District Finds Lots of Holes in New Teacher Assessment Plan

Schools across New York State will soon change the way they evaluate teachers and administrators.

Starting next school year, teachers will be described by one of four phrases. The right phrase could lead to tenure, promotion and more money. The wrong phrase could lead to a denial of tenure or even dismissal.

Fulton City School District personnel administrator Tom Greer gave the Board of Education a look at the new rules for performance reviews, which became law in June as part of several changes made by the state to qualify for federal funds in the competitive Race To The Top grant program.

The state failed in its first application, but the changes made since that failure, including the new performance review standards, helped New York qualify for $600 million in grant money. About half of that money will go to school districts, though school district officials believe it will come with many strings attached.

One such string is the change in performance reviews.

Each year, Greer said, teachers and those administrators who run buildings where teachers teach will be sorted into one of four categories:

  • Highly effective
  • Effective
  • Developing
  • Ineffective

40% of the teacher’s score will be based on student test scores. The rest will be based on an assessment of the teacher’s skill, teamwork, preparation and improvement.

Teachers judged to be developing or ineffective will have a plan developed for them to help them improve and measure the improvement.

If a teacher is rated as ineffective for two years in a row, the district can open disciplinary hearings under state education law section 3020a. That can lead to suspension or dismissal and could make it at least a little easier to dismiss a tenured teacher for ineffectiveness.

It can take a long time and a lot of money to fire a tenured teacher under section 3020a now.

What districts don’t know, said Greer, is what data will be used for each of those scoring areas.

“This is evolving,” he said. “State Ed [the State Department of Education] has a lot of work to do.”

He said the state has made one thing clear: Many of the criteria will be negotiated with teacher and administrator unions. Greer took pains to point out that the regulations say “‘shall be negotiated’. Not ‘should be negotiated’. ‘Shall be’.

Greer noted that the state wants schools to implement the new regulations for grades 4-8 by next July and for all grades in 2012, but did not give the state Education Department a deadline to issue the new regulations.