State plans intervention on teacher evaluations


The Department of Education and UFT officials have returned to the negotiating table. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and UFT President Michael Mulgrew blamed one another for the stalemate while testifying at state budget hearings. 

Mr. Bloomberg warned that the city would lose 700 teachers this year and 1,800 next year through attrition if the city and UFT didn’t meet a Sept. 1 deadline written into the state budget.

Meanwhile, Mr. Klein said state politicians are committed to preventing schools from taking another funding hit. 

Mr. Klein said nobody had started drafting a bill, but that there was broad support for one. The UFT said it supported the SED stepping in as a last resort. The DOE declined to comment. 

Kate Martin-Bridge, a math teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School, said she had “no qualms about being evaluated,” but that she doesn’t want a significant portion of her rating based on student test scores. She said students often are proficient, but that anxiety can throw test results. Ms. Martin-Bridge also doubted that the DOE could come up with a formula to control for socioeconomic background, how involved parents are and other factors.

This year, Ms. Martin-Bridge said she created an Algebra Regents study guide for a senior who often wanders into her office to visit a basketball coach. 

“The first day back after Regents, I got a big bear hug. He said. ‘I got a 72 and it’s because of you,’” she said. “I never had him in class. I never get evaluated on that.”

Eric Dinowitz, a science teacher at Bronx Theatre High School and son of Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, said he thinks Mr. Bloomberg and DOE officials blame teachers’ when schools fail because it’s easy. He said it’s more difficult to address other factors such as funding shortfalls or students’ family lives.

“There’s part of me that wants to ignore it all and just do my job,” said Mr. Dinowitz, Bronx Theatre’s UFT chapter leader. “But if we sit back and pretend like there’s not a political battle going on, the kids are going to lose because Bloomberg doesn’t know a thing about teaching.”

Mr. Dinowitz said he would like to see the city adopt the Danielson Framework, an evaluation system that grades teachers on 22 components such as planning and preparation, classroom environment and instruction. He said that organization would help teachers see specifically where they’re succeeding and where they need to improve. 

“Right now it’s either a U or S,” Mr. Dinowitz said of the “unsatisfactory” and “satisfactory” ratings teachers receive. “The principal can write comments on the bottom, but it’s not always clear what you need to do to improve.”

In 2010, the state legislature approved an evaluation system that called for instructors to be rated as highly effective, effective, developing or ineffective. Sixty percent of teachers’ grades would be based on classroom observations, 20 percent on how much their students improved on fourth-through-eighth-grade state exams and the remaining 20 percent on criteria the union agreed on with education officials. They’ve been trying to work out the details, including how to measure educators who don’t teach fourth through eighth grade and don’t instruct classes that aren’t measured in standardized tests, since then.