Yesterday's announcement of NYC's new teacher evaluation system doesn't do much to clear the matter up. The details that were released (the full details were never released to the public last night. Only the summary) leaves a lot of questions unanswered that I (and others) had. It also opens up new questions. The one thing that I can say with confidence is that this evaluation system is so big that it will mean different things to different people. Teachers in different grades, and sometimes different subjects within the same grade, might very well have a different experience with the many indicators that this system brings. Building leaders will see it from a completely different perspective; that of a massively increased workload. And a teacher's experience with the system will be greatly impacted by what type of principal he or she has. What's more, the NYCDOE, the UFT and the press are going to be having a very different conversation in public; that of 'who won?'. As they concern themselves with the circus of who the winners and the losers of yesterday's decision are, the question of what this decision means for teachers is bound to be at least somewhat obfuscated, if not lost entirely.
Because of all of this, talking about the new system this from a universal perspective is sort of a fool's errand. It's going to make much more sense to take a look at the system from the perspective of one type of professional at a time. I'm going to choose to look at what this means for a tenth grade high school social studies teacher. That type of teacher will be able to earn 100 points for his or her annual performance review. Teachers like that will have to pay attention to:
- The state test. (20 points) The VAM growth model that is talked about in the press will only effect colleagues who teach grades 4 - 8. For a tenth grade high school social studies teacher, the Regents' Exam in Global History and Geography will be used. So far, it looks like
NYSEDwill distribute SLOs targets. Actually, the NYCDOE will issue those and NYSED is insisting on no controls over how they do it (how many students should pass, and on what level should they pass). The principal will approve these targets and the teacher will have some input, but if my past experiences are correct, those goals will be initially set by SEDNYCDOE (lots to be said about the validity/attainability of those targets, but that's for a future discussion). How well you reach those targets at the end of the year will be that 20% of the overall grade. (For high school teachers, this will remain 20% of the grade, even as it will increase to 25% for people who teach grades 4-8 because the VAM formula doesn't apply.)
- The Local measures of student growth. (20 points) They're making a sort of big deal about how the local assessment will will determined by a committee, with the principal having the final say. I think that's a distraction. The real meat of this part of the new system is that the school will develop a whole series of measures to determine student growth. These measures might look different from school to school.
Might they include multiple measures, like student attendance and growth over scholarship reports? Or might they include only one measure: some type of singular assessment? No one knows, Since (as of this writing) the actual details haven't been released, there is no way to determine what that menu will be.My guess will be that it will include multiple measures that will include some type of assessment, but that's just a guess. Yeah, boy was I wrong there! By in large, we'll be looking at one single assessment to measure the student growth on the local level butthe most important thing here is that each of the measures must come from a NYSED approved menu of options (you can find that menu here. You'll find that all of the options are for-profit vendors). Another option is to use NYC developed Performance Based Assessments. The City has until August 15th of this year (and August 1st of each additional year) to submit them to SED for aproval. It looks as though another option will be to use the state assessments again, with the data examined a different way but, I'm not going to lie, this part (on page 20) was a bit confusing to me.I'll check again sometime in the (way distant) future and update. (By the way, the real winner here isn't the teacher or the principal, it's NYSED. As they'll be constructing the menu without much input from anyone, they have pretty much predetermined how this whole thing will look. Teachers from other NYS districts, who have already used the system this year, will have abetter sense of how the local 20 will look).
- Observations and Artifacts (
now 55 points60 points next year, 55 the year after) will come from class observations and teaching artifacts. This is what most folks sees as the Danielson piece. One observation is formal (with pre and post meetings with supervisor). And, depending on what the teacher chooses, three are informal (that teacher can also choose to have only 6 informal observations). The question I have is; what constitutes an 'informal' observation? Is that the 10 (17) minute drop in? Or is that an undetermined period of time?Yeah. It's at least 15 minutes with no maximum time. I also have objections over the label: Since each of the visits will count toward my count, they are (in fact) all very formal (I wonder if get APPR points for having a good, strong vocabulary). The biggest new piece from this will be the six sub-domains associated with 'Domain Four: Professional Responsibilities". None of these things can be observed and any evidence to 'earn' points might probably be provided by the teacher. For tenth grade social studies teachers, this means proving that he or she is reaching out to parents and building meaningful avenues of communication with them. It means teaching portfolios that provide evidence of student learning and it means a whole new set of paperwork for this high school teacher as he or she proves that accurate records are being kept. We'll see how this plays out, butthe incorporation of domain four is pretty big, maybe even a game changer for the high school teacher It (with the artifacts that we present) alone will be worth 15 out of the ovrall 100 points (the observations that pertain to domains 2 and 3 will be worth 45 out of the overall 100 points).
- Subjective measures 5 points will come from a student survey at the end the year. Now, simmer down. The survey won't be asking this teachers' students if they love their teacher. The tenth grade social studies teacher will not be needing to bring candy for his or her students to bribe them into liking him (or her). No one, but for teachers who have been through a survey process like this, really gets this component, so let me just put it to you straight: The survey will asking students to provide evidence of whether or not that 10th grade HS teachers used good teaching practices in his or her classroom. Questions will address issues of 'how were you grouped?' or 'Did the teacher use engaging writing prompts?'. That data will be used to determine whether or not that teacher used Danielson-aligned teaching practices in the classroom. Don't believe everything you're about to read: Danielson is still 60% of the overall grad. Evidence will be provided from three places 1) Classroom observations 2)Teacher artifacts and 3) Student Surveys. Get it? Oh, and it doesn't count until the 2014-15 year.
All in all, the first year will be chaotic to say the least. The SLOs for the state test will cause great consternation, but won't be something that teachers think about throughout the year. The day to day stuff will be more concerned with areas from whichever local measures the school selects. The 22 domains will be so great and sweeping that teachers and leaders alike will be scratching their collective heads. The increased paperwork will catch a great many high school teachers off guard entirely and the student survey will be nothing less than a bone for all to gnaw on during the school year. In terms of winners and losers? If you have a brilliantly evil principal, who would like nothing more than to get rid of you, then you're a loser. If you have a brilliantly wonderful principal who is deeply interested in getting you improve your practice, then you're a winner, albeit a tired one Everyone else is in the same boat: Either the engines just kicked in or the ship just hit an iceberg and we wont' know for quite some time. Next June may come and folks might be saying 'oh, it's not so bad' or 'omg, they're ruining my profession'.
I mean, they're ruining the profession, but maybe it won't ruin our lives.