Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NY State Teacher Evaluation System Results Reflect Political Decisions, Not "Objective" Reality

The message from the SED and Regents today as they released the results of teacher evaluations from around the state was "Relax...this is not a 'gotcha system'...most teachers were rated effective and highly effective..."

And indeed, the top numbers released seem to reflect that - 92% of teachers around the state were given effective or highly effective ratings, only 1% were rated "ineffective."

But dig into the numbers and you get this:

The evaluation results do, however, vary depending on who did them.

For example 20 percent of teachers — about 38,000 — had students in grades 4-8 who took the standardized English and math exams. One fifth of those teachers’ evaluations were based the standardized test scores — those results put 6 percent in the ineffective category and 11 percent in the developing class. Just 7 percent scored “highly effective” and 76 percent got “effective” evaluations.
The rest of the evaluations were developed in the local school districts after
negotiations between superintendents and local teachers unions. This bifurcated system of evaluation was part of the political compromise made when the rankings were put in place.

So for those teachers who were subject to the state VAM, 83% were rated effective or highly effective, a 9 percentage point drop from teachers around the state as a whole.

And when you localize the results to geography and demographics, you get this:

There is also some indication that the evaluation system for teachers may vary school district by school district.

In Syracuse, for example, fully 40 percent of the teachers were deemed to be “developing” or “ineffective” and must create improvement plans — a much higher failure rate than most school systems.

As for the students, they turned in low scores on last year’s new Common Core exams, with only 31 percent in grades 3-8 passing the core subjects of math and English. In some impoverished areas such as inner cities, the pass rate was in single digits.

The meme coming from the Regents and SED today - after two straight weeks of getting beaten up post-Poughkeepsie over the Common Core standards, Common Core tests and teacher evaluation system that forces an increase in testing in every grade in every subject - is that the hullabaloo around the evaluation system and testing is a much ado about nothing and everybody should just relax, take chill pills and get ready for the next round of tests.

The reality is, these evaluation scores are the result of political decisions made at the state and district level, just the way the cut scores for the Common Core tests were political decisions made at the state level.

With the tests, the state decided to drop the hammer by setting the cut scores high and forcing a precipitous drop in state test scores for children all around the state.

We know that was a political decision because they warned us for months beforehand that scores would drop 30% or more and sure enough, that's exactly what happened.

The teacher evaluation results are political decisions as well - this time around, they decided to go with results that do not reveal APPR to be a "gotcha system" as King put it today.

But already some Regents and members of the media are questioning the large percentage of "highly effective" and "effective" ratings around the state:

Some of the Regents board members wondered about the gap between the relatively student scores and teacher ratings, though.

“Our childrens scores are very low. Our teachers scores are very high. What’s the underlying message?” asked Regent Betty Rosa.

And this:

Can you envision the state deciding in the very near future that it's time to lower the scores for teachers around the state and get them more in line with the state test scores, thus increasing the numbers of inffective and devloping ratings?

I sure can.

Hell, you can see the groundwork being laid for that already in the comments I quoted above.

And all of this talk about how the results today show this is not a "gotcha" system fails to address the results in Syracuse, where 40% of teachers were found ineffective or developing, fails to address the Lower Hudson Valley superintendents report that showed a disparity in ratings between teachers who teach in high income schools and low income schools as well as teachers who teach a disproportionate number of ELL's or support service students.

To assume this very expensive evaluation system that imposes so much more testing on students and teachers around the state has done none harm because the scores show so few ineffective ratings is naive at best, disingenuous at worse.

Tell the kids forced to sit through tests in every subject in every grade K-12 all the year through so that their teachers can be evaluated that the system does no harm.

Tell the 40% of Syracuse teachers who were declared developing or ineffective by the system that it does no harm.

And in the future, after the SED and Regents decide not enough teachers are being rated ineffective around the state and they rig it so the numbers of ineffective and developing ratings increase precipitously the way they rigged the state this year to drop precipitously, tell the teachers who get caught in the political crossfire from that decision that this system does no harm.


  1. It is a huge waste of time and money. Our government does it better than any other government. Waste time and money.

    1. We are #1 at that. I wonder how much the Race to the Top reforms cost in total in NY State. A lot more than the $700 million in RttT stimulus funds the state "won," you can be sure of that.