This week marked the end of teacher evaluations as we know them — at least for now.
On Monday, the state Board of Regents voted to suspend the use of state standardized test scores in evaluations for four years.
What does that mean for educators? Here’s what you need to know.
Evaluations are based on two measures: student performance on various assessments and teacher observations. The observations aren’t changing, but the student performance measures are.
The new temporary regulation changes them in two ways.
First, it switched the tools used to measure student performance, by swapping in local for state tests. Second, it changed how student performance will be calculated, by replacing a state formula for measuring academic growth with locally created goals.
🔗Who does this affect?
About 20 percent of teachers across New York teach subjects that are tested annually by the state. Those teachers will definitely see their evaluation systems change, since those tests can no longer be used.
But teachers beyond the tested subjects will also see their evaluations change.
That’s because teachers’ ratings often factor in the scores of students they don’t teach, since some subjects don’t have state tests and some schools decided to use one set of test results for everybody. However, it’s not clear how many teachers fall in that category.
🔗What are these local tests?
They are assessments approved or created by the city.
They include some common ones like “Running Records,” which are oral reading assessments for young students, and Advanced Placement tests for high schoolers. They also include some technical-skill exams for older students in areas like plumbing or computer repair, and performance-based assessments in music, theater, dance, and visual arts.
But the majority of the approved local tests are New York City-crafted assessments in a variety of subjects, including math, reading, history, and science. Some teachers have been using them since the current evaluation system went into effect two years ago.
The assessments go beyond basic multiple-choice questions. For instance, an accounting test had students create a balance sheet, while a 12th-grade English test asked students to read two texts then write an essay about which one best illustrated the horrors of World War 1.
Some teachers think the assessments are too challenging. Teresa Ranieri, a first grade teacher at P.S. 11 in the Bronx, said the city’s first grade exam asks students to read at a second grade level.
“That’s a full academic year difference,” she said. “The instrument you’re using needs to be fair.”
Eventually, teachers may have even more of these local assessments to choose from: The teachers union said the regulations open the door to creating new ones. In the meantime, the city is still figuring out what combination of local measures to use.
🔗How will student performance be calculated?
The evaluations try to calculate a teacher’s impact on a given student.
They do that by using one of two methods: applying a “growth model” that measures how much the student improved on an assessment from one year to the next compared to similar students, or by tracking whether the student met a specific goal.
Until now, the city and state each used their own growth models: the state compared a given student to peers across districts, while the city only compared local students. The new regulation bans the state model, but allows schools to still use the city model.
Schools that used goals can continue to.
Goal-setting requires teachers and principals to create targets for student performance at the beginning of each year. For most assessments, the education department provides suggested goals, then teachers and principals tweak them based on their students.
According to the union, most teachers choose the growth model over goal-setting.
🔗What about Regents exams?
The regulations are clear about the grades 3-8 exams: they can’t factor into evaluations. But they leave some wiggle room for the Regents.
What they say is that evaluations can’t incorporate Regents scores that have been run through the state’s growth model. But, according to the union, that still might leave open the possibility of using Regents scores — as long as student growth is measured using the city’s model or goals.
🔗What can these ratings do?
Teachers can still be fired if they receive “ineffective” ratings two years in a row.
The regulations also leave the rules for tenure and retention in place.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that teachers more often choose the growth model than the goal-setting model, according to union officials.