The Developing Teacher Evaluation System

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and not those of the Manhattan Young Democrats as an organization.

After a number of education-related jobs including subbing, teaching religious school, and working at overnight camps, Jesse Schneiderman is a high school social studies teacher at a charter school in the South Bronx. Jesse believes that, while we’d love to eliminate a good deal of testing, that it’s important to work to live with it rather than against it.  

As New York City prepares to unfurl its newest system to evaluate teachers (and distribute handy flow charts explaining it), there are still a good deal of questions. Obviously, anything featuring the words “evaluation” and “department of education” will bring about some negativity, but for me, three main points highlight the positives and negatives of this system:

1) Local Measures!

One excellent thing about the evaluation system is that classes without a Regents test are held to the same accountability as classes with one. Under the new plan, principals and teachers (Working together! Gasp!) will select a set of “local measures” to define success for students. This could be a collaboratively-made final exam or something done by an outside group. Let’s hope for the former.

2) Even more testing?

My school has implemented what are known as “baseline” assessments, tests meant to gauge student progress throughout the year. Under the new system, baselines will be given by October 15th at schools (for the 2013-2014 year), then again in April or May. This means that students will be officially tested even more in order to truly see how good of a job a teacher does. Unfortunately, without effective behavior management systems (which many city schools lack) or a way to reward students (which would require funds that, again, many city schools lack), these test days become the worst day of the entire school year for teachers. Students take tests they don’t find important and won’t count towards their grade, while teachers waste valuable class time administering them.

3) Student Surveys

My own principal recently told me that he wishes he could observe without being in the classroom, as it proves to be a useless practice for him. Students are extra well-behaved when he’s there, so he feels he can’t organically evaluate what the classroom is like. Well, he’s in luck! With student surveys, students rate their teachers that they learn with all year. Student surveys have been proven to be the most effective means of teacher evaluation, and should absolutely help with accurate evaluations in the future.