The Syracuse Teachers Association sued the state Education Department today over its teacher evaluation system, arguing that the system unfairly penalizes teachers of disadvantaged students.
The suit was filed in state Supreme Court in Albany by the STA and about 30 city teachers. It was backed by New York State United Teachers.
The suit also named state Education Commissioner John King, the Board of Regents and three "necessary party" defendants -- the Syracuse school district, the school board and Superintendent Sharon Contreres.
The evaluation system led to about 35 percent of Syracuse teachers getting "developing" or "ineffective" ratings in 2012-13 after appeals were decided. Those are the two lowest ratings in the four-tier system.
About 5 percent of teachers across the state got those ratings. In Onondaga County outside of Syracuse, only 1.8 percent of teachers were rated in the lowest two categories.
Specifically, the STA said the Education Department failed to recognize the full impacts of poverty on students when it set the standards on student improvement on the state's fourth- through eighth-grade math and English language arts tests.
It also objected to the rules for local assessment of how much students improved. It said the system violated teachers' rights to fair evaluations and equal protection under the law.
The suit notes that on the 60 percent of the evaluations that were based on principal observations and other factors not related to test scores, 98 percent of Syracuse teachers scored "effective" or "highly effective."
It will be interesting to follow these lawsuits and see how SED defends against the charges.
Aaron Pallas wrote this week that SED has yet to release the technical reports for last year's tests:
New York sent teachers’ Mean Growth Percentile scores to its 700 school districts in August 2013, which enabled teachers to receive their overall evaluation scores and categories by September 1, 2013. But no one—neither teachers, parents, journalists nor researchers—has had access to the information necessary to evaluate either the quality of the tests or the quality of the Mean Growth Percentiles. That’s because the technical reports that tell us about last year’s state assessments have yet to be released to the public.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Last week, the state of New York began administration of this year’s Common Core-aligned assessments—before the state has released information about the quality of last year’s tests. There’s no timetable for the release of Pearson’s technical report on the 2013 tests, which differ substantially in form and difficulty from previous years.
New York is taking a huge risk in producing growth percentiles (and, in the future, value-added scores) from student test data before the technical reports are finalized. If an error were to be found in the testing report—a test item not behaving appropriately, but still being used to calculate a student’s score—then all of the growth percentile/value-added scores on which those test scores rely would have to be recalculated. That would do grave damage to the legitimacy of the APPR system.
Clearly SED is scrambling over the reports or they would have had them released already.
They will be needed in order for SED to defend against these suits.
I'm no lawyer, but I can't imagine too many judges will take SED at their word when they say, "You know, judge, we don't have the formulas for the test scores we based these evaluations on ready for you, but take our word for it, they're really, really swell and accurate."