The good news is that 91 percent of city teachers were rated effective or better for the 2013-2014 school year, while only 1 percent were rated ineffective, according to recently released numbers from the state’s Board of Regents.
But the negative news is that along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a large number of state and city residents believe that New York’s education system is failing students and is in need of a major overhaul.
The latest evaluations, which covered 62,184 city teachers, ranked 9.2 percent as “highly effective,” 82 percent as “effective,” 7 percent as “developing,” and 1.2 percent were given the lowest rating of “ineffective.”
Starting with this evaluation, city teachers were rated under a new, arguably tougher system that incorporates student performance for the first time.
For example, city teachers, as opposed to educators elsewhere in the state, needed students to hit specific learning goals in order to get effective or better ratings.
The new system has stirred controversy on all sides, from teachers who feel it’s unfair for student performance to be a factor, to parents who believe that too much of the evaluations—60 percent—are subjective classroom observations. The remaining 40 percent of the evaluations come from student learning measures identified equally by the state and the school district.
The rift between residents, the governor and the state’s education bureaucracy was most clearly illustrated by a letter from Jim Malatras, director of state operations, to education officials two days following the release of the evaluation numbers.
The letter, written on behalf of Gov. Cuomo, was addressed to Dr. Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state’s Board of regents and Dr. John King, the state commissioner of education who is stepping down at the end of the year for a position in the Obama administration.
Malatras wrote that while some progress has been made in the past four years, “critical challenges” remain. He said that despite the fact that New York spends more per pupil than any other state, it still lags behind in graduation rates and math proficiency; and only 37 percent of high school students are college-ready.
“We can all agree that this is simply unacceptable,” Malatras wrote.
Malatras said that in the coming year, the governor will introduce an “aggressive legislation package” to reform and reshape education in the state. He added that during the governor’s recent campaign, many New Yorkers asked questions about why education policy has been failing in the state and what can be done to reverse this trend.
Malatras’ questions explored key educational issues and policies that many residents say need to be reformed.
Changes to the current teacher evaluations were at the top of Malatras’ list.
He wrote, “How is the current teacher evaluation system credible when only 1 percent of teachers are rated ineffective?”
Additionally, Malatras asked education officials how they would change the law to construct a rigorous, state-of-the-art teacher evaluation system, and how they would address the long-standing problem of removing poor-performing educators, given the current process makes it almost impossible to do so.
Other priority issues touched upon in the missive included the state’s vision for charter schools, as the current charter school cap is close to being reached; the use of technology to improve public education; and possible restructuring of the state’s 700 or so districts to include mergers or consolidations in low enrollment areas.
But most telling was Malatras’ reference to Cuomo’s recent remarks that improvements to education have been “thwarted by the monopoly of the education bureaucracy,” whose main mission is to sustain itself, only too often at the cost of failing students.
Malatras concluded by asking for responses from Tisch and King by Dec. 31, so they may be considered for Cuomo’s State of the State address in January.
By Alan Krawitz