teachers who stay in the classrooms of high-needs schools
  • Prohibit schools from assigning to the class of an ineffective teacher any student taught by an ineffective teacher in the previous year
  • Make it easier for top college graduates to enter teaching, and provide financial incentives for them to do so
  • Impose a cap on how many ineffective teachers may be allowed to remain at any one school year after year
  • Require annual reporting by the New York City Department of Education on the distribution of teacher quality across schools and student populations

Sounds swell, right?

They're going wash those "ineffective teachers" right out of schools with the most vulnerable student populations through a combination of a more rigorous teacher evaluation system that relies upon students' test scores to prove teacher effectiveness and reporting and capping measures for how many "ineffective" teachers can be at individual schools or teach individual students.

Ah, except that the new APPR teacher evaluation system hawked by education reform groups like StudentsFirstNY and imposed upon the state by Governor Andrew Cuomo (a recipient of much StudentsFirstNY/education reform group largesse) actually keeps "excellent teachers" from going to schools that serve the most vulnerable student populations because it ties 50% of a teacher's rating to student test score performance and few teachers want to teach at schools that have low test scores.

Here is a comment left at a Perdido Street School blog post from yesterday on the irrationality of the value-added measurement system that NYSED uses on teachers to prove so-called "effective teaching":

I am an assistant principal in the Bronx on the HS level. Unfortunately, we cannot attract teachers to our school due to our graduation rate, deriving from low scores (international school). I wanted to recruit an Earth Science teacher. She told me she'd never work at my school because 50% of her overall rating would basically give her a Developing as the HIGHEST rating. You see, the schools are taking a hit too with recruitment. Great teachers go to specific schools. You want to talk about segregation? Here it is at its finest. There are other HS in the campus that are premium. We are in the same campus but can't offer our kids a vibrant Science education, but the other school are. This is terrible and should additionally be reported from an administrators viewpoint. 

How ironic, that the very system StudentsFirstNY called for, paid for and had imposed on the state that they said would ensure that "all students, regardless of zip code, race or socioeconomic status, are afforded a quality education" by having access to quality teachers actually does the opposite.

Education people knew that this would happen, that the more "rigorous" teacher evaluation ratings would harm any teachers who teach in schools with the most vulnerable populations because the VAM rating based upon test scores would be brutal.

This is why NYCDOE Chancellor Carmen Farina said that she wanted to put an asterisk next to the names of "highly effective" teachers who go to teach at Recovery Schools, the pool of schools that the state has labeled "struggling" or "persistently struggling" and will take over in a year or two if performance doesn't improve.

The cynic in me thinks the education reformers at StudentsFirstNY and elsewhere knew that the teacher evaluation system they got Cuomo to impose on the state would do the opposite of what they claimed, that it would harm vulnerable student populations they claim to care about by keeping any teacher who wants to remain in the system for more than two years away from schools where they are likely to get mauled on the APPR test score VAM.

I dunno exactly what the game is, perhaps just making things worse at the most vulnerable schools so that they can claim the public school system sucks and needs to be blown up, perhaps ensuring that many of the schools that serve the most vulnerable populations end up in receivership and get handed over to charter operators, perhaps a combination of the two.

In any case, the rationale behind the APPR teacher evaluation system tied to test scores was always to harm public schools, harm the teaching profession and push as many teachers out of the system as possible by a) increasing the ineffective ratings (two consecutive "ineffectives" in a row can get a teacher fired these days) and b) making the workday so onerous and odious for teachers that they quit in droves and new ones don't come to replace them (both of which are happening all across the country now.)

Keep in mind, education reformers have made sure that charter schools don't have to abide by any of these evaluation reforms, just public schools.

StudentsFirstNY claims to care about students and children, claims to speak for and stand up for the most vulnerable, but the net effective of their reform efforts has been to harm those very students and the schools that serve them.


  1. Great post and the assistant principal who gave the opinion was correct. This is really happening. My question is, Do the people at StudentsFirstNY know this is happening?

  2. In the end, the billionaire oligarchs are trying to circumvent the law.
    They want to destroy public education so that they can control the school systems. The problem is that in a democracy it's the people that decide what type of education they want for their children.
    By circumventing the laws, they hope to seize power and do so by "tricking" or fooling the public.
    These people want to destroy democracy itself. A lofty goal.

  3. Graded regents this week with a teacher who taught at a specialized school. He told me about 5 years ago a friend left to take a job at one of the struggling schools where Math/Science teachers would get a 10k bonus for transferring there. After just 1 year they began phasing the school out and he became an ATR. While he eventually found a job in a decent school it is nothing compared to his original situation.