The New (and Improved?) Teacher Rating System Reply

Believe it or not, teachers get graded too and the system for how teachers are evaluated that has been in place in New York City for over a decade is about to change. Teachers used to get rated either Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory based on an administrator’s observations. Starting next year, a more complicated system will be implemented at BSGE and throughout New York City schools.

In the past few years, teacher evaluations have become a widely discussed topic on the national, state, and citywide levels. Debates have focused on what exactly should be considered in a teacher evaluation and what role, if any, standardized tests should play in determining teacher quality.

In 2009, President Obama signed the “Race to the Top” Bill that gave states grant money if they made certain changes in their state education policies, among them, teacher evaluations. New York is one of the states that received grant money under the bill and each district in the state was asked to reform its teacher evaluation system. New York City did not settle on a new system until June 1st.

According to the newly approved plan, New York City’s new classroom observation procedures follow the Danielson Framework, which grades teachers in 4 domains (which are further divided into smaller categories, 22 total): planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. The grade given for each criteria can be “Ineffective,” “Developing,” “Effective,” and “Highly Effective.” The use of multiple criteria and a more complex grade for each allows the principal to give a more accurate grade, and to tell teachers what they are doing well and what they need to improve upon.

The Danielson Framework observation compromises around 60% of teachers’ overall grade with the other 40% comprised of state and school approved measures of student growth and learning (this could includes standardized tests).

Students, eager to share their opinions on what teacher evaluations should look like had this to say: “Teachers should be evaluated based on the work of all the students – tests and general grades,” explained Angelica Benares ‘16. “Teachers can then reevaluate their teaching methods to help us learn more effectively,” she added. Justin Moy ‘16 felt differently. “It should be based on how engaged the students are, the classwork, and whether or not the principal can follow what is going on in class,” he said. Beatriz Benares ‘16 had a different idea. “Teacher rating should be based on the progression of students. Or, test students out with different teachers to see who they work with best,” she explained.

Although many people agree that teachers should be evaluated in some way, many teachers at BSGE, when asked what they thought about the possible changes, did not share many opinions about the possible changes. Unlike students, who were eager to share their opinions on the quality of their teachers and how they should be evaluated, faculty members had little to say about the new rating system. This is likely due to the fact that the new system was not agreed to until recently and very little work has been done to figure out how it will be implemented by next year.

This raises an interesting question about the purpose of the evaluation system. How successful is the Danielson Framework in helping teachers to improve their teaching methods, if the teachers are not properly informed about the system? Will it accomplish its goals if there are still so many questions at this point?

Mr. Lakhaney helped in the writing of this article.

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