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Latest teacher job evaluations show differences in NYC vs. elsewhere

New York City rated less than 10 percent

New York City rated less than 10 percent of its teachers "highly effective" in the latest round of state-required job evaluations this year, compared with nearly 60 percent of teachers across the rest of New York, according to a report issued Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

New York City rated less than 10 percent of its teachers "highly effective" in the latest round of state-required job evaluations this year, compared with nearly 60 percent of teachers who obtained that stellar rating in districts across the rest of New York, according to a report issued Tuesday in Albany.

State education officials, in releasing the preliminary figures for the 2013-14 school year, said the data were not necessarily an indication that New York City's educators were less effective than their colleagues elsewhere. They asserted that the results show that school districts outside the city must do a better job of "differentiating" between teachers who are superior and those who are not.

They acknowledged, however, that New York City's ratings were generated by an evaluation system that is different from those on Long Island and elsewhere in the state, thus making direct comparisons questionable.

The job-rating system in the city was imposed by Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. after the city and teacher unions could not reach agreement. In other districts, much of the detail of the ratings process was worked out by local districts, in agreement with unions representing teachers and principals.

Education Department officials said the evaluation system imposed on the city system set a higher bar for "highly effective" and "effective" ratings than processes used in many districts outside the city. For example, the city's process allowed principals to override teachers in setting academic targets that students had to meet in order to generate high evaluation scores.

Tuesday's composite ratings for teachers in districts outside New York City showed results similar to those issued last year: 58.2 percent highly effective, 39.3 percent effective, 2 percent developing and 0.4 percent ineffective.

Ratings for New York City teachers, in contrast, were: 9.2 percent highly effective, 82.5 percent effective, 7 percent developing and 1.2 percent ineffective.

Chancellor Merryl Tisch said the state Board of Regents, which she heads, looks forward to working with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers to make the evaluation system "a more effective tool for professional development." Cuomo also has said that much more needs to be done to make evaluations "meaningful and strong and relevant."

State education officials praised the efforts of several school districts, including Huntington, which they said were doing an exemplary job of involving teachers in the evaluation process.

Huntington, for example, uses "teacher leaders" as well as principals to visit classrooms and check on students' progress in meeting academic goals based on Common Core curriculum guidelines -- for example, use of advanced vocabulary.

"I don't know if there is any magic formula," said Huntington Superintendent Jim Polansky. "But what we're trying to do is the best we can for our district and our kids."

Tuesday's vow by Albany officials to strengthen the state's three-year-old ratings system drew skepticism from some Long Island school officials who consider the program fundamentally flawed. Many parents and teachers in local districts also have protested against the state's drive for evaluations based largely on scores generated by tougher Common Core tests.

"I have no idea what happened in New York City," said Bill Johnson, superintendent of Rockville Centre schools and a former president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents. "But I think the differences between the two areas -- New York City and outside the city -- just shows that the entire ratings system has never been validated. Until that happens, the whole thing is just nonsense."

Rockville Centre last year rated 71 percent of its teachers and principals "highly effective." The district's students are among the highest-achieving on the Island, with 82 percent of graduates last year earning advanced Regents diplomas -- 51 percentage points above the statewide average.

This year's ratings for teachers in Nassau and Suffolk were not available Tuesday. State officials said they will provide figures during the winter.

New York State's evaluation system rates teachers and principals in four categories: highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. The state law setting up those categories also provided for possible firing of those deemed ineffective two years in a row.

Cuomo and lawmakers last spring agreed to a two-year moratorium on the provision for firings, in response to widespread protests across the state.

Ratings are based on a combination of factors, including student scores on state standardized tests and classroom evaluations by supervisors. The state itself provides 20 percent of ratings for teachers in grades 3-8 who teach either English or math -- about one-fifth of the entire teaching staff statewide.

Tuesday, the State Education Department did not provide a breakdown, based on the 20 percent of ratings generated by standardized tests alone, comparing partial "component" results for teachers in New York City and the rest of the state. That prevented direct comparisons of the two groups using objective criteria.

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