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New evaluations for teachers

By Fritz Mayer
October 17, 2012

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.”