Tag Archives: Teacher Evaluation

NY’s Teacher Evaluations: The Mystery 20%

Yesterday, Leo Casey was gracious enough to respond to my critique of his defense of the new teacher evaluations here in New York.

What he addressed above all was this part of my critique:

It is difficult to see what can be a district-wide assessment that is not a test. Can it be a portfolio? Are contractors from the DOE going to pour over millions of stacks of portfolios every year in order to assess each individual student? Will the State Education Commissioner approve this?

To which he responded:

Let me simply take up one point of disagreement here which I think is a particularly telling one — your view that the local measure of student learning must necessarily take the form of a standardized exam, and that this is what I must mean when I talk of assessments. In fact, I chose the word assessment deliberately precisely because I wanted to make clear that it was entirely possible and desirable to use assessments that were not standardized exams. There is a strong tradition of authentic performance assessments in progressive education, with prominent educators such as LInda Darling-Hammond and Deborah Meier among its strongest advocates. There is a consortium of high schools in NYC which have a waiver from a number of the Regents exam to do performance assessments. At the point that the negotiations over the 33 Transformation and Restart Schools broke down, we were actually developing performance assessments for the local measures of student learning. I think it is would be a major mistake to assume that these the local measures must be standardized exams.\

And then my response:

Now, for my part, I am working from a few assumptions. First, that these progressive forms of assessment tend to be less efficient from a grading standpoint, in that they take longer to grade than a fill-in-the blank exam. Second, that it is pretty clear that the DOE will not want teachers themselves to grade these assessments. This would mean that some outside agency will have to do it, or that a committee of educators will do it.

If this is the case, how feasible is it to implement progressive forms of assessment for the largest school system in the country? It seems like a logistical nightmare.

Therefore, it would seem that the only assessment that could feasibly be put in place is a bubble-in exam of the traditional type. It might not be what the UFT necessarily wants, but facts on the ground, so to speak, makes testing the default assessment for the remaining 20%.

So, while I understand that you were not necessarily alluding to testing, I don’t really see other assessments being implemented citywide that has the type of broad-based approval politicians like Bloomberg look for other than testing. I can’t imagine Bloomberg unveiling with a straight face to the voters of NYC something like portfolio or other performance-based assessments that have never been used on a scale of NYC.

In short, it seems like testing is the ONLY feasible option, politically, economically, logistically, that could possibly be instituted citywide.

If there is any light you can shed on this matter, it would be appreciated.

This all stems from the mysterious local student assessments that have yet to be worked out between the UFT and DOE. This 20 percent is part of that overall 40 percent that will determine whether or not teachers are found “ineffective”.

Leo Casey asserts that there is a long tradition of student assessments that are not standardized exams. A “consortium of high schools in NYC” have already been using them.


Have any of these assessments been used on the scale of the NYC public school system, the largest school system in the United States?


Let us assume non-test-based assessments are out there for every grade and subject. How are teachers going to be rated on the basis of these assessments? Who will grade these assessments in a way that can be worked into the teacher ratings? The teachers themselves? A committee of educators? An outside contractor?

These are the details that must be worked out in collective bargaining.

Can we really imagine Mayor Bloomberg jeopardizing his legacy as the “education mayor” by agreeing to a battery of “progressive” assessments that have not been implemented on this scale before? Will Commissioner King approve of this?

Mayor Mike and Commissioner King are going to push for the sure thing: testing.

Testing is the only performance assessment that has been used on a NYC scale. It is logistically simple and easily translatable into data. There is the added factor of testing being the cash cow that corporations with big lobbyists like Pearson stand to benefit from.

All of the political facts as they stand now point to King Test as the thing that will fill that remaining 20%.

What Leo Casey is proposing runs counter to every political fact surrounding education reform here in NYC and around the country.

While Leo Casey and the UFT might push for progressive assessments that are better for students, we all know what is best for students does not shape education policy anywhere in this country.

Education policy is shaped by Realpolitik.

The only reform feasible in the world of education Realpolitik is testing.