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December 07, 2016
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New evaluations for teachers

Teachers and administrators across the state are dealing with a new way of evaluating teacher performance this year; it involves more testing of students and more visits by administrators into classrooms.

As part of the process, the New York State Department of Education has approved 107 different rubrics, or sets of standards, for evaluating teacher performance. Education consultant Kim Marshall designed one such rubric, which is being used by Sullivan West and Eldred central school districts. On October 5 Marshall visited Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington to address teachers and administrators from the two schools and some from the Monticello School District, to explain the new teacher evaluation process.

Marshall said the way teachers have been evaluated for the past 40 years involved a pre-observation conference, a full lesson observation, a write-up and a post-observation conference, and he said that method was not effective.

He said a study, done several years ago, found that teacher evaluations showed that 99% of teachers in the country were excellent or satisfactory “and when this came out in papers people laughed at us, they scoffed at educators, they said, whatever you’re using is totally bogus, because human beings aren’t built that way.”

What is new now is that administrators are trying to identify four levels of teaching: level four is exceptional teaching; level three is what Marshall called “good, solid teaching;” level two is mediocre teaching; and level one is where the teacher may need to find a new profession.

Marshall said there is not a lot of level-one teaching in schools, but there is quite a bit of level-two teaching that he observes as he walks around unannounced into classrooms with principals around the state. He said because of mediocre teaching, “What’s happening in many schools—not in the best schools and not in the best classes—but there is a widening achievement gap especially by race and social class and by learning disability.”

He listed several examples of mediocre teaching, such as a teacher reading emails while the students work on a task, a teacher lecturing with students not paying attention and teachers calling only on students who already know the answer.
In an instant survey of about 100 of the educators in the room, conducted with electronic clickers Marshall handed out, more than half of those responding indicated that some of those practices happen at the local schools in Sullivan County. He said it’s the job of administrators to deal with that kind of behavior, and the way to do that is not with the traditional method of teacher evaluations but with the new method.

The new method involves administrators making surprise visits into classrooms. He told a story of a teacher who prepared a lesson for an evaluation day. The principal cancelled the visit, and the lesson was withdrawn. Another principal came to the evaluation later, and the teacher brought out the lesson. The principal was critical of the lesson and the teacher said, “But the last three principals loved this lesson.”

Another part of the evaluation is that student performance must be figured in, which means more tests for students at the beginning of the year to determine their level of knowledge about the subjects being taught.

Marshall said, “The goal of New York State is to get good teaching in every classroom every day, every year.”
Click here to see Marshall’s rubric.