Here's How New York City's New Teacher Evaluation System Works

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John Surico
Last November, NYU and Columbia students protested for a deal on teacher evaluations.
There was the drama and the mayoral temper tantrum. There were numerous missed deadlines, negotiation room walk-outs, separate plans, fed-up union members and, in the end, threats of intervention on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo and state education chief John King. Now, months later, after sacrificing millions of dollars for New York's public school system and 1,000 or so jobs for teachers, New York City's power players in education were served their teacher evaluation system by Albany on Saturday. This is what it looks like.

Before we dive deeper, let's lay out what the goals of the new teacher evaluation system were in the first place.

First, it was to secure the $300 million in state funding for education marked out in a bill passed by the legislature in 2010. Second, the state wanted a better way for parents to recognize who was teaching their children. Third, the system needed to make it easier to identify and deal with incompetent teachers.

In the previous system, your teacher was either "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory." About 3 percent of New York City's 75,000 teachers fell in the latter category. The new, Albany-based system will create four tiers instead of two. Your teacher will either be "highly effective," "effective," "developing," or "ineffective." If a teacher receives two "ineffective" ratings, this will alert higher officials to what King told reporters was a "pattern" of incompetency (read: firing in near future). So instead of pass/fail, we now have more of a letter-grade-esque method to grade our educators with more lethal consequences if you earn too many Fs.

To foster these grades, the ratings' origins will be split two ways: principal observations (60 percent) and state assessments (40 percent). In some cases, student surveys will be included in the mix. We're sure that will cause some other drama down the road.

As stated, the teachers' union and Bloomberg's Department of Education did not approve this plan because their inaction forced it to happen in the first place. However, it seems as if the mayoral and his education team are big fans.

In a statement to the press, Bloomberg praised Albany: "This is a clear win for students that will benefit generations of city public school children. King has sided with our children on nearly every major point of disagreement we had with the union's leadership." Education Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott agreed, too.

But that doesn't matter. What matters is that we finally have a teacher evaluations system after months of political bickering. What matters is that we lost millions of dollars over this damn thing. And what matters is that we can hold that loss up as a symbol of the city's mismatched priorities.

The system is up for renewal come 2016. We'll talk then.

Send your tips to jsurico@gmail.com. Follow his tweets here.


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