‘Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable’

by Grace

In New York, the rushed implementation of Common Core Standards combined with the new method of evaluating teachers have produced bizarre results that seem to offer no value in the effort to improve schools.

In Scarsdale, regarded as one of the best school systems in the country, no teacher has been rated “highly effective” in classroom observations. It is the only district in the Lower Hudson Valley with that strict an evaluation. In Pleasantville, 99 percent of the teachers are rated as “highly effective” in the same category.

“Saying 99 percent of your teachers are highly effective is laughable,” said Charlotte Danielson, a Princeton, New Jersey-based educational consultant who has advised state education departments around the country. Danielson’s model for evaluating teachers via classroom observations, Framework for Teaching, is one of the best-known models in the country and believed to be the basis for New York’s evaluation system.

The new method for evaluating teachers is as flawed as the old method.

The fact that 80 percent of the evaluation is based on local measures can inject a lot of subjectivity into the process, critics say. A look at the teacher evaluation data by the state Education Department shows that districts have the most leeway in the classroom observation portion of the rubric, which accounts for 60 percent of the evaluation.

“The local administrators know who they are evaluating and are often influenced by personal bias,” Danielson said. “What it also means is that they might have set the standards too low.”

Administrators feel they must game the system to protect their teachers.

Pleasantville schools Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter defended her district’s classroom observation scores, which use the Danielson model — saying the state’s “flawed” model had forced districts to scale or bump up the scores so “effective” teachers don’t end up with an overall rating of “developing.”

“It is possible under the HEDI scoring band (which categorizes teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “developing” and “ineffective”) to be rated effective in all three areas and yet end up as developing,” Fox-Alter said, adding that she understood Danielson’s concern.

“Danielson has said that teachers should live in “effective” and only visit “highly effective’,” said Fox-Alter, president of the Southern Westchester Chief School Administrators.

But adhering to that philosophy might put her teachers in jeopardy, she said.

The use of tests to measure teacher effectiveness is not without controversy, but as usual our public schools have compounded the problematic aspects with their sloppy implementation.  The result is a thorny mess that falls short of achieving previously stated goals.

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Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, “Teacher evaluations: Subjective data skew state results”, lohud.com, September 15, 2014.

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