Grading teachers
New York State United Teachers President Richard Iannuzzi, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and New York City's United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew announce the agreement reached on teacher evaluation on Feb. 16.
February 23rd, 2012
06:10 AM ET

Grading teachers

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) Last week a deal was reached between the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the state’s Department of Education on how teachers would be evaluated.

The New York Times reports that the deal permits school districts to base 40 percent of a teacher’s review on how that teacher’s students performed on standardized tests (what’s sometimes referred to as “value-added” data), with half of that portion based on the student’s test progress from one year to the next.  The remaining 60 percent of the review will consist of “subjective measures”, including principals’ evaluations and observations.

Like 18 other states that qualified for federal grants under Race to the Top, New York was under a deadline to devise a plan to evaluate teachers, or lose this funding.

After the deal was reached,  Governor Andrew Cuomo is quoted as saying, “It’s a victory for all New Yorkers. Government works, and that makes this state a better state.”

Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School, disagrees.  In the Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog  she says she “was struck by the lack of logic and fairness” in the deal.  Burris, who was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the state’s School Administrators Association, co-authored “An Open Letter of Concern Regarding New York State’s APPR Legislation for the Evaluation of Teachers and Principals” which has been signed by nearly 1360 principals opposing the use of standardized test scores to evaluate educators.

Veteran educator Gary Rubinstein, in a recent N.Y. Daily News opinion, talks about flaws he sees in the proposed evaluation system. According to Rubinstein, the way that the system is constructed, although they account for less than half of the evaluation, low student test scores can render a teacher a rating of “ineffective”. Under the new system, an “ineffective” rating for two consecutive years can result in dismissal.

Nationwide, there are general questions around the “value-added” approach, including the issue of reliability of some tests and whether teachers of weaker students can be fairly evaluated based on their students’ test scores.

The National Center on Teaching Quality says that more states are moving to include student test scores in teachers’ performance evaluations.  Teachers we’ve spoken with don’t object to being evaluated, but some question whether tying teacher performance to student standardized test scores is the best way to do it. You can learn more about how your state evaluates its teachers by clicking on your state on Newsday's "State Teacher Evaluation Plans" map.

We want to hear from you, educators and parents:  What do you think is the best way to evaluate teachers?

Posted by
Filed under: Policy • Practice • Teachers
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Leila

    Well, I might be in for some kudos and high marks because the majority of my classes in high school are advanced placement and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education). However, if you were to grade me on the test scores of my lower level, under performing students (who are 17 and mostly apathetic), I am afraid I would receive a poor grade. I have students who come to my 11th grade literature class who cannot read beyond the 7th or 8th grade level and I have to teach them Poe! Our school district also is under a mandate to incorporate more Special Ed students into our mainstream classes and overall, their reading and writing levels are quite poor.

    March 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  2. Stephanie Hampton

    How do you grade a teacher? There are so many variables – teachers, students, parents, environment, support systems, guidance, pay scale, etc. I agree there have always been teachers that were effective and those who were probably not as dedicated to the students.

    I have seen students from great families with great parent support struggle and not succeed. I have seen students that struggle with one subject and be excellent in all other subjects even with great support from teachers and parent across the board. I have seen students that have no support of any kind become fantastic students and excel with out any one being there as support or than may be only the teacher.

    First of all I am not a teacher and have no teachers in my family. How do you evaluate whether a student down grades a teacher because a teacher is pushing them to do better. Teachers have been accused by students of all kinds of things that were found to have no merit later. The variable can not be measured. Each teachers class no matter what will have successes and failures.

    I do not know how you would go about judging them fairly. Some one mentioned talking to other parents that have had a child in classes, but once again if that child was successful you will probably get a different response than one that did not.

    Like every other business there are inadequate, good and great teachers. May be the best way is for the parent to be involved and have the opportunity to change teachers for the children .

    March 3, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  3. Payal

    In my school I've had this amazing chemistry teacher who I have made A's and high B's with. Suddenly in the state of Tennessee starting with the class of 2014, all students MUST take Chemistry I. While all my classmates and I in Chemistry II are making stellar grades with only one student failing, out of all students taking Chemistry I there is a 50% failure rate. When we were in his class, we finished the entire book by the end of the year. Now, because he slows down so much for the benefit of the new students, he only finishes half the book. He's trying to adjust to the level of the students, but it's impossible if they can't meet him halfway! You can't expect the teacher to do all the work. There has to be some willingness to learn from the student also. His style is college preparedness which it definitely should be for all teachers since that's what high school is for, but because of administration most teachers are slowly starting to "baby" students around and help them pass. The student may be passing now, but they will not be prepared for college! They're going to be thrown in with expectations of more "babying", but it will not happen!

    March 3, 2012 at 9:58 am |
  4. Skorpio

    If a low score teacher can swap students with a high score teacher during the semester, definitely the high score teacher will see his/her students scores drastically reduced. School administrators use insidious practices to get rid of teachers they don't like, for example, they send groups of "teacher's evaluators" to the classroom with instructions to find any type of mistake, such as administrative errors, insignificant school guidelines violations, lesson plans written omissions, not following arbitrary directives, also evaluating teachers during the last 10 minutes of the period, using "key" students feedback to downgrade teacher's evaluation, subjective measurements, not separating special ed students from regular students in their observations, etc. etc. All these mafia like practices are done to create a "low performing" teacher in order to justify his/her removal.

    February 29, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  5. Tammy

    It's time we hold teachers accountable. I am so tired of hearing teachers complain about their pay, benefits, and workloads, when there are only a handful who are actually teaching students. I can think of no other job in this country that offers the security which teachers have. Unless they are caught doing something unspeakable it is impossible to have one removed from their position. I feel if there are enough complaints against a teacher, action should be taken, but you have this "good ole boy and girl" system going on in where often the school board officials and people at the state board of education are their buddies. The state board of education tells parents that their local school boards are pretty much "it" when it comes to complaints, and it's time that be stopped. I long for the day when collective bargining rights are taken away, and these individuals are paid based on their worth. Cry me a handful, but in any other job if one is not performing up to standard, or keeping up the pace, they are replaced and teachers should be no different. A lot of jobs are stressful, and carry heavier work loads than a teachers position, and these jobs do not allow for an individual to be off several days throughout the year. Teachers know what the job entails, they are prepared throughout college, so if the profession is such an underpaid, unfair one; then why do you go into it? Your day is upon you and I am personally glad.

    February 27, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Geophrey

      Oddly enough, the good ole boy network you cry of, is keeping me from being a teacher. Well thats not entirely fair. Its the pressure of weak morals of students and parents that keep crying injustices, placing pressure on the school and state systems. Granted no more laws should be made until every law maker sits in these classes and see first hand what is going on. Your line of thought implies to me that as a teacher I am supposed to supply pencils and paper to every student that walks through the door. And then watch them break the pencils, and hear them lie that they didnt do it, and then the pieces are on the floor, then they dont do their work. The real problem is that no matter what side a person takes another can cite an example from the other side stating how unfair it is.

      February 27, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Becca

      So, according to your logic, teachers should be held accountable for 100% of students pass rate. Are we holding doctors to the same? They must cure 100% of illlness and disease? Police officers must stop 100% of crime. Lawyers must convict or defend 100% of clients.

      How about we hold parents accountable? If we had students who came from stable homes with love and support, getting those pass rate would not be as hard. It's because of lack of support in the community that so many teachers are leaving the profession. What happens when people stop wanting to be teachers? This means sorry parents, you will have to parent your child, feed your child, and listen to your child. All things the school and teachers do for your children. Sometimes a little appreciation goes a long way!

      February 27, 2012 at 9:35 am |
      • LanaSweet

        The whole blame the parent/blame the teacher argument is pointless. I'm both and i know as a teacher that teachers can get thru to a child in a bad home situation. I've done it. Blaming the parents is just an excuse.

        February 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • LanaSweet

      Tammy, sounds like you've had a bad experience with the school system. Speaking from experience I don't think teachers really know what they're getting into until they're in and there should be some accountability. But I'm not sure it's through standardized testing. Some kids simply will not pass no matter what a teacher does.

      February 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Cyndi

      So as a teacher of students with special needs, I'm to be held accountable for these students not making progress. Including the students whose mothers did drugs while pregnant, thereby causing many of these disabilities? Oh yeah-that makes sense. Thanks for the support.

      February 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • Stacy Clawson

      I don't mind being evaulated on a reasonable scale. To base it on test score in just not right. Would you like to be judged all year on one day? How rediculous is that?? Where I teach kids deal w/ a lot of issues from parents in jail to having to move around a lot. What child could focus with those issues too? There is also little parental support in todays society. It seems if a child can use a microwave and take care of some personal hygiene then they are left to their own demise. The game cube/ Xbox has become their baby sitter and no one is reading to them or asking how there day was. The test has taken away a child's ability to problem solve and be creative. I went to college and have a Master's degree so I think I deserve the pay I receive which by the way in the city where I teach is not very much compared to some of the bigger cities. Walk a day in my shoes and then tell me I make too much or my benefits are too great. Being a teacher today is way more than teaching the basics of reading and writing. I have to be everything for these children and I mean everything. I challenge every parent to volunteer a day in their child's school and see what is going on. Then, and only then may your voice be an educated responce. Thank you.

      February 29, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Daren

      I think you have to walk a mile in their shoes. Especially at the high school level where you get kids that don't want to do the work and no support from home. Most subjects that teachers teach are simple to the teacher. Its not a matter of their skill but a measure of the students desire to learn.

      March 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  6. heidi

    These test scores should be weighted by student attendence and previous test scores. You can not turn a turnip into a lump of gold overnight. Teachers can not force kids to do homework- they can offer incentives that is it.

    Parents need to be responsible for their children- make sure the homework is done, heck check to see if there is hw would be a good first step, get your kids to school and teach your children the value of an education.

    It is interesting to see children from 3rd world countries with unqualified teachers suck up knowledge like it is gold- they understand the value of education. You can't teach a child that refuses to be a participant. You can not also win this battle with parents that could care less.

    No one is going to get a Master's degree to deal with this silly blame game. I agree to the measureing via testing but you have to weigh it very objectively with the type of student you are grading and their attendence and any disabilities they may have.

    A foreign language studnet who attends school 50% of the time is NEVER going to test as well as an English language speaker who has 98% attendence.

    February 26, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Cyndi

      Amen!!

      February 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Nate

    So long as education is "free" (or perceived to be that way as most people do not see the connection between paying taxes to support their schools) and mandatory, there will always be major problems in controlling students (especially under the state laws that teachers have to work under). Notice that you do not find nearly as many problems at universities or community colleges because parents must pay directly from their pockets (not through their mortgage as property taxes) so that they know exactly what they're paying and the value of it, and students can be kicked out immediately for misbehaving or failing (ditto for private/parochial schools). Our public schools have become little more than babysitting with education as a sideline. Parents are mostly responsible for the motivation (or lack thereof) of students who will either perform well or hardly at all. Our focus has been flawed for about 40 years, and our public schools will continue to be doomed until government looks at schools that actually work (re "60 Minutes" investigation) and we modify state laws in order to allow teachers to do their job.

    February 25, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  8. Chris

    There are too many variables in current plans to evaluate teachers by including "value-added" data. There is absolutely no way to fairly evaluate teachers on this basis. Students are both typical and non-typical, gifted and those with learning difficulties. Even the average student has differing strengths and weaknesses. How do you factor in language issues? Is it even possible to fairly evalute a teacher who has students with a poor command of the English language? Handicapped students? Special needs students? How about students in poor or rural districts? The money is not there to fully equip classrooms. Why would any teacher willingly teach in an underprivileged, poor or discipline-challenged school? That would be career suicide. Not every teacher will be fortunate enough to work in a wealthy district or have a class whose parents make sure each child comes to school every day prepared and ready to learn.

    A true teacher is born, not made. Not everyone can teach, nor should they. I have the utmost respect for the dedicated teacher and am willing to do whatever it takes for my child to succeed in any classroom. My children know if they mess up enough to warrant a phone call or note home, it will NOT be pretty.

    I think the only fair way to evaluate teacher effectiveness is with classroom observations by more then 1 person, peer reviews and with continuing education. If a teacher is willing to continue improving their skills AND has a positive student improvement over a year – it doesn't have to be 100% but their students must show SOME improvement they shoudl be able to continue teaching. It would help to factor in negative factors – school poverty levels, family situations (single parents, etc), cultural/language issues, and so on.

    February 24, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  9. R. J.

    BTW- I've already heard students pull the "I'll just fail so that you can get fired!" This is so not the way to go...

    February 24, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  10. R. J.

    It is entirely unfair to base a teacher's performance off of standardized tests. First of all, students vary in their abilites. Just because a teacher has student of lower abilities doesn't mean their job should be at stake. On that note, what happens with ESE teachers?? Also, parents have a huge influence on how a student does academically. Depending on how they were/are being raised, a student will or will be successful. I can garuntee that students with a wholesome upbringing by parents who are involved and have instilled a value of education in their children will be more successful and will be scoring higher on the standardized tests. Students who have parents who are not involved, or have let their children grow in to rude, disrespectful people that cause distractions in the classroom, will obviously score worse on standardized test scores. Teachers can only do so much and should not be held fully accountable when the parents aren't taken in to consideration as well. What if we start fining parents for kids not doing their HW or getting referrals? Best bet those parents would all of a sudden take an interest and start monitoring if the kids are doing HW, studying, behaving right, etc.

    February 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • R. J.

      will or will not*, guarantee** Sorry!

      February 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Tammy R

      Very well said. In our district, I am responsible for students' tests scores after their parents take them out of the country to visit family in South America for a month or take them on a cruise...how valuable do you think those kids think their education is? and I agree with your other comment...you are empowering children with the knowledge that they hold your salary in their hands? really? Come on....

      February 24, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • Chris

      Including Standardized Test scores in teacher evaluations implies that the local and state school boards have included that type of material and testing in the daily curriculum of schools, WHICH IS NOT THE CASE. Teacher evaluation by students, principals and parents ignores a major element of a child's education: the effort furnished by the student, the participation by parents in their child's education (no TV babysitting, verifying that homework is done, etc.), and the positive learning environment (as well as necessary equipment and other materials) provided by (fought for!) by the principal. THE TEACHERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO "GRADE" THESE ACTORS IN THE EDUCATION PROCESS-WHICH ALSO INCLUDES THE STATE LEGISLATORS WHO PROVIDE THE FUNDING AND MAKE SO MANY REGULATIONS...FOR ANYONE BUT THEMSELVES: They are resposible too and must be held as accountable as anybody else in the process.

      February 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • David

      I am calling for all New Yorkers to stop paying taxes New York stat taxes. Is this a joke hold teachers responsible, do you think the public are idiots. Inner city school kids don't want to learn and have no desire to ever learn. So its the teachers fault now? This is a shame to fire teachers on a large scale because you cant balance your budgets.

      February 25, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • LanaSweet

      R.J., how do you recommend teachers be evaluated?

      February 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  11. Peter Hludzenski

    We need to rate the state legislature the sameas they plan to rate the teachers. Opps sorry with arating of less than 60% they would already be gone. the system is very unfair and will led the the huge loses in the teaching profession. Who will teach. What we need are less mandated programs, generally unfunded, that overburden our teachers. Better funding based on enrollment not daily attendence. Schools also need to get rid of those that prevent others from learning. Bring back Dick and Jane and acknowledge that all students can not learn at the same rate and do not have the same ability level as everyone else. All can learn but not egually. Parents must learn to support the schools and hold their children accountable for own effort and progress. You can not make anyone learn you can only guide and assist them in doing so.

    February 24, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • R. J.

      Very true! Why cant people see these things and how unfair these evaluation systems are?

      February 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
      • Wondering

        Because people forget to remember "you can't fire students"!!!! All of these yahoo's who talk about "accountability in the manor of the private sector" and "regular business will get rid of you if you're not doing the job so why can't we get rid of teachers...blah...blah". They fail to realize public schools, unlike private and charter schools, have to take EVERYONE no matter what their level of education. It's a double edge sword. And if I didn't have too many years in, I’d been gone out of teaching 5 years ago. I don't get paid a lot....no bad.....but definitely living paycheck by paycheck, but the respect teachers received in this country and in the community made up for it....well not so much anymore.

        February 24, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
      • Chris

        Simple. Blaming teachers is easier than assuming responsibility for underfunded schools and parents who have abdictated.

        February 24, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • Tammy R

      Unfortunately the media has made teacher tenure and teachers unions the root of all of society's evils. Teachers are not respected by parents or students. In FL they have eliminated teacher tenure there will be no continuing contract for anyone hired after July 1 of 2011. Who in their right mind would become a teacher where they never have job security or a guaranteed salary? How do you apply for a mortgage or home loan wheny ou don't know what you will be paid every year?

      February 24, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  12. Ana

    As a current high school student, I can attest to the fact that this isn't fair. My class and the class before me have overall very good scores and academics, but the year behind me has a fail rate of 80% due to rampant drug use and lack of commitment. It scares me that good teachers could be dismissed for a rotten class.

    February 23, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Tammy R

      Ana, thank you for that post. It is so true.

      February 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  13. Jack the Philosopher

    I predict massive low ratings as contempt for teachers, and attempts to fire higher paid teachers accelerate.

    February 23, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Anon.

      As a student I can tell you that that would not happen. There will always be a group of students who care too much about their lives and grades to fail a standardized test simply to see their teacher lose his/her job.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
      • R. J.

        Yes, a group that does care. But I assure you, coming from a teacher, there are many more students in our current society that do not care about their grades or education when compared to those that do. And there are students who do care, but are of much lower abilty... odds are stacked way against the teachers.

        February 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
      • Terri

        So can I teach you...The problem with this rating system is that fewer teachers will attempt to work with the more challenging students in the most challenging districts... isn't that what we are trying to fix... the low performers?

        February 24, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
      • Chris

        You forget the "mob effect" that plays out in the classroom and the fact that students who CARE about getting a decent education (whatever their academic level) are IN THE MINORITY. Being a good student is not "cool". (And as for the pom-pom girl/jock clique...they'll just let Daddy make a few phone calls and maybe a big donation to whatever univ. to bridge the grade gap–it worked wonders for Dubya!)

        February 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
  14. Jack the Philosopher

    The value added statistics have not been perfected. In fact a difference of .03 can purportedly distinguish between a proficient teacher and an ineffective teacher. With all the intangibles in education, does anyone believe there can be a value added test that is legitimate. Rand Corporation, an unbiased think tank, did a study about using tests to rate teachers, and concluded that they were more than skeptical that such a test could be constructed at this time.

    February 23, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Marilyn

    How will special ed teachers be evaluated? under the same criteria is not even justifiable

    February 23, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Cyndi

      Thank you! I posted that earlier, but the person I posted this under (who has an answer for this all) must not have an answer for me. ;)

      February 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm |