The state education commissioner of New York, John King, recently imposed a teacher evaluation system on New York City after years of disagreement between the city and the teacher’s union.
The evaluation system will consist of three components: 55 points for principal observations, 40 points for test scores, and 5 points for student surveys. Much of this was inevitable as last year the state legislator updated education law 3012-c, which dictated the components and weights of the test scores and ‘other measures’ which now include principal and student ratings. The whole idea of ‘multiple measures’ is that teachers won’t be unfairly punished for struggling in one category if they make up for it with success in the other categories. And the most important and reliable measures, therefore, get the most weight, in this case, the principal evaluation.
Reading the 240 page report issued, there were two mentions of a very unusual provision, which has been noticed by several bloggers:
On page 37 it says:
And on page 38 it mentions this again:
So according to page 37, both parties (the city and the union) “indicated in their testimony — consistent with legislative intent — that all teachers rated ineffective in both measures of student learning subcomponents must be determined to be ineffective regardless of their score on the Other Measures subcomponent.”
Well, this seemed to defeat the whole idea of having multiple measures and of weighing some measures more than others. So I took a look at the actual text from 3012-c and learned that the law does not mandate this at all.
State law 3012-c simply defined ‘scoring bands’ so that teachers scoring between 91 and 100 points would be ‘highly effective,’ between 75 and 90 would be ‘effective,’ between 65 and 74 would be ‘developing,’ and between 0 and 64 would be ‘ineffective.’ Two ineffectives in a row can result in being fired, regardless of tenure status.
Also, the law describes scoring bands for the 40 points of test scores, which is actually broken down as 20 points for state tests and 20 points for ‘locally made’ assessments. In this they outline that a score from 0 to 2 on either of these, out of 20 points, is ‘ineffective’ for that category.
As a consequence of this, if a teacher were to be ineffective on the two test score components, they would only get a maximum of 4 points out of 40, thus it would be impossible for them to reach the 65 points needed to be ‘developing’ even if they get perfect scores in everything else.
So, yes, mathematically it is true that because the cutoff for ‘ineffective’ on tests was set to 2 out of 20 points on each of the measures and because the cutoff for ‘ineffective’ overall was set to 64, a teacher cannot be rated anything but ‘ineffective’ if they are rated ‘ineffective’ on both parts of the test scores, regardless of what they get on the other measures.
HOWEVER, this does not mean that the intent of the law was to make the test score component trump everything else. It just so happens that they made the ineffective score on the test score component so low that it would work out that way. BUT what if they were to decide after a year of doing this evaluation system that too many teachers were being rated ‘ineffective’ overall so they decided to lower the cutoff to something like 55. Well, assuming that they didn’t change the cutoff for ineffective on the test scores then, at least according to the law, a teacher would be able to escape the ineffective overall rating even if they got a 4 or under on their test scores if they did well enough on the other measures. Or if they decided to keep the 64 cutoff for overall effective but to RAISE the cutoff score for ineffective on test scores so that now it was 0 to 10 points to be ineffective in test scores, well, again according to the law, it would be possible for someone to get 10 points on test scores and be ineffective on test scores with the new scoring bands, but still get to 65 and not be ineffective overall if they were to get 55 points on their other measures.
But now, with Kings plan the way it is written, these would be loopholes that they can use to give the test scores more weight than the law allows. It very clearly says in King’s decision that ineffective in test scores means ineffective overall. Right now the way the scoring bands are defined, it is a moot point. Mathematically it is not possible to escape ineffective overall if you are ineffective on both test score components. But if the bands were to change then this would become a very real possibility and one that, by my reading of the actual law, would be illegal.