My take on the teacher evaluation deal announced today in Albany: disappointing & with uncertain results

From what I can tell, the part of the deal that was struck between the city and the UFT seems to be a good one: an external arbiter for the subjective teacher ratings by principals, which is necessary considering the number of unfair "U" ratings we have seen from abusive principals in recent years.  CORRECTION: I should never comment before reading the reporting and the fine print.  Apparently, only 13% of teachers will have independent review the 1st year of  an "ineffective" rating from a principal, and none the second year, according to GothamSchools.

The rest of the deal statewide is very disappointing.  If I am reading the agreement correctly, it founders on four main points:
 .          Teachers will be rated on a curve, with the commissioner having the ultimate power to decide whether the curve is "rigorous" enough -- meaning automatically some teachers must fail;
.         Any teacher rated 0-64 out of 100 will be rated "ineffective" (which seems to be a biased scale);
.         If a teacher is rated ineffective thru growth rates on assessments alone, he or she must be rated ineffective overall; making the agreement to base 20-40% on test scores a total fiction.  If the 40% turns out to be state test scores alone, no matter how used, the results will be unreliable and erratic, teachers will be unfairly evaluated and  students will suffer as a result.
.    The agreement also gives the SED Commissioner too much power -- the authority to approve or disapprove any local evaluation plan he deems "insufficient."
Since the state agreement will govern NYC as well, what it means for our schools will depend on what our local assessments turn out to be. 
If they turn out to be yet more standardized tests, like the 408 standardized exams the city bid out this summer, this will mean our schools become even more test prep factories, with teachers unfairly rated and less learning in the classroom.   
Thus it is critical that some form of portfolio work, based on actual classroom work, be used for the 20 percent local assessments. But will the DOE agree to this? Will the Commissioner agree to a portfolio system, especially as he seems to believe test scores should trump all? Who knows.
As made clear at the press conference, the city has also not yet agreed to refrain from closing the 33 SIG schools -- despite this deal.  There are still many unresolved issues on the table.
In the end, this new statewide evaluation system represents a vast experiment on our kids,  with uncertain and potentially damaging results.  And all this, to get Race to the Top and SIG funds -- most of which will spent on consultants, more testing and data systems -- not to benefit the children.

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